It is common knowledge among freelancers and web designers that setting up and launching a website is a momentous task, and a lot of time and effort goes into ensuring that the website is designed so that it looks just right and fulfills the business needs.
There are a number of elements that can easily be overlooked during the web development process which can lead to detrimental effects when you reach the stage of launching your site. You can minimize the chances of that happening by ticking off the boxes in this handy checklist for new WordPress websites.
Let’s get started!
1. Check if Your Hosting Plan Supports WordPress
This one may seem obvious, but as this is a checklist, we’ll include it in any way. Make sure the server/hosting provider you select supports WordPress. It’s advised to go with a host that provides the latest version of PHP and offers a WordPress auto-installer. A great hosting provider that we use and highly recommend to all our clients is SiteGround. They have a managed WordPress hosting plan and upon installing WordPress, they pre-install their WordPress Starter Plugin which makes setting up your WordPress site a seamless process. It’s also worth mentioning here, that the service SiteGround provides is top-notch.
2. Optimize Permalinks for SEO
As of version 4.2 and subsequent updates, by default, WordPress generates permalink structures that contain the post name. This format is considered to be an SEO friendly format. However, it’s worth double-checking your permalink structure. For instance some WordPress websites may have the permalink set as a combination of the day and name. This may be suitable for some websites like newspapers and magazines, while it may not be suitable for others.
Right from the very beginning, you must select the permalink structure that’s ideal for the website’s SEO purposes. The ‘Post Name’ option usually works just fine for most websites as it offers a short and concise URL structure, ideal for SEO. Bigger websites that need categories and tags to reflect in the URLs, may want to opt for the ‘Custom Structure’ option.
To edit your permalinks settings navigate to
Settings > Permalinks
and you’ll see the Plain Radio Button checked by default. Instead, select the option that you need and Save the changes.
It’s worth noting that changing the permalinks structure of your live website in the future is not a smart SEO move. Over time, you’re likely to build back-links, and you stand to lose these links if you make changes to your permalinks. If you however must go down this route for whatever reason, you would need to have 301 redirects setup which can be easily done with the free ‘redirection’ plugin.
3. Decide How You Will Be Hosting Your Email Accounts.
When you set up your hosting account, whether it with SiteGround or any other hosting provider, you will have the option to create an email account with the suffix being your domain name. Now, if you conduct your business primarily by email, you can see the disaster that’s waiting to happen. Whenever your website is experiencing downtime, you won’t be able to access your email, even more, with attachments and the quantity of emails you will be sending out without knowing, you will be eating up your server space.
You can easily avoid this situation by having different hosting providers for your website and for your email. This will also spare you the hassle of changing your email whenever you change hosts. For us, a GSuite account is a no-brainer. You get a email account that you will most probably be familiar with coupled with all the security featured Google has to offer.
4. Make Sure SSL Is Activated
SSL, or Secure Socket Layer, is an encryption protocol that takes the session information between clients (users) and servers and makes it indecipherable to anybody else who may be trying to intercept it. This makes it impossible for external parties to read any meaningful information from intercepted traffic, and creates an all-round safer browsing experience for you and your clients.
When SSL is enabled on your site you will notice you have ‘https’ instead of ‘http’. Activating SSL can easily be enforced through SiteGround and via the SG Optimizer plugin. Additionally once SSL has been activated it’s worth checking that it is working on your WordPress site by navigating to
Settings > General
And making sure that both the WordPress Address and Site Address URLs have ‘https’ on the prefix.
Having SSL is critical in this day and age and will help you especially in the areas of security and SEO. Recent browser updates including Google Chrome, have started displaying warnings when a website that is being accessed doesn’t have SSL running. This creates a scary looking prompt that denies access by default until the hidden “Proceed” button is clicked. The “Proceed” button can only be accessed after the “ADVANCED” link is selected.
5. Delete Dummy Content
Every WordPress installation comes with some dummy content such as Hello World or This is your first post, and a Sample Page that you should get rid of. You also tend to import dummy content while building your website to test fonts, colors, spacing and more.
Now, imagine launching your site with the website displaying content that reads ‘Just Another WordPress Site’ – nope, not okay! To avoid this, take care to delete all dummy content before going live with the website. In addition to this, be sure to navigate to Settings > General and update your ‘Site Title’ and ‘Tag Line’. Remember, search engines take time to update, so any correction you make on your website may not have an immediate impact on search results.
6. Create an XML Sitemap
An XML Sitemap is a document file that lists all the URLs of your website. It is an easy navigation map that you submit to search engines to help them move within your website more intelligently and find appropriate content. While this does not directly affect the SEO rankings of your website, it helps search engines find and index your pages more easily.
XML sitemaps are particularly important for new websites since these sites do not have any backlinks that can direct traffic towards them at the start. Make sure that you create an XML Sitemap and submit it to Google. This is not too difficult if you’ve installed the Yoast SEO or RankMath plugin. Upon installing these plugins, run through their set-up wizard on your way to enabling an XML sitemap for your website which you should be able to view via www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml
7. Improve Your Website Loading Speed
Slow websites are a big turn-off for internet users and will generate huge bounce rates, and frustration for all parties involved. There are several things you can do to improve your website speed, and this is another topic on its own, but below is a quick list of initial steps you can take.
- If you have SiteGround as your hosting provider, you would have the SG optimizer plugin installed which has a plethora of options that you can toggle on to optimize your website for speed, including caching, minification of code, and compression of images.
- You can also opt to Lazy Load your images so that images are loaded only when they are visible on your screen, or in other words, when you scroll to a certain section of the web page.
- In addition to this, you can also enable Content Delivery Network (CDN) which provides high availability and performance by distributing your website/contents spatially relative to end users geography. This can easily be enabled with SiteGround as well.
8. Setup Website Backups
You will thank yourself in the future by simply having this set up from the very beginning. Setting up backups will give you peace of mind if anything were to happen to your website and give you the opportunity to restore your website quickly. You can opt to have SiteGround back up your website automatically as well, depending on your plan.
Our favorite plugin for backups is UpdraftPlus Backups. It not only helps you backup your website but can also be used to restore your WordPress website. If you’re looking to migrate your website to a different domain name, I would highly recommend the All in One Migration plugin.
9. Uncheck the Box for Search Engine Visibility
At the time you set up WordPress, you’ll find an option for search engine visibility in the Settings panel. We usually check this box while the website is under construction so that search engines will skip indexing the default WordPress content or any other work-in-progress content.
Just before launch, enable search engine visibility by visiting Dashboard > Settings > Reading and unchecking the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”. This is to ensure your website can continue to be indexed by search engines.
10. Setup Google Search Console
Immediately upon launching your site, one of the first things you should do is to let Google know about the existence of your website. Google Search Console enabled you to submit your sitemap directly to Google for indexing. Upon submitting your sitemap to Google, Google will also provide you if there are any issues you need to fix and what you can do to improve your rankings such as HTML improvements, AMP version, and search analytics.
Access Google Search Console, log in with your desired Google account and enter your website details and proceed by following the on-screen instructions.
11. More to Think About
Here below are a couple more items that you can jump into doing upon completing all of the above.
- Create and add a custom favicon to your website
- Design a custom 404 page
- Verify that images are included with proper attribution or free for commercial use
- Proofread every bit of your content
All of this does sound like a whole lot of work, but you’ll be glad you took the trouble. So, run through the checklist and have a wonderful, stress-free website launch!