22 step WordPress website checklist. Don’t let easy mistake or distractions put a damper on your new site.
1. Delete Dummy Content (e.g. “Hello World!”)
By default, WordPress comes with its own dummy content such as the infamous “Hello World!” post and “Sample Page” page. Some popular hosts also add their own dummy content on top.
None of this content is useful to your site, so you’ll want to make sure you delete it before you go live. Browse through the Posts, Pages, and Comments areas and delete anything that shouldn’t be there. Also, if you are using a theme, besure to delete dummy images as well.
2. Deactivate and Delete Unused Plugins
Having unnecessary plugins on your site is bad for both site performance and security, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve deactivated and deleted any plugins that you aren’t planning on using on your live site. Once you’ve deactivated all the plugins you don’t think you need and verified that your site still works, you can go ahead and safely delete them.
These could be plugins that you tried and didn’t like, plugins used for migrating, as well as default plugins that your host installed but you’re not planning on using.
To get rid of them, go to the Plugins area in your dashboard and deactivate any plugins that you don’t need. If you’re not sure whether or not you need a plugin, just try deactivating it and then testing your site. If nothing is broken or missing, that probably means you don’t need the plugin.
3. Set Your Permalinks
Your WordPress site’s permalinks control the structure of your site’s URLs. For example, should a blog post be yoursite.com/2020/11/post-title or just yoursite.com/post-title? Permalinks let you choose what works for your site and it’s important to choose them before you launch (because changing them later on will mean all the URLs on your site change and can be a BIG damage to SEO).
To set your permalinks, go to Settings → Permalinks. Most sites should use the Post name structure, but you can use a different structure if it fits your needs. Personally, I like to include the category name in the URL structure, which you can set up by choosing the Custom Structure option and entering the following:
4. Set Your Timezone
Your WordPress site’s timezone plays an important role in various scheduling and administrative tasks. Your timezone affects the timestamps on posts/comments, the time when you schedule posts to go live, and more.
The simplest solution is to set the timezone to your local timezone (or your client’s timezone). This will make it easier to perform administrative tasks, like scheduling posts.
However, if your target visitors are in a significantly different timezone, you might want to use that timezone instead so that your visitors see comment timestamps and publish dates that are relevant to them.
To set your timezone, go to Settings → General and use the Timezone drop-down:
5. Turn off Comments (Unless You Really Need Them)
While comments can be useful for some sites with an active community, most “regular” WordPress sites are better off disabling comments because they’re just going to get spam comments you will need to monitor.
For example, if you’re creating a simple website for a local business, that local business almost certainly doesn’t need blog comments.
To disable comments, go to Settings → Discussion and uncheck the boxes for Allow link notifications from other blogs and Allow people to submit comments on new posts.
If you’re disabling comments, you can also get rid of Gravatar, which is the default service that powers avatars in comments. To turn it off, go to Settings → Discussion and uncheck the Avatar Display box.
6. Remove the “Just Another WordPress Site” Tagline
Beyond the default posts and pages that WordPress adds, it also adds a generic tagline that some themes still display (though not all do).
To avoid confusion, you should remove this default tagline or change it to something relevant to your site or business. You can make this change by going to Settings → General and editing the Tagline box.
7. Set Your Site Icon/Favicon
Your site icon/favicon is what appears next to your site title in visitors’ browser tabs, bookmarks, etc. It will also be used as the “app” icon if someone saves your site to their mobile device.
You can set your favicon from the WordPress Customizer. Go to Appearance → Customize. Then, find the Site Identity section and upload your favicon to the Site Icon setting:
Your favicon should be square, ideally 512×512 px. Keeping it basic, such as a single letter or simple symbol, will help make it legible even on a user’s browser tab.
8. Create/Test Your Forms
Before going live, you’ll want to make sure that your form is working as expected:
- Does it accept new submissions?
- Have you set up a custom confirmation message?
- Have you configured notification emails for new submissions? Do those notifications go to the correct email address(es)?
- Are they being stored in a database as backup
Make sure to send a few test form submissions to really make sure your forms are working properly.
9. Set up an Email Sending Service
By default, your WordPress site will try to send its transactional emails (password resets, form notifications, etc.) via your web host. Unfortunately, this method isn’t very reliable and some hosts will completely disable sending emails from the server.
Make sure that you’ve set everything up and also send some test emails to ensure that there aren’t any issues with deliverability.
If your site targets visitors from the EU, you also might need to take steps to comply with EU laws like cookie consent and the GDPR. Plugins like Complianz can help simplify the compliance process for you.
11. Create a Custom 404 Page
Your 404 page is what visitors will see if they try to visit a page on your site that doesn’t exist (which will happen fairly often as your site grows). It’s an important page to have because it gives you a chance to help those visitors find what they need and keep them on your site.
To easily create a custom 404 page, you can use Elementor Pro — just follow this tutorial.
