After lots of hard work you’ve finally set-up your WordPress website. You’ve created lots of engaging content and you are now ready to go live. You’re extremely excited about the launch, you’re wondering however, have I missed any important steps that I still need to make?
In this post, we cover 25 essential pre-launch checks that you should perform before going live with your site. This checklist will help you to avoid common mistakes that many bloggers make and it should help to maximize your website’s chances of success from the onset.
- 1 Content & Design
- 2 Functionality
- 3 SEO
- 4 Legal & Compliance
- 5 Security
- 6 Related Articles
Content & Design
1. Proof-Read Your Content
Ensure you proof-read all your content on your site to verify that there are no spelling mistakes, grammatical mistakes or typos. Have a third party also review your content, a fresh pair of eyes will likely spot things which you may have missed.
2. Check That You Have No Broken Links
Check that you have no broken links on your site. Don’t worry you don’t have to do this manually, you can install a free plugin such as Broken Link Checker which detects broken links and notifies you from the WordPress admin dashboard or by email.
Check also external links and ensure they open in a new tab. If you have downloadable content on your site such as PDF files for example, make sure you can download the files.
3. Test Social Media
If you have added social media icons/links such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest etc on your site, ensure they are all working properly.
4. Test All Feeds
If you’re using RSS, social media, news or other types of feeds on your site, double-check that they are working and displaying the current content correctly.
5. Verify all Images, Audio & Video Content
Verify that all your images are displaying correctly on your site. If you’re using images that are not your own, double-check the licensing requirements. Even if the image is royalty-free there may be some conditions of use which you will need to adhere to, such as attributing the original owner.
If you’re using audio and/or video content make sure they are not set to autoplay.
6. Check You Have Created a Favicon
It might be often overlooked but a favicon is another important aspect which you need to consider when creating your site or blog.
If you don’t know what a favicon is, it’s those little icons that appear in your browser tabs which are associated with a particular site. They’re maybe small but it allows your visitor to distinguish your website from others when they have several tabs open in their browser.
Ensure you create one for your site in either .ico or .pnp format with at a size of 16×16 or 32×32. There are lots of free favicon websites which can help with the task of creating one including favicon.pro and genfavicon.com.
7. Ensure Your WordPress, Themes & Plugins are Up-to-Date
Updates for plugins, WordPress and themes can be fundamental for your site’s security. If you don’t perform regular updates you will be vulnerable to attack by hackers. Hackers try to exploit known vulnerabilities, so having out-to-date plugins and themes are asking for trouble. Having out-of-date plugins can also cause incompatibility issues with other plugins that you may have installed.
8. Test All Contact and Subscription Forms
If you’re using forms on your site such as comment, contact, email subscription forms, ensure they all work. Fill out all the forms and make sure there are no issues with them. For example, leave compulsory fields blank and verify that an error is displayed, warning that the field is compulsory. With the subscription form, ensure you’re receiving notification mails back.
9. Check Your Site is Mobile Friendly & Compatible with all Browsers
Over 50% of all global web traffic now originates from mobile devices. It is for this reason it’s vital that you verify that your site is compatible with mobile devices. Don’t worry, you don’t need to buy every mobile on the market to test whether your site looks good on it, you can just use Google’s mobile friendly test site to help you with this.
Another important aspect you will need to consider is browser compatibility. Not all users use the same browser to view websites. There are a number of browsers out there including FireFox, Safari, Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Internet explorer. There are tools which can help with checking browser compatibility such as Browsera which allows you to compare browser versions side by side and it lists the differences between them.
10. Have a 404 Page
No matter whether you have checked your site for broken links, sooner or later a visitor may type in a page name incorrectly or they may get redirected to a “Page not Found” message. It is important therefore that you create a custom 404 page for these possible situations.
Lots of WordPress themes come with a 404 template which you can use or customise as required. If not, you can download a plugin such as 404page which allows you to create one with very little effort. Once you have one in place make sure it works.
11. Your Logo Should Lead Back to the Homepage
Ensure when you click on your logo it leads back to your sites homepage. This is a well-established practice, so ensure you implement this to avoid confusing your visitors.
12. Submit a Sitemap to the Search Engines
When you first launch a site, you will need to tell the search engines about it, as users are likely to be using a search engine to find your site. In order to do this, you will need to submit a sitemap, which is essentially a text file that lists all the pages on your website.
There are many tools out there to help you create a sitemap. One of which is Google XML Sitemaps. Once the search engine receives your sitemap, they will crawl and index your site.
We recommend that you submit your sitemap to Google (you will need to create a Google Search Console account first). Afterwards you can upload your sitemap to Microsoft’s search engine Bing (first set-up a Bing Webmaster Tool account).
