As your business continues to grow and evolve, so will your online presence. For this reason, you’ll continually want to optimize your site’s appearance and functionality. This keeps visitors and customers returning for an excellent experience.

But modifying a website is risky. No matter how big or small a change might seem, there’s a chance of something breaking as a result. If your updates cause difficulties or poor performance on your website, visitors will opt for a less-buggy experience elsewhere.

Luckily, we have staging sites. A staging site keeps your website looking and performing its best, even with changes happening behind-the-scenes. In this post, we’ll discuss what a staging site is, when to use one, and how to set one up with CMS Hub and WordPress.

Learn More About HubSpot's CMS Software

A staging site is easy to set up in conjunction with its live counterpart, and lets you experiment as much as you want with content, functionality, and appearance. When you edit this hidden website and not your actual site, your visitor experience stays untouched.

After implementing an update to your staging site, you can deploy your new changes to your live website for the public to see. This instant change limits downtime and harm to SEO from a faulty live site.

As you might have guessed, you don’t want users ending up on your staging site — they might see unpolished changes or gain access to potential security vulnerabilities. To prevent this, keep the URL of your test site private and different enough from your real URL so visitors won’t find it by accident.

When should you use a staging site?

Depending on how comfortable you are introducing changes to your website, you might need to use your staging site often or only on occasion. Newer administrators might choose to use their staging site for most changes. Those with more experience might utilize a test site less frequently and prefer to publish smaller tweaks straight to their main site.

However, you should always test major website updates on your staging site before deploying them publicly, especially if you have many users who rely on your website. For example, install major updates to your CMS in your staging area before your main site. Big technical problems will affect your reputation, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How to Create a Staging Site

Many hosting providers and even some CMS providers offer tools for staging. In this section, I’ll cover how to stage your content in CMS Hub, HubSpot’s own content management system. I’ll also go over staging content in WordPress with several hosting services and a plugin.

Stage Content in CMS Hub

CMS Hub allows you to build out a brand new site without touching your existing web presence in the content staging tool. With content staging, you can build safely in a separate staging area, test changes, and seamlessly take the new design live.

To open the content staging environment in CMS Hub:

1. In your HubSpot account, navigate to Marketing > Website > Website Pages.

2. In the lower-left corner, click the More tools dropdown menu and select Content staging.

3. On the Content Staging dashboard, review your existing website and staged pages.

  • In the domain dropdown at the top, view your existing pages for a domain. The domain selected here is where your redesigned pages will be published.
  • In the All page types dropdown, filter for landing pages only, website pages only, or all page types.
  • The Manage tab contains the existing pages on your site.
  • The Publish tab contains redesigned pages published on your sandbox domain.
  • The Log tab contains any pages that have been moved over to your live website.
  • The tabs on the left sidebar menu include:
    • Unmodified: existing pages that haven't been modified in the tool.
    • Staged draft: pages that you've started to stage but haven't yet published onto your staging domain.
    • Staged proof: pages you've published on your staging domain. You’ll review your pages here before deploying them to your live site.
  • More tools contains additional tools for managing your site.
the content staging area in CMS Hub

Image Source

You can redesign your site in a few ways with content staging in CMS Hub. If you want to modify a page but retain some of the existing content on the page:

1. Hover over the page you want to stage, then select Stage from the settings dropdown.

2. In the Stage page dialog box, select Stage cloned page.

3. Click Stage page. This opens a clone of your live page in the content staging editor.

4. Edit your content in the page editor. Note that any changes to templates, global content, or stylesheets will impact existing live content.

5. After your edits, click Publish to staging.

 

If you want to create a completely new page to replace an existing URL on your site:

1. Hover over the page you want to stage, then select Stage from the settings dropdown.

2. In the Stage page dialog box, select Stage blank page.

3. Click Stage page.

4. Select a template for your new staged page. Note that any changes to templates, global content, or stylesheets will impact existing live content.

5. Edit your content in the page editor.

6. After your edits, click Publish to staging.

 

If you want to create a new page that didn't exist on your website before:

1. In the upper right, click Create a new staged page.

2. Select whether you want to stage a new Site page or Landing page.

3. Click Stage new landing/website page.

4. Select a template for your new staged page. Note that any changes to templates, global content, or stylesheets will impact existing live content.

5. Edit your content in the page editor.

6. After your edits, click Publish to staging.

Note: When adding a new page to your site, review your advanced menus and create a new navigation for your site.

 

Finally, to deploy your staged pages:

1. In the Content Staging dashboard, click the Publish tab.

2. Write a Publish Job Name and Publish Job Description explaining what was changed and why. This will show in the Log tab of the content staging tool.

