Make Your Move: Expert Tips for a Smooth WordPress Migration

There are plenty of reasons to migrate your WordPress site. On the positive side, your company might have grown so much that you need better hardware. On the negative, you might have finally recognized the warning signs of a bad WordPress host. Good or bad, though, Wordpress migrations are a fact of life for developers.

Fortunately, WordPress is pretty migration-friendly. Our Quickstart Guide to WordPress Migration can walk you through the steps. It includes links to plugins that make the process even simpler.

If your migration is a little trickier than most, though, you may need some extra help to ensure a trouble-free transition. If only you could draw on the expertise of WordPress pros who have years of experience...

As it turns out, we happen to know a lot of WordPress pros. And many of them have hundreds, if not thousands, of migrations under their belts. So we reached out and asked them one simple question:

What is one tip for a smooth WordPress migration that developers might overlook?

Here’s what they had to say.

1. Rob Stinson, Owner, Number 11 & Marketing Manager, XWP

“If you’re just starting out, understand files versus data and where each lives. Files need to be backed up and transferred separately from your database.”

2. Mason James, Founder & CEO, Valet

“The smartest thing to do is to run through the migration steps in advance. Have a checklist for everything from specific plugins which may not be compatible on a new host (most companies provide a list of incompatible plugins) as well as custom redirects, cron jobs, and the frequency of content updates.

If the client does not have a cloud-based DNS provider, put them on this ahead of the migration so that the eventual DNS change propagation is nearly instant. Having all of this in mind, tested, and available for client QA in advance ensures the final DNS swap can be performed with confidence.”

3. Weston Ruter, Chief Technology Officer, XWP

“Don’t neglect to safely search and replace strings in SQL dumps. It’s important to use WP-CLI for doing string replacements, in order to make sure serialized data is not corrupted.”

4. Josh Pollock, Founder/Lead Developer/Space Astronaut Grade 3, Caldera Labs

“To ensure a trouble-free migration, I've come to love the philosophy that you only pull databases down, never push up. For ecommerce, this is essential as data is changing on the live site. So that means you always pull the database from live to local development, but you can never push it back up. That's a pain, but not as much as a pain as losing customer data.

This requires carefully scripting deploys. The more state of the application you can define in code instead of the database, the better. Hopefully you can write a WP CLI script to make the changes that have to go in the database. The changes that need to be made in wp-admin, make sure to write down what needs done first as a checklist.”

5. Utkarsh Patel, Team Lead, rtCamp

“I have four tips:

  1. Don’t load extra plugins, to avoid extra hook calls. Use --skip-plugins[=<plugin>]

  2. Use stop_the_insanity to clean up global data.

  3. Stop your cache before migration and flush after migration.

  4. Stop your email on the old site!”

6. J.C. Murray, Founder & CTO, Decisionary

“My two big tips are:

  1. Never assume the site was built correctly unless you built it, and check out the code before ‘just migrating’ it.

  2. Know the limitations and features of any import/export plugin you are using, and what they mean for your site.”

One of WordPress’ strengths is that it’s easily customizable. Depending on your site’s size and level of customization, though, your move might be trickier than your average vanilla migration. Use these tips to help ensure a quick and stressless transition.

Need more help? Our Quickstart Guide to WordPress Migration has all the info you need.

Topics Ecommerce, WordPress, WordPress Hosting