There’s a lot more to the sites that we develop than just words and pictures. Of course the content is crucial but there’s plenty more going on behind the scenes that you may not be aware of. We’re not ones for blowing our own trumpet but we thought it was important to highlight some of the things our clients get for their money, and what better way to reveal our secrets than through this WordPress launch checklist.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the things you need to do before you launch a site – that would be a ridiculously long post and who’d have time to read that? This post intends to highlight some of the things you may not be aware of. So in no particular order we’ll begin.
If your WordPress site includes a blog, which it really should if you’re looking to improve your ranking on Google, then you need to think about comment spam. If you’re accepting comments on your posts, which is a key part of the foundation upon which WordPress was built, then you are likely to encounter comment spam. And there will be lots of it unless you install the Akismet plugin. This is a plugin so essential that it’s uploaded automatically to the plugins section of your WordPress dashboard – you merely need to activate it which is simple to do. And it’s free. Next.
Create a Gravatar
Staying on the theme of comments, if your blog generates valued comments from real people (imagine!) then you’ll want to consider replying to these. Being proactive on your blog will encourage other people to respond in future. The default settings for the comments below a post includes an image for the user that comments or replies. If the user has set a Gravatar for the email address they submitted with their comment, then that will show in the box next to their name. This looks a whole lot better than the default image so go ahead and create a Gravatar before you launch. It’s really easy, and like Akismet, free. I’ve written before about why you need a Gravatar if you use WordPress if you want more!
Domain name email addresses
WordPress sites, like this one, and all the sites we build for our clients, are self-hosted. What you need to consider before launch is whether you want the host to create any email addresses for you based on the domain you’ve registered. Any hosting company worth their salt can organise this for you. The majority of our clients get up to 10 POP3 email accounts included in the price of their hosting. If you’re including a contact page on your site you really should consider replying to any emails from an email address with the same suffix as that of your site.
Choose a tagline
No doubt you spent some time deciding on the domain name for your site and changed it several times before you found one available to purchase! This will feel like a huge relief but you’re not finished there. Your site needs a tagline and this is one of the most important decisions you’ll make if you want your site to be found on the aforementioned search engines. The tagline must include your main keyword or words, and sum up what your site is all about, in a phrase that together with your title, amounts to no more than 70 characters (including spaces!). Easy huh? No it’s not, so do spend some time thinking this one through.
The administrator of your WordPress site, can add and remove other users from your site and change their roles, which essentially govern what they have access to at the back end. After your site goes live it’s a good idea to remove any users that no longer need access to the site, particularly if they have full administrator access. The fewer users your site has, the more secure it will be.
Backing up and running updates
It’s likely your hosting company will be taking regular backups of your site. If they’re not then you should be taking a local backup yourself. Alternatively you can buy into backup software, there are many to chose from, we recommend VaultPress for some of our clients. Here at Digital Davidson we regularly take local backups of all our clients’ sites and run any WordPress, theme or plugin updates at the same time.
On page optimisation
You’ve spent some time crafting the content you’ve written on your site and are happy with the way it reads and that you’ve not got any typos in there! But have you considered how Google’s search bots are going to read the page as well? Fear not, we recommend a search engine optimisation plugin that gives you a template to help you with your on page optimisation. It takes time, particularly if your site is content-heavy, but it’s essential if you want your site to be found. It could also help you streamline your content. You also need to advise the search engine of your sitemap, this is also covered through the plugin we use.
Over the years we’ve refined our list of preferred plugins to the extent that we know what our clients need, based on what it is their site is looking to achieve. We cross check our list against each of our clients sites before putting them live to ensure they have all the additional, for want of a better phrase, bells & whistles, to improve the performance of their site and the user experience.
Two of the plugins we recommend encourage social sharing of content, but you shouldn’t lose site of the role that email still plays in digital marketing. Whatever you’re looking to achieve, it’s more than likely you’re going to need to build a community, and one of the best ways of doing this is to encourage people to join your community, and in return give them what they want. Email helps you do this and we can set up your website to accept registrations to join your mailing list, and also set up templates to send out updates.
This one gets missed quite often. WordPress define them as ‘permanent URLs to your individual weblog posts’. Specifically we use ‘pretty’ permalinks because they include the name of the post or page in the URL which is widely believed to encourage click through. Your website will be much better off for using permalinks, and you can apply them from the Settings area of your dashboard.
Browser/mobile device checks
It’s well worth checking how your site looks across a wide range of devices and browsers. The numbers of people accessing sites and making purchases using their mobile or tablet is going off the scale so it pays to check how your sites look on a hand held.
This was referred to earlier, but I can’t overstate the importance of checking your site for grammatical errors. We all make them but do please take the time to review your site thoroughly before going live.
Have new content ready
Content marketing has quickly become the buzz word most commonly used in digital marketing circles. Your site going live may feel like the end of the project, but you should have given consideration to what new content you could upload to the site after launch. Keeping your site fresh is essential for search engine optimisation..
You’ve created a beautiful website with fantastic content, but if the page takes an age to load, then who’s going to hang around to read it? There are a number of steps you can take to ensure your page loads as quickly as possible and that’s covered as part of our launch checklist.
Make it visible to search engines
The guys at WordPress are a clever bunch. When a site is in production the default setting is for the site to be hidden from the search engines. The only drawback is that some developers will forget to change this setting when they put the site live and the client is left wondering why their site isn’t being picked up. Changing this setting is a good item to have on this list!
If you want to know how your site is being used then you’ll need to use an analytics package. This one is created by Google and is free to use so we recommend to our clients that their site is set up to be tracked in this way. We’ll also set it up so that our clients receive automated updates directly.
If a client of ours has an actual physical location or locations for their business that they’re looking to promote, we’ll carry out a series of tasks to ensure Google are aware of this, and are directing people appropriately. The visible result of this will be an embedded Google Map and related information on the contact page of the site. Everything else will be going on behind the scenes.
As I said at the outset, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it’s flagged up just a few of the services we build into the websites we create, and has perhaps given you a few things to consider if you’re in the WordPress development business. Please feel free to agree or disagree below, and add your own ideas to the list as necessary. No doubt our checklist will continue to evolve as the available technology changes to meet the demands of our clients.
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