12. Activate SSL Certificate and Enable HTTPS
In 2020 and beyond, every website needs an SSL certificate to boost security and user trust.
Most web hosts let you install a free SSL certificate – you usually just need to click a few buttons in your hosting dashboard. If not, you can reach out to your host for help.
Once you’ve done that, make sure to enable HTTPS by going to Settings → General and updating your WordPress Address and Site Address to use https:// instead of http://.
If you’re adding SSL/HTTPS to an existing WordPress site, you might also need to set up redirects to make sure all your existing content uses HTTPS as well. Or, you can have the Really Simple SSL plugin do that for you.
13. Make Sure All Links Work Correctly (+ Use Relative URLs)
To limit 404 errors and improve user experience, it’s important that all of your links are working as expected. However, you’ll often run into broken link problems if you’re moving a site from staging/local development to the live version.
You’ll want to test key navigation items, widgets, etc. to make sure that there are no issues.
One tip to avoid problems is to use relative URLs instead of absolute URLs. For example, let’s say your site is https://yoursite.com and you want to link to https://yoursite.com/example-page:
- Absolute URL – <a href=”https://yoursite.com/example-page”>
- Relative URL – <a href=”/example-page”>
Basically, with relative URLs, you can change the base URL of your site (https://yoursite.com) without breaking any of your links.
14. Set up 301 Redirects if Needed
A 301 redirect lets you automatically “redirect” visitors to a different page. For example, let’s say you change the URL of a post from yoursite.com/old-title to yoursite.com/new-title. A 301 redirect lets you automatically redirect people who visit yoursite.com/old-title to yoursite.com/new-title.
If you’re creating a brand new website, you probably won’t need any 301 redirects at the beginning. However, if you’re working on relaunching an existing site, you might need to set up 301 redirects to account for any changes that you’ve made.
You can set up 301 redirects by editing your site’s .htaccess file or you can use a free plugin like Redirection.
15. Set up Google Analytics
Web analytics are a useful tool that lets you see how many visitors your site gets, what content they like, where they come from, and lots more. You’ll want to have website analytics installed from day one so that you can start understanding your site’s visitors right away.
The easiest way to get started with web analytics is to use the free Google Analytics tool – check out our guide on how to add Google Analytics to WordPress to learn how to set it up. Then, make sure that the tracking code is working and you see data in your Google Analytics dashboard.
16. Set SEO Titles and Meta Descriptions
Search engine optimization (SEO) titles and meta descriptions are important for helping your site rank in search engines. They can also help you increase your organic search clickthrough rate (CTR) by helping you catch searchers’ attention.
Before you can set them, you’ll need to make sure you’re using an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO. Then, you can set up SEO title tags and meta descriptions from inside the editor for each piece of content. These are also important with social sharing.
17 Optimize Your Site’s Performance
How quickly your site loads will affect everything from user experience to SEO, conversion rates, and more. For that reason, it’s an essential ingredient if you want your website to be successful.
18. Put a Backup Policy in Place
Every website needs a strong backup policy to ensure your data is always safe and secure in case something bad happens. If you use premium managed WordPress hosting, your host might already offer secure off-site backups.
19. Activate/Update Plugin/Theme Licenses
Updating your plugins is important to keep your site secure and avoid compatibility issues. For free plugins from WordPress.org, you’ll receive update notifications in your dashboard and can update with a single click.
However, for any premium plugins that you’re using, you’ll need to add a valid license key to enable automatic updates.
Before you launch, go through each premium plugin on your site and check to see if you’ve activated it with a license key — otherwise, it’s far too easy to forget about updates.
20. Test, Test, Test (and Then Test Again)
Finally, the last step in your website launch checklist is to test your site. Then, you can test it again. And then maybe one more time for good measure.
Click around to different pages and make sure everything is working. Check for broken links, missing content/images, CSS issues, etc.
Pay extra attention to important actions, like forms or registration/purchase flows. Additionally, remember to test on different devices, like both your desktop and smartphone.
21. Make Sure You’re Allowing Search Engine Indexing
While you’re working on a development site, it’s a good idea to disable search engine indexing to prevent Google from indexing your work-in-progress website. However, when you go live, it’s important to turn off this behavior so that you don’t accidentally block Google from indexing your live website.
Go to Settings → Reading and make sure that the Search engine visibility box is not checked.
22. Submit Your Site’s XML Sitemap To Search Engines
Your XML sitemap is a list of all the content on your site in a special format. It helps search engines like Google discover all of your content and include it in the search results.
As of WordPress 5.5, WordPress creates an XML sitemap by default – you can access it by appending /wp-sitemap.xml to the end of your site (e.g. yoursite.com/wp-sitemap.xml). Most WordPress SEO plugins also include their own features to help you create a sitemap.
All you need to do is submit the sitemap to search engines. Here’s where to do that: