Moving WordPress onto HTTPS

So recently I’ve been moving a fair few WordPress sites over to run completely on HTTPS and whilst this should be a simple URL switch, WordPress can make it a bit of a pain. Therefore, below is my preferred way of making the transition.

For the sake of this post, I’m going to assume you’ve already purchased and installed your SSL certificate (if you haven’t Namecheap are great!)

Step 1 – Site Address Change

This is the most basic step and will change all your WordPress URLs for you.

In your wp-admin section, go to Settings > General and change these two boxes to the URLs begin with https rather than http. Easy!

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 23.24.16

Step 2 – Asset URL Fix

You’ve probably noticed that although your site is now running over https, you’ve not got that nice green padlock, or alternatively it’s only appearing on certain pages. Damn! Let’s fix that for you.

The reason this is happening, is because all your assets (images etc.) that have been uploaded into posts or pages, store the full URL to the file. Because when you uploaded them your url started with http your assets were saved with the http URL.

Don’t despair, we can fix this pretty easily. You’ll need to install and activate a plugin called Better Search Replace, this plugin will allow you to find and replace content in your database and although this is fairly safe, it’s probably worth backing up your database before we go any further.

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Once installed, go to Tools > Better Search Replace in your admin area. You want to add your domain with /wp-content on it in the Search For field, E.G. In the Replace With field, you want the same thing, but with the https version of the URL, E.G. Make sure you highlight all your tables in the Select tables section and 100% make sure that the Run as dry run? checkbox IS checked.

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Now you can click the button at the bottom to run the search. It may take a few minutes depending on the size of your database and speed of the server, but it shouldn’t take too long. Once it’s finished, if you scroll to the top of the page, you should see something like the following.

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Feel free to click to view more details if you’d like to check which tables contain the data to be changed.

Once you’re happy with this, you can scroll back down and uncheck the Run as dry run? checkbox. Now when you hit the button to run the script, it WILL replace the data in your database.

You may need to do this for the www. version of your site as well, depending on how your site is set up, E.G. Find and replace with

Step 3 – Check Your Site

Now we’ve made it this far, it’s a good time to check that your site is still functioning correctly and that your SSL is working. If it is, great! If it’s not, then you need to look at what’s not working.

If your site is not working at all, then you’ve probably messed something up with the database find and replace. Go ahead and restore that backup you took earlier, you did take a backup didn’t you? Good.

If the site is working correctly, but your SSL is still not working as expected (no green padlock) then we need to dig deeper. Go and do a dry run search and replace on your database for the http version of your site again, you shouldn’t get any hits this time, if you do then repeat step 2 until you don’t.

If you don’t get any hits, then generally it means that something you’re using is built badly. This is normally a hardcoded CSS or JavaScript URL in your theme or a plugin you’re using. If you can, try deactivating your plugins 1 by 1 until you find the culprit, then contact the plugin author and tell them to sort their code out!

Step 4 – Force SSL Site Wide

You can skip this step if you’d prefer, but seeing as we’re installing the SLL site wide, we might as well enforce it.

To do this, you’re going to need to update your .htaccess file. If you can access this through FTP or a control panel, do it that way. If not, you can use this plugin, but it’s a little risky if you mess something up.

Whichever way you do it, you’ll need to add the following code, but make sure you switch the URL for your new https URL:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On 
RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} 80 
RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [R=301,L]

You’ll need to add this above the # BEGIN WordPress line that should already be in the .htaccess file.

Step 6 – Check the Site Again

Now we’ve completed all the steps, check your site again. If you’re getting a 500 error then something is wrong with your .htaccess file. Revert your changes and ask someone who knows about development to take a look at it, .htaccess files can be a pain in the ass!

If your site is now running well over SSL then well done and we’re at the end of our journey together. Enjoy your secure site and let people thing you’re a genius!