Essential WordPress Website Launch Checklist

Posted: Jul 24, 2018 | Topic: WordPress

WordPress is a very commonly used website platform that is often under-optimized and mismanaged. Capable of being used for nearly any website type, these are the essential optimization tips for launching ANY WordPress website with success.

  1. Domain & SSL

    In some situations this won’t be needed but if you’re making any web hosting moves this step will be important.

    First, make sure you have access to the domain you want to host your new site permanently on. You’ll need access to make DNS updates to host your WordPress. Secondly, you’ll need to make sure where you’re hosting permanently you’ll be able to have an SSL installed. Today, having an SSL installed and using HTTPs helps to improve page speed as well as being a credibility marker for businesses.

    Make sure to avoid any mixed protocol when you upgrade to using HTTPs, including internal references.

  2. Web Hosting

    It’s essential to have stable web hosting if you’re serious about having a credible online presence. For WordPress, there are many specialized options to help get the most performance you can out of your site. The best WordPress specific web hosting you can get today is either WPEngine or FlyWheel. For some businesses, the hosting costs are hard to justify or you might need additional managed services like email, so these options don’t work for everyone. Bluehost is a good economy option, that also has services like email for your business. As long as you ensure the hosting gives you have access to management tools and if you can get a free SSL or daily backups that’s a great bonus.

    Links on may be to affilate partners.

  3. Content Check

    Is the site ready to launch? For the sake of this checklist, we’re going to assume yes. To conduct a thorough content review though we suggest utilizing sitemaps and doing a page by page check . Don’t forget to check multiple browsers and devices.

    Doing a content review helps to reveal display errors, duplicate pages and pages that shouldn’t be indexed. Building website normally goes through a lot of revisions before going live, this serves as a final quality check prior to receiving public traffic.

    We use this content tracker spreadsheet while doing websites and use it to review at the end, please copy and use it for your projects to stay organized.

  4. Site Backups

    Once your site is ready to go, make a back up. It’s good to have a regular schedule of backups once your site is up permanently but it’s essential to have a backup of your site before making any serious changes. Depending on your situation, this is more precautionary but we recommend having a backup prior to launch and after this checklist is completed once again as a point of restore. If this task can be automated by your hosting that may be easiest, otherwise we recommend using something like ManageWP.

  5. Indexation

    Make sure your site can be crawled and indexed by search engines. Normally this is just a setting in WordPress to discourage robots from crawling. It can be found in your dashboard by navigating to Settings > Reading. Uncheck this setting if it’s checked(see screenshot) to allow indexation..

  6. Preparing Redirects

    Now to ensure that we don’t have any broken pathways we set up a redirect file. This is a file of old URLs to new URLs that will be 301 redirected. We use a simple but easy to use a spreadsheet and normally upload to the most appropriate place depending on the hosting. For simplicity, you can use the Redirection plugin and upload your redirect file.

    We use our content tracking spreadsheet to grab the .htaccess code to upload in to Redirection, maybe it can help you too.

  7. Sitemaps XML & HTML

    Having sitemaps helps for maintenance and to ensure your pages are all being crawled. We like to have XML and styled HTML sitemaps for users. It’s pretty easy to add these to your WordPress without having much of any interruption. We like to use Yoast SEO for our XML sitemaps and WP Sitemap Page for HTML sitemaps. Both are easy to use and access, make sure you configure your sitemaps to only include the pages that should be indexed.

  8. Site Crawl for Errors*

    We conduct this operation often both before and after launch and encourage you to do the same. The easiest way to check for site errors is by using Screaming Frog, despite the availability of many tools on the market we prefer Screaming Frog. There are free versions for PC and Mac, the program mimics how a google bot would crawl your site to give a full report.

    Once Screaming Frog is installed put your site URL in the top bar then click ‘start’. If it fully runs then your site is able to be crawled and indexed, if not or if there are many 4xx or 5xx errors you will want to correct these errors before proceeding.

  9. Google Search Console & Bing Webmaster*

    If you don’t have Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools, sign up and verify your site. If you’re already signed up log in and submit your XML sitemap. For new users there may be some additional configuration, the important part is to send your updated sitemap to Google and Bing for indexation.

  10. Google Analytics*

    Tracking your website for web traffic and conversion is the best way to directly monitor how your site is performing. All websites should be running some sort of web tracking, the easiest way to do this is to sign up for Google Analytics. It’s free and allows users to do basic and advanced web tracking for any level of data competency. Our team always configures conversions and excludes our visits to the site so to focus on accurate customer tracking.

  11. Contact Forms & Functionality*

    Hopefully you checked functionality before making the site live for any major issues, but after moving to the permanent hosting environment it is critical to test all contact forms and methods of functionality that could fail for a user. This includes any forms, searches, pop-ups, menus, maps, comments and store.

    For web forms it’s important to make sure the mail exchanger for the site and your email are talking without interruption. Testing this out with finished email receiver is highly recommended.

  12. File Optimization & Web Caching(oh yes!)*

    Now to put a bow on the site, after you’ve finished debugging and testing setup file optimization and caching for your website. There are many options for doing this and many themes are already optimized for excellent delivery, but these plugins will help change the delivery of your site to be even more optimal. We like to use Autoptimize in nearly any environment because it is compatible with even the strictest servers and causes no issues. It provides compression and minification of your site files for basic improved delivery, however, for more advanced rigorous caching, we recommend using HummingBird. See what the web host recommends but either of these options will help your site.

*Steps are easiest when conducted live on the permanent site.

Need Help?

At this point, the site should be launched and error free. Using this process has allowed us to launch sites with vast improvement from the previous site to see immediate gains. If you need WordPress help or someone to help launch your WordPress site contact us.