Congratulations! You have built your WordPress website and you are about to put it live, but WAIT!
Before you announce your website to the world and start letting Google crawl it, here is a handy checklist of items to work through to make sure that your new website is secure, indexable, structured and safe to use.
You’ll get to the end knowing how to continuing updating your site after live and also with a new list of things you’ll need to focus on to keep improving your website for your users.
1. Remove any UNNECESSARY plugins
First up is to remove those plugins that you may have installed to help you build the site (Duplicate Page, Import/Export Plugins etc) plus those that were installed automatically when you first set-up WordPress like the Hello Dolly plugin.
2. do a backup
We’re going to update plugins in the next step, but before you do that make sure you have backup of your website made as it’s very possible that since you started building your new WordPress website you haven’t done this yet.
You can do this via your host or by using a plugin like Updraft Plus and will mean that if everything goes south when updating your plugins you can just roll your site back to this point.
3. UPDATE YOUR PLUGINS
Once you have a backup, head to the plugins section in the admin and start updating any out of date plugins.
They are updated by their developer-owners on a regular basis to add new features and make them secure to use, so ensure that you have the latest version of any plugin that you use.
Update one at time by clicking the ‘update now’ blue link found under each plugin listed in that page.
4. update your theme
Once all of your plugins have updated, head to ‘Themes’ section of your site under ‘Appearance’ in the left-hand menu in the WordPress admin.
You’ll be told if you need to update your theme or not in here as a blue ‘Update Now’ link will appear at the top of any of themes that you have installed.
If your ‘Active’ theme is not updated, click on the link and let WordPress do it’s magic .
5. update your wordpress version
Once your Theme has been updated, you can then update your WordPress version if you are being told to update it.
WordPress will make it very obvious that you need to update your version of the software by placing a big message in the top of the admin that will appear on every page:
Click on the blue ‘Please update now’ link to be taken to the Updates page. You can also get to there ffrom the left hand menu by clicking the ‘Updates’ link under ‘Home’.
Once in here hit the big blue ‘Update Now’ button to begin:
If all goes well, take a big deep breath and then do another backup of your website.
6. compress your images
This is the perfect time to check that your images are taking up a tonne of loading time on your site.
When building your site you may not have thought about the impact the large images would have on user experience but I have found it’s the key culprit in slowing sites down.
Use a plugin like Smush or Imagify to compress your image file sizes and then update the settings so that all image syou ad din the future are comporesses once you upload them.
7. check your page and post titles
Take a quick look through your page and post titles via the WordPress admin.
Do they all have names that make sense?
If your homepage simple has a title that says ‘Home’ consider updating it to something else as it’s this page that will show up the most in Google search results.
My homepage explains what my website is about:
8. check your meta descriptions
If you don’t have an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO installed, add it to your site and then add a meta description for every page and post.
These are the descriptions that peear under the title in Google search results pages and although they won’t have direct impact on your SEO standing they will help a user decide if they want to click your page and learn more about you when they see it in the search results page.
To add a meta description using Yoast, simply navigate to the bottom of every post or page and add it to the ‘meta description’ box:
According to moz.com “Meta descriptions can be any length, but Google generally truncates snippets to ~155–160 characters” so be sure to economical with the words that you use.
9. Run your site through a BROKEN link checker tool
You want to ensure that all links work on your website, otherwise it will be annoying for your users and Google will penalise you.
Run your site through a tool like www.deadlinkchecker.com to see if you have any broken links on your site and then get them fixed.
10. test your contact form
This one might seem simple but I can’t tell you how many times I have launched without checking this!
I have leanred the hard way so you don’t have to , so send a message to yourself via your contact form. Test it wil a few differnt emails and make sure that you are receiving the emails.
This is also a good chance to check what you success message looks like and whether it could be improved for the user.
11. test your email optin signup form
As above, make sure that you have tested your own email optin sign-up form with an email that isn’t related to your WordPress site or email marketing account.
Were you able to subscribe OK and did you get a message after you had signed up?
Now is the time to check!
12. Update your site title and tagline
Check that you have updated the title title and tagline in the General Settings option before you go live.
Your site title will appear on every page in search engine results pages so make sure that it relates to your business accurately.
13. allow your site to be crawled by search engines
If you have been hiding your site from Google while you build it and have not been using a maintenance mode plugin, now is the time to open it back up to be crawled.
head to the ‘Reading’ section under the ‘Settings’ area of your WordPress admin and deselect the box that says ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’.
In time Google will sniff back around you site and start to crawl it.
Jump to point 19 if you want to speed that process up.
14. create a custom 404 page
It’s not a necessity but a nice to have to ensure that your website visitors know when they have clicked on a broken link or a page that cannot be found that you give them a way to go back to the homepage or may another page that could be useful.
The boring 404 page that normally can be found on a WordPress website is a bit sad, so you have a chance to make something fun and useful. Use a plugin like 404page to turn any of your pages into a custom 404 page.
15. add google analytics
Ensure that you are tracking what content your website visitors are looking at on your website after you go live so that you can understand what pages are working, and which are not.
If you have installed Google Analytics, log in and have a quick check that it’s tracking everything just in case.
There is a tonne of resources on Google Analytics on this blog right here: https://heyvickijakes.com/category/analytics/
WordPress makes it super easy to add one by providing you with a template via the Settings > Privacy option via the admin.
17. add an ssl certificate
If you don’t have the padlock in the URL (https rather than http) of your website then your website doesn’t have an SSL certificate.
They are a digital way of verifying your website’s domain and providing a level of trust to your users.
Chat to your hosting provider about how to add one to your website. It will cost you but very worth it considering that Google now ranks sites based on whether they have “the padlock” or not.
18. enable redirects
If you are updating a previously live site that had different pages or moving over from one domain to another, you may need to set up redirects so that users going to your site from indexed links on search engines and old links on social can find the right content.
This used to be a massive faff that you’d have to hand over to a developer to do, but now it can be done with a plugin.
I recommend Redirection for this job.
Once added and activated on your site, you’ll be able to find the settings via the ‘Tools’ section within the WordPress admin.
You’ll need to old URL that isn’t live or working anymore and the new URL that you would like to redirect the users to.
Click on the ‘add new’ button then enter these two pieces of data in the relevant fields.
19. submit your site to google
To kick things off with getting your site seen by your ideal customers, head to the Google Search Console and submit your sitemap.
This will prod Google into indexing your site which you may wish to do if you have added any new content or added redirects.
If you have Yoast SEO installed then it will create a sitemap automatically for you.
Use the slug /sitemap_index.html to get started.
Remember, a website is never really finished once you go live, so be sure to back it up on regular basis and keep the plugins, theme and WordPress version update don a regular basis.
if you want another reason to check in on your website once it’s gone live, join my next Supercharge Your Website Challenge and give your website some much needed love over 5 days: https://superchargeyourwebsite.com/5-day-challenge