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Website Pre-Publish Checklist

You’ve created a website, and you’re almost ready to launch it into the world. Here are a few things to do before you publish:

  1. Test it
    • Find your 404's
      Make sure your pages and posts are loading with images and working links. Double-check essential pages like contact, registration, login, and your homepage.
      A 404 error can happen on your site if a browser tries to connect to a page that doesn’t exist or isn’t linked correctly. If you’re worried about 404's, you can install a plugin that will crawl your site and email you an alert when it happens. (A popular plugin for this is 404 to 301.)

    • Try out emails, forms, and transactions
      Make sure emails are going out and being received, and that contact, comment, and opt-in forms are working. If you have social sharing plugins, make sure those work as well.
      If you’re starting an E-commerce site, browse products and test transactions. Check that receipts and invoices are working, and that shipping calculations and taxes are accurate.

    • Get mobile
      Try your website on a few mobile devices, including tablets. Check images, layout, and links to make sure everything looks right.
  2. Optimize it
    • Title and tagline
      Your website title and tagline are both optional, but they do help your customers (and search engines) discover your website. Both live in WordPress under Settings / General. If your theme does not automatically display the tagline, go through Appearance / Customize and check the “Display Site Title and Tagline” box.

    • Contact info and email
      Setting up a contact form for email is one way to make sure customers can get in touch with you without directly listing your email address and opening yourself up to spam or phishing attacks. Choose a free plugin (WPForms Lite, Ninja Forms) if you just need basic features, or look at a paid plugin like WPForms pro or Formidable Forms for more options and features.

    • Analytics
      This helps you keep track of how your website is doing by the numbers. Things like where your audience is coming from, what they read and what they buy, and when they leave. If you want to stay within Wordpress for analytics, your dashboard homepage has a button for setting up MonsterInsights. Whichever analytics plugin you choose, install it before you launch so you can see your progress.

    • SEO
      Search engines can be an excellent source of traffic, so you want to make sure your site is optimized for them. The Yoast SEO plugin is the most popular for quickly maximizing your site’s search engine optimization. It will make sure you’re following SEO best practices, like having good keyword density and using meta descriptions.

    • Email
      A professional email helps build customer trust and reinforces your brand. If you want an email that matches your domain ([email protected]), check out Gmail or Office 365.

    • Footer
      A website footer sits at the bottom of each of your pages. The most common things in the footer are copyright information, links to your privacy policy (information you’re collecting from email sign-ups, etc.) terms of use, and contact information. You can also add navigation links to your most relevant content. Keep it minimal, or surprise people with a short, custom message about your brand. Some premium themes let you expand the footer to insert a short bio or an opt-in to your email list.

    • Spam blocker
      Not only does a spam blocker save you from annoying (albeit sometimes funny) comments and emails, but it also keeps your website clean in terms of SEO. If your website is indexed and found to have spam, you can be dropped in the search rankings. If the amount of spam is severe, your site can even be blacklisted on search engines. Two popular, free spam blockers are Akismet and Stop Spammers. It’s a good idea to research different plugins to figure out which works best with your website (and with your other plugins).

    • Backup
      The easiest way to make sure you’re backing up your website is by automating it through a plugin. Jetpack is now included with Bluehost plans and offers daily backups and basic site security.

    • Security
      You want to think about security not just because of what can happen to your website and data, but what can happen to your customers’ data (especially if you have an eCommerce site). An SSL certificate protects data as it moves through your website, and it lets your customers know your site has an added level of security. On top of that, malware scanners like SiteLock proactively scan your site for malware and remove threats.

    • Logo
      If you want to build your brand, a logo is a great way to increase awareness and create a visual connection with your customers. You can even use your logo as a favicon (that’s the small image that shows up browser tabs). You can create and design your own using free logo makers, you can generate one with AI-powered tools, or you can pay to have a logo designed for you.
  3. Delete extras
    • Sample content
      Delete any sample content on your site (for example, the WordPress “Hello World” post and “Sample Page”). Leaving those will create duplicate content and hurt your SEO.

    • Default title and tagline
      Sometimes WordPress has a default title and tagline written in for your website (“Welcome” and “Just another WordPress site”). You most likely already changed the title, but make sure you change the tagline as well, or delete their default tagline and leave it blank if you don’t want a tagline.

    • Extra Plugins
      Uninstall any plugins you aren’t using. Excess plugins will slow down your website speed.

    • Perfectionist thoughts
      Get rid of these for now. You’ll learn, iterate, and make your website better as you go. If you still have a lot of changes to make, get your website to a satisfactory spot, and publish it with a message that lets people know it’s a work in progress.

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