Planning to start a blog?
Then this WordPress blog launch checklist is for you (and yes, it’s more useful to those starting their blogging journeys with WordPress, over other platforms.)
Here’s something to consider:
Blogging isn’t exactly a piece of cake. It’s not rocket science, but successful blogging requires patience, determination, and a can-do attitude because you’ll be learning a lot as you go, and unless you are committed to it, you’ll feel overwhelmed soon enough and you’d want to quit.
Now, I do not say this to discourage you. It’s the opposite! I say this so you know what’s coming. I say this so you can be prepared for the long hours and the hard work.
And when you’re well prepared, the journey ahead becomes just that much easier.
And that’s precisely why, in this blog post, I’m about to share with you a WordPress blog launch checklist of 50+ small details that you need to check off your list BEFORE you launch your blog. By going through this list as best as you possibly can, you’ll make your blogging life a lot easier in the days to come, I guarantee that!
Oh, and in case you’ve already launched your blog, it’s still a good idea to run your blog through this list and see if you’ve got everything covered. Better late than never, eh?
So, let’s get started, shall we?
Click here to download the entire 52-point WordPress blog launch checklist or sign up below.
[This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase, I make money, paid for by the vendor and at NO ADDITIONAL COST to you! I only promote a product I’m personally familiar with and recommend with utmost sincerity.]
1. Know Your What
What is your niche?
A lot depends on what you choose to blog about. A popular niche that a lot of people are interested in will make it easier for you to get the word out, and get people to read, even when your content isn’t the best. On the other hand, if you pick a really narrow niche that not a whole lot of people really want to know more about, you could write stellar content and you still won’t get any traffic.
Here’s what I think: You should pick a niche between the two extremes. A niche that is popular enough, and also something you do not hate writing about. Ideally, you’d want to write about something you’re in love with, but what’s ideal isn’t always realistic.
You should pick a niche where you have some leeway. You can pack a few different things which all relate to one another. For example, I blog about blogging, I also blog about design (specifically, design in a way that relates to blogging), and I plan on incorporating more topics that relate to or complement the blogging life–such as writing for other blogs and publications, freelancing on the side, making money online, etc.
When you pick a niche that’s too narrow, you’ll have a harder time driving traffic.
As you grow, chances are, you’ll be changing things around to fit your needs and goals as you go. However, if you don’t have a good idea what niche you’re starting off with, you’ll most likely fail at this blogging thing. So, while you can always tweak things in the future, you still need a clear “what” before you start your blog. And as you go through this WordPress blog launch checklist, the reason behind this will become clearer.
So, keep reading!
2. Know Your Who
Understanding who your audience is is key to crafting a successful blogging strategy. Figuring out who your ideal audience is is a lot like creating a customer avatar. Blogging is essentially selling. Sometimes you sell actual products, and other times you sell an idea. Either way, creating a customer avatar for your blog audience will make it easier for you to decide crucial aspects of your blog.
For example, here are 5 key aspects of an ideal customer avatar that you need to also think about as a blogger when figuring out who your ideal audience is:
Demographic: Your usual age, sex, location, occupation, household income bits. Some of these may relate more to your niche and your own blogging goals than others, but the more clarity you have, the better equipped you’ll be when laying out your blog promotion and marketing strategies.
Goals and Values: What do your ideal readers want to achieve and how do they want to achieve these goals? What’s important to them? This information will help you craft the kind of blog posts your readers will actually want to read. Unless you know what they need to know, how would you help them?
Hangout Spots: Where do your ideal readers hang out at? Which social media platforms are they most active on? When you first start blogging, you’ll likely need to focus on one or two marketing platforms to get the best results. Knowing where your ideal readers hang will help you make that decision.
Pain Points: What’s standing between your ideal readers and their goals? What are their obstacles? Most bloggers are problem solvers. If you do not know your readers’ pain points, you won’t be able to address these issues. Knowing where they’re stuck at will help you create content that will help them get rid of some of these pain points.
Objections: This most relates to a buyer avatar, but even as a blogger this may come handy, especially if you’re selling affiliate products or your own products. And again, like I mentioned, even if you’re not selling a product, you’re most definitely selling an idea. Knowing what objections your ideal reader may have in buying into the idea or the product you’re selling will help you address these objections in a way that’ll help you build a bridge and help your readers cross over to where you need them to be.
