If only launching a website was as easy as flipping a switch. Unfortunately, it’s not. When you launch a new WordPress website, little things can go wrong…like a spelling error on a page. Or things can go really, really wrong…like forgetting to add a robot.txt file.
Having launched many WordPress websites, I put together this list of things to do before and after making your new WordPress website live on the Internet. I recommend double and then triple checking these items as you launch your new website.
Content and Design Check
- Proofread all text content for grammatical and spelling errors. You can use a tool like the Grammarly Chrome Plugin to check your pages and reveal spelling and grammar improvements. You can sign up for Grammarly here.
- Test that every page looks good on mobile, tablet, and desktop. You can use a tool like the Responsive Web Design Tester Chrome Plugin, which allows you to check how each page looks across various devices and browsers.
- Make sure you have a Favicon in place and that it’s rendering properly.
Links and SEO
- Click every link, menu item, and button across the entire website – make sure all internal and external links go to the correct place.
- Check that all contact details such as email addresses and phone numbers are all correct and that phone numbers are click-to-call on mobile.
- Make a 301 redirect list – this is the list of all page URLs from your old site that will need to be redirected to an applicable page on the new site. For example: if your old page is www.website.com/about-us and the URL on the site will be www.website.com/about-the-team, you’ll need to implement a 301 redirect to let search engines know where the new page is located, to transfer the SEO value from the old page to the new page, and ensure that anyone who’s clicking on the old link will get to the applicable page on the new site instead of a “dead” 404 page.
- Install and configure the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin or another WordPress SEO plugin.
- Go through the website’s pages and make sure both Title Tags and Meta Descriptions are formatted and optimized for every page.
- Go to Settings > Permalinks in your WordPress back-end and make sure that the Permalink structure is what you want it to be. For instance, many people prefer to use a custom structure for blog posts instead of the WordPress defaults.
- Make sure you have a robot.txt file added and configured. Many WordPress themes automatically add a robot.txt file for you.
- Test all forms to make sure that all forms are working properly (i.e. Contact Forms, Newsletter Sign Up).
- Make sure that all forms are being distributed to the people who should be receiving them.
- If you’re using a custom “Thank You” page for conversion tracking for your forms, make sure your forms are redirecting to the appropriate page and that the conversion is tracking properly.
- Create a full backup of the site – you can use a WordPress backup plugin like BackUpWordPress to make automated backups of your website on an ongoing basis.
- Install and configure a WordPress security plugin like WordFence.
- Make sure you’ve updated to the latest version of WordPress and have updated all applicable plugins to their latest version. It’s also a good idea to deactivate any plugins you no longer need.
Do another round of visiting every page, clicking on every link, and performing every function on the website. Make sure that everything works as it should.
- Ensure that Google Analytics, Google Remarketing, Facebook Ads Tracking and any other applicable code on the website is tracking properly. You can use Google Tag Manager to install these tags and ensure they’re firing properly. You can double-check that the tags are all firing properly be using the Google Tag Assistant Chrome Plugin.
- Test any conversion tracking you have in place – make sure “goals” are firing correctly in Google Tag Manager and/or Google Analytics if you’re using those tools for conversion tracking.
- Go into Google Analytics, go to “real time,” visit a page on the website and make sure that Google Analytics is tracking that you’re there.
- Create an XML sitemap (you can use the Yoast plugin for this) and submit to Google Search Console.
- Use Google Search Console to “fetch and render” your website – make sure that Google is seeing the website the same way your users are.
- Use Google Search Console to send a request to Google crawl your new website, which will speed up Google indexing the new site.
- Execute your 301 redirect list. You can use a WordPress plugin like Simple 301 Redirects for this. You can test that you implemented this properly by Googling the name of your website and clicking the old links that appear to see if they resolve to your new website’s pages.
- Check your robots.txt file is in place so search engines can crawl the website. You can use a tool like the SEOBook Robots.txt Checker to check that your file is in place.
- Enable a compression plugin like W3 Total Cache to minify the site, compress images, and increase site speed.
- Update any Theme or Plugin licenses that are domain-specific. For instance, if you were using something like test.domain.com during the development of the website and now you’re live on a new domain, you may have to update your licenses in order to make updates.
- Test your forms again; there can be issues that come up with forms after the new site is live. Make sure your contact forms are working and that the form info is going where you want it to go and that conversions are tracking for every form submission.
*If you’re moving from HTTP to HTTPS with an SSL Certificate
- Force HTTPS with redirects – this can be done server-side or by using a WordPress plugin like Really Simple SSL.
- Update all URLs to HTTPS throughout the site and inside of your WordPress template, including media, internal links, and external scripts.
- Update any old redirects with new redirects to the HTTPS pages.
- Crawl all URLs using a tool like Screaming Frog to identify broken links.
- Add the HTTPS version of the website to Google Search Console.
- Submit a new XML sitemap in Google Search Console.
- Update your default URL in Google Analytics to the HTTPS version.
- Update any paid media (i.e. AdWords, Facebook Ads), email marketing, automation tools, heatmap application, A/B testing tools, etc. with the HTTPS URL.
- After making the switch the HTTPS, do another round of “clicking everything” on the website and using every function – make sure everything works properly.
If there are items you think I’ve missed, feel free to comment below. This post is not meant as an all-encompassing guide, and your business and website situation (e-commerce adds a whole ‘nother list of items) may require you to make additional changes or ignore some of the changes I’ve outlined.
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