13. Set-Up Google Analytics & Google Search Console
Before you launch your site you should add your website to Google Analytics without delay. The tool allows you to analyse your website’s traffic and find out such things as your most popular articles, what people are searching for, how often specific pages are visited and where your visitors are coming from.
You can then use this data to optimise your site, for example, improve an article which is proving not very popular.
Once you have Google Analytics set-up we would recommend that you install Google Search Console. Search Console allows you to do a range of things such as see who is linking to your page the most, find out what queries drive most traffic to your site, see what search queries cause your site to appear in the search results and much more.
14. Perform a Speed Test
The time it takes for your site to load is critical. If it takes too long you may lose visitors who may never return. Site speed also plays an important role in Google’s algorithm to rank pages. If your site is speedy you can rank higher which in turn will mean higher visitor numbers. A slow loading site can be caused by many factors including large images, too many plugins being used, hosting not suitable for the number of visitors you’re getting.
There are number of free tools out there which you can use to monitor if you’re facing any performance issues. One of which is Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Just enter your site’s URL and select the relevant device (mobile or desktop) and it will display your load time statistics.
15. Ensure Your Site Can Be Crawled
Don’t forget to uncheck the option found under “Settings”->”Reading”->“Discourage search engines from indexing this site” to make your site visible to the search engines. This step can easily be missed, so always ensure it is unchecked before going live.
If you forget to uncheck it, it will mean search engines will ignore your site and you won’t appear in any search results and you’ll be wondering why no one is visiting your site!
16. Make Sure your Content Complies with Common SEO Practices
If you want your site to rank well in the search engine rankings, you need to ensure you comply with common SEO practices when creating your content. The easiest way to do this is install an SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO which advises you on how to make your content as search engine-friendly as possible.
When using images in your content make sure you use accurate and descriptive alt tag text and also ensure you compress your images so it doesn’t have a negative impact on the loading speeds of your site (you can use a plugin called WP Smush for this).
Ensure you use one H1 tag in your page. If you’re using affiliate marketing to monetise your site, double-check that you’re using nofollow for all your affiliate links to prevent search engines penalising your site.
Legal & Compliance
In your footer you should include a copyright notice with the current year. The purpose of this is to discourage visitors from stealing your content and images.
In order to meet these EU regulations you’re required to:
- Inform your users that cookies are in use on your site.
- Provide the option to opt in or out of being tracked by your site cookies.
- Let your users know what the cookies are being used for (by your site and/or by third parties).
20. Disclosure Page
If you have affiliate links on your website, you will need to display a disclosure notice. Many affiliate programs and networks now make this compulsory, for example, if you’re using Amazon Associates. If you’re also located in the US, you’re required by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) to disclose that you’re using affiliate links. Your disclosure notice needs to be placed in an obvious location on your site, such as the footer.
21. Review Accessibility
When creating your site you should make it accessible to all users, including ones with disabilities i.e. people with visual impairments. In order to improve your sites accessibility think about installing a plugin such as WP Accessibility which aims to solve common accessibility issues, and will allow your visitors to navigate and interact with your website as easily as possible.
22. Have a Backup Policy in Place
It’s always better to be safe rather than sorry, so always ensure you make a back-up of your site in case anything does go wrong and you can quickly recover from it.
There are many back-up plugins out there including UpdraftPlus which is easy to use and allows you to automatically schedule back-ups. Don’t forget to store your back-ups that you make in a secure location such as your Dropbox account.
23. Use a SSL Certificate
Before going live with your site you should install an SSL (secure socket layer) certificate. SSL essentially protects your visitors, as it encrypts the transmission of data and therefore it makes it more difficult for people to snoop and it should make it more secure.
Google ranks secure websites higher in the search rankings so it’s important that your site begins with the “HTTPS:” prefix. Google also mentioned that their Chrome browser will start making all sites without a SSL certificate insecure.
A number of hosting companies now offer free SSL certificates including HostGator, Bluehost, SiteGround, WPEngine, Dreamhost so there’s no excuse not to install an SSL certificate. See our article which covers how to install a SSL certificate on your site.
24. Create Additional Logins
If you’re going to have multiple users who require access to your site i.e. you may have an administrator who requires full access to the site to make any change as required, an author who can edit, publish and delete posts, think about creating additional logins with the appropriate user roles.
25. Ensure You’re Not Using Admin for Your Username
When you performed your WordPress installation, it should have asked you to create an administrator account. You will need to check that you didn’t use “admin” as the username for your administrator account.
If you have used “admin” as your username, a hacker will just have to guess your password and they will then have full access to your site to do as much damage as possible. Remember, don’t make it easy for hackers!