3. Know Your Why
Blogging isn’t exactly easy-peasy. A lot goes into it and unless you have a very strong WHY, you’ll start to feel burned out soon enough. WHY do you want to blog? What’s in it for you? Do you have a message? Do you want to make money? If so, WHY do you want to make money? Just saying “I want to make money” is not good enough. There needs to be a very strong motivation behind why you want to make money, or why you want to spread a certain message. Something intangible, but so strong that that reason alone will push you through and ahead on days you’ll want to throw in the towel and call it quits.
4. Set Concrete Goals
Without goals, you have nothing to measure your growth against. Also, without goals, you’ll lose your motivation. Whether it’s blogging or anything else you wish to do in life, goals are important. Goals help you create schedules, schedules help you become disciplined. So set some concrete goals, goals that you feel will motivate you, but are also within reason. Some good example of goals could be:
- Get 100K monthly Pinterest views within the first two months.
- Join 5 Pinterest groups in one month.
- Get 1.000 email subscribers in 6 months.
5. Create a Blogging Strategy
So, you’ve set some goals. But how do you go about achieving these goals? Sit down with a pen and paper and get brainstorming. If you want 1,000 email subscribers in 6 months, for example, what can you do to reach that number in the allotted time? Or, if you want to reach a certain number of Pinterest views, what kind of pinning strategy will help you get there? If you want to be found on Google, or if you want a certain number of organic traffic, what would you need to know and do? How often will you publish a blog post?
You’ll likely need to sit down and do some research and learn things you never knew before, but that’s just part of blogging. You never stop learning, and you never stop strategizing.
6. Draft 10 Blog Posts Before the Launch
That’s a minimum! Here’s the plan. You should have at least 5 blog posts ON YOUR BLOG at the time you launch your blog. This will give your readers an idea of what to expect. And you should have at least 5 more posts scheduled to go live at a certain frequency, at the time you launch. I’ve done my share of last-minute blog post whipping and let me tell you, it ain’t fun! So, 10 is the bare minimum, but you really should aim for more.
7. Pick a Blog Name and Domain And Make Sure It’s Available
Don’t spend forever trying to come up with a clever blog name. Stick to something simple, easy to remember and easy to spell. Avoid hyphens, and make it .com as that’s the most common type of URL extension. Make sure the blog name and the domain aren’t taken by any other business.
8. Purchase Domain and Hosting Package
I advise all my readers to start their blog with WordPress. There are other platforms out there, but WordPress is the most superior of all. That said, a self-hosted WordPress blog needs a little bit of work.
You could buy your domain and hosting from the same company, or from two different companies. Personally, I like to keep my domains separate from my hosting. It just adds an extra layer of security. However, if you’re on a budget, then you can get both domain and hosting from the same company. Most hosting companies offer a free domain name to first-time customers.
I recommend SiteGround hosting [affiliate] to all new bloggers, and here are my top 10 reasons for doing so. If you sign up using the affiliate link and purchase an annual plan, you’ll get a mega discount!
9. Set Up an Email Address Using Your Domain Name
You should always list your email address in your blog, and an email address with your domain makes you look more professional. Sometimes, certain affiliate companies also prefer a domain specific email address. For example, one of my email addresses is contact (at) thesideblogger (dot) com.
10. Install WordPress
Now that you’ve purchased domain and hosting, it’s time to set up your blog with WordPress. If you’ve purchased your hosting from SiteGround [affiliate], here’s an easy-to-follow, step by step guide to installing WordPress on SiteGround and setting up your blog.
11. Make sure you have SSL
Internet security is becoming more and more important. These days, if you do not have SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), Google will show a red alert saying the website is not secure.
YOU DO NOT WANT THAT!
Make sure your website/blog has SSL certificate installed before you launch your site. Some hosting companies make you pay extra for SSL, and the process of installing an SSL certificate can be tedious.
But that’s yet another reason I love SiteGround. SiteGround offers FREE SSL and it’s a simple click of a button to turn on SSL for your site(s) hosted on SiteGround [affiliate].
12. Pick A Difficult Username and Password for Your Blog
Do not use “admin” as your username. Try not to use your name either, and instead, choose a username that has both letters and numbers. Pick a long, difficult password with a combination of capital letters, small letters, numbers, and special characters.
13. Change Your Display Name
By default, WordPress shows your username as your display name. That kills the purpose of choosing a difficult username to begin with. Make sure to change that. Changing it is easy. On your dashboard, go to Users > All Users and then click on your username. Scroll down to where you can set your display name. Change it to display your real name or nickname, and then save the changes.
14. Get Rid of Pre-Installed Plugins
Depending on your hosting company, your WordPress installation may come with some pre-installed plugins. Pre-installed plugins are almost always space hogs and they offer no real benefit. One such plugin is called Jetpack.
You do not need Jetpack or any other pre-installed plugins. Delete them.
15. Change Your Permalink to “Post Name”
The default setting for post URLs consists the date (year/month), which is a bad practice when it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Numbers are a no-no. But changing it is really easy but you should do it BEFORE you launch and before you’ve shared your post links all over social media, otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll end up with broken links.
To change the permalink structure, got to WordPress Dashboard > Settings > Permalinks and then select “Post Name”, then click “Save changes” to save your new permalink settings.
16. Change Your Timezone
You’ll do yourself and your audience a favor by not having your time set to its default universal time. If you forget this step, your post scheduling can go haywire! You may be thinking you scheduled something to go live at 8 in the morning, which in fact went live the night before… utter chaos!
Avoid it by changing your timezone as soon as you’ve installed WordPress, right after deleting unnecessary plugins and changing your permalink structure.
To do this, go to Dashboard > Settings > General, scroll down to Timezone, then choose the correct timezone. Make sure to click “Save changes” to save your new settings.
17. Pick a Good Theme for Your Blog
A good theme is well-documented, responsive across all devices, easy to make changes such as fonts and colors and likely has more than one layout option.
When you install WordPress, it comes pre-installed with some version of Twenty-Something theme. Those are decent themes, but if you want your blog to stand out, I suggest you invest in a premium theme.
I personally like the Astra + Elementor [affiliate] combo. They both come in free and paid versions. If you can afford it, get the paid versions, but even the free versions of both Astra (theme) and Elementor (page-builder plugin) are pretty high-quality with TONS of options. Do keep in mind that this requires some tech know-how. If you’re not comfortable setting them up, you can always hire a designer/developer to do it for you. (FYI, I offer this service!)
Another option is to use the Genesis [affiliate] framework by StudioPress. You’ll need to purchase Genesis, and a child theme. You can purchase the child themes from StudioPress [affiliate] or a variety of other Genesis theme foundries. Make sure that the child theme you purchase has good support and documentation.
18. Remove Unwanted Widgets from Your Theme
Make sure to clean up your theme. Usually, these themes come pre-installed with widgets. One such widget you definitely want to remove is the META login widget. You can remove widgets from the Dashboard > Appearance > Widgets area.
19. Install a Security Plugin
One of the first plugins that you should install on your site is a security plugin. As much as I love WordPress, it’s still open source (which actually makes me love it even more as it is more accessible). But being open source also means it’s constantly under attack. However, some small measures can go a long way.
One of the easiest ways to add a few extra layers of security to your website is by adding a security plugin such as WordFence or iTheme Security. They are both pretty good plugins and do the job well. They monitor brute attack attempts, block questionable IPs, scan for malware, etc.
20. Optimize Images
The biggest culprits that slow down your website speed are large image files. Images that are HUGE, with lots of hidden Exif data and what not. One of the easiest ways to make your images smaller as soon as you upload them is by the use of a plugin such as Smush. I like this plugin as I can just install it, set it up, and then forget about it. It does what it’s supposed to do in the back without me having to worry about anything.
21. Speed up Your Site with a Caching Plugin
To deliver the best experience, you should make sure your website is fast loading. Nobody has liked to wait around for a website to fully load since the 90s.
One way to speed up your site is by adding a caching plugin to your WordPress site. There are a few out there, but my personal favorite is WP Super Cache. It’s easy to set up and does what it’s supposed to. Win-win.
22. Install Google Analytics
Analytics is your friend. It tells you whether you’re reaching your target traffic and page view goals or not. It tells you whether you’re helping as many people as you want to. It tells you if people stick around and read your posts or if they leave your site right away. It tells you where most of your traffic comes from. All pretty valuable data and you want to be able to track these data from day-1. Here’s a tutorial on how to add Google Analytics to your WordPress blog.