3. Click Next.

4. Review the details of your publishing job, select the checkbox to confirm, then click Publish.

  • To publish a single page, hover over the page name and click the settings dropdown menu, then select Publish to live domain.
  • To publish multiple pages at once, select the checkboxes next to the page name. Then, click Publish # pages to live domain.
the publish tab in the CMS hub content staging tool

Image Source

To learn more about content staging in CMS Hub, see our knowledge base page.

Stage Content In WordPress

With straightforward and virtually endless customization options, WordPress lends itself to tinkering and optimization. However, since most WordPress add-ons are made by third parties, one tool might cause another to break. So, it’s a good idea to test any update to your WordPress website.

We recommend setting up a staging site through your WordPress hosting provider if possible. This is because it’s best to test in the same environment as your real website — otherwise, you might miss errors caused by your host.

Bluehost Staging Site

Bluehost WordPress hosting plans offer site staging out-of-the-box on its. To create a staging site on Bluehost:

1. Navigate to the Bluehost staging site setup page. From your WordPress dashboard, select Bluehost > Staging, then click Create Staging Site.

the staging site wizard page in Bluehost

2. When the staging site is ready, you’ll be given the URL for your staging site. Click Go To Staging Site.

3. You are now in your staging environment and can make changes without affecting your real website. You can return to your live site by selecting Bluehost > Staging, then clicking Go to Production Site.

4. When you’re ready to deploy the changes on your staging site to your live site, go to Bluehost > Staging in your staging site, then scroll down to Deployment Options.

5. From here you can choose to Deploy Files Only, Deploy Files & Database, or Deploy Database Only. Be very careful if you choose to copy the database, as this will overwrite your existing information on your live site. Select your option and then click Yes! Let’s Deploy.

the Bluehost staging site file download page

6. Once the deployment is complete, a confirmation popup will appear. To return to your live site, select Bluehost > Staging, then click Go to Production Site.

SiteGround Staging Site

SiteGround is another popular WordPress hosting provider with a staging tool. To create a test site with SiteGround:

1. Navigate to your SiteGround cPanel dashboard and select Staging under WordPress Tools.

2. Choose the website you want to stage and click Create Staging Copy.

3. You’ll be given the option to protect your staging site with a username and password. We recommend this, since it will block search engines from crawling your staging site and damaging your SEO. Choose the Password protect option, enter a username and strong password, then click Continue.

the username and password entry window in the SiteGround staging site tool

Image Source

4. After your staging site is ready, you can make edits to it.

5. After your edits, navigate back to your cPanel dashboard and select My Account > Original Website.

6. Click Push To Live.

the staging site deployment window in SiteGround

Image Source

WP Engine Staging Site

Staging sites are also included in managed hosting plans through WP Engine. To create one:

1. In your WP Engine User portal, select Sites > Add Site.

2. Under Add Staging > Create New, create a name/subdomain for your staging site.

the staging stie environment in WP Engine

3. Click Create environment.

4. After your staging site is created, you can access it under Sites.

5. After editing your staging site, you’ll need to copy it to your live site. Under Sites, select your staging site.

6. In the Copy to dropdown in the top-right corner, select Production.

7. Select a Backup point to save your changes to your live site before updating.

8. Choose whether or not to include your database in the deployment. Be very careful if you choose to copy the database, as this will overwrite your existing information on your live site.

9. Click Preview Copy.

10. Double-check the copy information, then click Copy Environment.

Staging With a WordPress Plugin

If your hosting plan does not include staging, consider using the free WordPress plugin WP Staging to stage your content. This plugin works by duplicating your entire site and storing it in a subfolder of your main WordPress installation.

To create a staging site with a WordPress plugin.

1. Install and activate the WP Staging plugin under Plugins > Add New.

2. You’ll see a new WP Staging tab in the left-side panel. Select WP Staging > Sites / Start.

3. Click Create New Staging Site.

the main menu in the WP Staging WordPress plugin

4. Name your staging site, then click Start Cloning. It will likely take a few minutes to clone your entire site.

5. When the staging site is ready, click Open Staging Site and log in with your WordPress credentials. You’ll be taken to the staging site where you can make changes. The orange bar across the top will tell you when you’re working in your staging environment.

the staging environment in the WordPress plugin WP Staging

It might take a bit more time and even cost a little extra, but it’s almost always a good idea to maintain a staging site in addition to your real website. A basic testing environment will prevent the instant regret of pushing a buggy update into the world, so keep the business up front and tweaks in the back.

Discover videos, templates, tips, and other resources dedicated to helping you  launch an effective video marketing strategy. 

 cms software

Originally published Jul 7, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated July 07 2020

Topics:

Content Management System