Last month I posted You’ve launched your new website. Now what?. That prompted several folks to send an email asking for guidance to confidently know that they had all the boxes checked before launching. So, here we go!
You've worked hard to get your WordPress website ready for launch. This post will help you to double-check that you have all the basics covered.
Before you launch, run through this easy pre-launch checklist to ensure all the settings and options available to you are where you want them to be. Once complete, you are good to go for launch.
Check all Your Primary WordPress Settings:
- Check your site title and tagline are correct.
- Set your timezone and date format.
- Make sure you have an Admin email address that uses your website domain. This is for security and to make sure you receive all website emails.
- Set your default blog category.
- Default post format: Standard.
- Other options only if you are going to use them.
- Set your home and post page display. Your theme should guide you on what to set here.
- Set number of Blog and Syndication posts. I usually set at 5 and 5.
- Set each post in feed to Summary.
- Search Engine Visibility: Uncheck “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.”
When I used to allow Comments, here are the settings I had in place. (READ: The History of WordPress Comments: On or Comments Off.)
You can uncheck “Users must be registered and logged in to comment” only if you have strong comment spam protection in place. For my other sites that do allow comments, I use Clean Talk Spam Prevention.
Lower down on the Discussion page; you'll find your Avatar settings that you can select based on your preference.
- Show Avatars?
- Set your website Rating.
- Select your Avatar design.
- Set your image sizes to any custom sizes designated by your theme. Otherwise, the defaults are fine as is.
- Check if you want to organize your uploads into month-and year-based folders. I always have this checked. (Here's a plugin to use to organize your media on the upload better.)
I always recommend going with “Post name.” This keeps your permalinks descriptive and readable.
You also have the option to set custom structures for your categories (aff) and tag URLs. By default, WordPress uses /category/ as the base for your category URLs and /tag/ for the tags pages.
But, you do have the option to change those if you feel you need to, for example:
Theme Specific Settings
- Delete any starter/dummy content that you are not using that was installed with your theme.
- Make sure all your theme-specific settings are in place. Some themes install their own dashboard that you can access from the left sidebar of your dashboard. Others can be found in Appearance > Customize.
- Go through every single theme setting to make sure you have everything set the way you desire.
Appearance Customization Settings
You'll want to go through each section and double-check the settings within:
- Site Identity: Includes your logo and site icon (favicon). Use the exact size that your theme provider advises for the logo to get the best results. For your favicon, you'll need a graphic that is 512 x 512. My article How to Further Your Brand with the Right Favicon has additional tips.
- Color Options, Menus, Homepage, and Theme Settings are all based on how your theme is set up. Go through each, so you know what your options are.
- Additional CSS: This is where you can add your own CSS snippets that will override your theme's CSS.
One of the primary reasons WordPress websites receive poor performance scores is unnecessarily large image files. Images that are uploaded in sizes that are way too large for what is needed to display. Many times by thousands of pixels.
You want to know the exact size required by your theme for certain areas. Then, create and upload images no larger than necessary. This process is critical to your site's speed metrics.
- Use recommended image sizes for your theme. (Header, Logo, Featured)
- Optimize your images with the Smush plugin.
- Name image files to be representative of the image itself.
- When uploading images, be sure to fill out the “alt” field. Doing so is part of the SEO process.
- Setup Yoast SEO including your XML sitemap
- AntiSpam for comments.
- Install a security plugin.
- If you’re relaunching your old website, make sure to add 301 redirects for any URLs that have changed or been removed.
- Set up a cookie consent notice (and if in California CCPA compliance).
Important Tasks Many Overlook
- Design a custom 404 page. I use the 404 to 301 plugin for pages/posts I've removed to redirect to an informative page to guide visitors.
- Update your Copyright in the footer. Then, mark your calendar to do so each December too. (Also, replace the theme name with your company name.)
- Update your social media account headers to match your new site logo/colors/theme.
- Connect your social accounts/share buttons.
- Setup RSS Subscribe Option
- Google Console: Verify your website and submit your Site Map
- Setup and integrate Google Analytics ( Add the tracking code in Appearance > Customize > Theme Settings > Header/Footer Scripts)
- Run a Mobile-Friendly Test
- Review Site Speed and Performance
- Check your site on various browsers.
- Setup off-site/server backups.
- Run ecom and email tests (contact forms).
Now the Really Hard Work Begins
The above is not the end all be all. Parameters, plugins, and strategies will change based on your type of business and what you want to accomplish.
Many launch their website and then sit and wait. Or expect search engines to start sending traffic immediately. With this approach, you'll be sitting and waiting a long time. Nothing happens online by happenstance or osmosis.
You have to make it happen and keep making it happen. So here's your next step…
At your service,