When you clone WordPress sites, you create an exact copy of an existing site and apply it to another location. Now you have a duplicate site, complete with all of the functionality and styling of the original — with no need to manually rebuild everything from scratch. There are countless times when the ability to clone WordPress sites can come in handy, such as:
- Moving a WordPress site to a new host.
- Migrating to a different domain name.
- Creating a local version of a live site for testing and development purposes.
- Moving changes from a development site to staging or production.
- Using an existing, preconfigured site as a basis for new sites.
Cloning can save you quite a bit of time and decrease the chance that you’ll make a mistake or leave something out when creating a new site. Certainly, you can create every new website from scratch, install and configure the chosen theme, install, activate and configure the associated plugins, copy over media files, and reapply all of the tweaks you so painstakingly figured out in the past.
Cloning vs. backup
To clone WordPress sites is different than them backing up, although a cloned site can also serve as a backup. The main purpose of a backup is to protect against data loss. Backups are typically intended to be restored to the same place they came from, with all the same configurations in place.
Cloning requires some extra steps, as the site will be copied to a new location, which might not have a database setup or WordPress installed, and which likely has a different domain name and URL. Cloning tools know what steps need to be taken and walk you through the process.
Clone WordPress sites manually
Of course, you can clone WordPress sites manually, but it’s a tedious process. You’ll have to:
- Back up the source database and site files.
- Copy all of your source site’s WordPress files to the new location.
- Create a database at the new location.
- Export the database from your source site.
- Import the database into the new database you created.
- Update database references in the new installation.
- Edit wp-config to reflect the new environment.
When going the manual route, it’s easy to miss a step or leave out a critical file. Fortunately, there are better, easier ways in the form of plugins.
Clone WordPress sites with plugins
WordPress cloning plugins allow you to accomplish all of the necessary steps with a few clicks (and a lot less likelihood that you’ll inadvertently leave something out). They take one of two main approaches, depending on the circumstances.
The first approach
This applies when you already have WordPress set up on the target site. You simply install and activate the cloning plugin on both sites. Then you use the plugin’s export feature on the source site and the import feature on the target site.
The second approach
This comes into play when the target location doesn’t have WordPress yet. In this scenario, the plugin will often create an archive file and an installer. Transfer those to the new location, execute the installer, and sit back and watch as your cloned site is built for you.
Cloning is so handy that the WordPress plugin directory contains quite a few tools, and selecting one can feel overwhelming. However, there are definite clear favorites among WordPress developers. Some are completely free, while others require a paid upgrade to get full cloning functionality. Top choices include:
All-in-One WP Migration — This is a free and easy-to-use cloning plugin. It does require the target to already have WordPress and this plugin installed.
WP Clone — This is also a favorite because it’s free and easy to use. It does require that you have WordPress set up on the destination site, but after that, you simply activate the plugin on both sites. For basic projects, it works well when you close WordPress sites — but it comes with no support and probably isn’t the best choice for large sites.
Duplicator — The basic version is free and includes complete cloning functionality. Duplicator lets you clone a site to a new, completely empty location. The pro version adds advanced features, such as a scheduled backups and cloud storage ability.
Other popular (and well-reviewed) choices include Updraft Plus, BackupBuddy and WP Migrate DB Pro. These all require a purchase to clone WordPress sites with full functionality, but many people find that worth the cost.
Most cloning plugins also include some sort of backup functionality, so these are dual-purpose tools.
WordPress Cloning with GoDaddy Pro
If you use GoDaddy Pro to manage clients and products, you’re in luck. The functionality to close WordPress sites is built into Pro Sites.
With GoDaddy Pro Sites, you can easily clone WordPress sites to another WordPress site or to a completely new website at a remote URL.
To clone one site to another, simply:
- Log into your Pro account.
- Go to Pro Sites.
- Select the Client and then the Site you want to clone.
- Hover over the selected site and click Backups.
- Select the backup you want to use as the clone source.
- Select the Pro Website you want to clone it to (This will already have WordPress installed).
- If you want to change admin info, fill in the Create New Admin form.
- Click Clone.
The process for cloning a site to a remote URL is similar. Instead of selecting another site as the destination, you specify a target URL and provide connection information including FTP and database credentials. The clone process will create and populate the target database and install all of your WordPress files.
Whether you need to sync development and live sites, create new sites expeditiously, or move a WordPress site to a new location, using a tool to clone WordPress sites is the way to go. The learning curve is short, and the time and trouble you’ll save make it a very worthwhile skill to have in your repertoire.