23. Make Sure People Can Easily Share Your Posts on Pinterest and Social Media
The best way to do this is by using a plugin. I personally prefer a plugin called Sassy Social Share. It’s easy to set up and does what it’s supposed to. It is also heavily customizable so you can get it to look and feel just how you want it to. You can float them on the side or at the bottom, and/or have them show up above and below individual blog posts. You can also make them show on certain pages, or hide them on others.
24. Filter Spam Comments
Comments are one of the best indicators to see if you have an engaged audience. Make sure you have commenting turned on in your posts. However, this triggers a lot of spam comments as well. Going through all the spam comments can be a major time waster so don’t bother. Instead, add a spam filtering plugin such as Anti-Spam. All you have to do it install it, activate it, and then forget about it. Yeah, it’s that easy, and fully automatic.
25. Make It Easy to Contact You
A blogger should ALWAYS have a way for their audience to contact them. It can be for a variety of reasons. Maybe you offer services or sell products and someone needs to get in touch to discuss those services/products. Maybe someone wants to be a sponsor!
Or, maybe someone is concerned about how their data is being processed on your website (GDPR anyone?), and they wish to have a chat with you regarding that. In any case, you’re not being professional unless you have your contact information. You can do this easily by adding a dedicated “contact” page on your site, and adding a contact form or simply adding your email address to this contact page. Make sure to add a link to this contact page on your main navigation.
Additionally, you can also list your email address to your site footer if you want, although this is not necessary. In any case, make sure it’s super easy for people to find this contact information, and that they don’t have to go all rogue ninja style just to find where this information could possibly be hiding on your website.
27. Create a Personalized Site Icon (Favicon)
It’s a nice touch and a touch that indicates “professionalism”, to me at least, to have a custom favicon (the little icon that appears next to your site title on a browser tab). You may end up with a default icon that came with your template, for example, that doesn’t say anything about your branding. Change that asap, and add something more customized to your specific branding.
28. Start An Email List
An email list is a blogger’s best friend.
Now, I know email lists confuse a lot of newbie bloggers. They don’t know what it can be used for, or why it’s even necessary. Heck, even I struggle with my email list!
But remember, you do not own your social media platforms, nor the followers you have there. However, anyone who subscribes to your email list is willingly giving you permission to send them emails. That’s BIG! Do not abuse it, but nurture it, take care of it.
Now, you may not know how exactly to do that from the get-go, but you can always brainstorm and think of something later. At this beginner stage, you don’t need to worry about that. However, do not wait to start an email list either. Get it going pronto! You should have an email list going from day-1.
My personal favorite email marketing platform is ConvertKit [affiliate]. It’s super intuitive while being more powerful than a lot of other email list providers with tons of really handy features.
Here’s the thing. A lot of new bloggers do not want to invest in a good email marketing platform right off the bat. And I understand. If you’re not sure what to do with your list, you’ll be tempted to sign up for something free.
Personally, however, I feel that after investing in a good hosting company, the next best and most important thing you should invest in is your email list. If you can spend 30 bucks a month (approximately 6 Starbucks latte) then ConvertKit is worth the price.
I was one of those bloggers who signed up for a free email platform. I won’t name any names here, but the process of creating multiple opt-ins and forms and lists was so tedious that I didn’t feel like putting any effort just because of that.
Here’s a piece of truth. A good tool will take you a long way! You know your email list is important. So why won’t you invest in it? If you’re dead broke then yes, sure, it’s better to have something than nothing. So, go ahead and sign up for a free platform. But if you can afford $30 per month, then I VERY STRONGLY suggest you do invest in ConvertKit.
Also, sign up with my affiliate link and enjoy a free month of ConvertKit [affiliate] for free!
29. Have a Few Strategically Placed Email List Opt-in Forms
Now that you have an email list going, you need to make sure people can actually sign up! I suggest having multiple opt-in forms on your blog. You can add a link to an opt-in page in your navigation, you can add an inline form to your blog posts, and your blog sidebar is also a good place for an opt-in form. I also like having a pop-up form; in fact, I get most of my subscribers from pop-ups. These are just a few ways you can incorporate an email list opt-in. As your blog grows, you may find other ways to add these signup forms to your posts and pages.
30. Create an Opt-in Incentive
A good way to incentivize email list opt-in is by offering something your readers would love for free. It should be something that will help your readers to do something, take actionable steps, etc. Some examples are checklists, workbooks, eBooks, short email course, etc. Don’t create anything too extravagant at this initial stage. Instead, create something small and easy to put together. You still do not know your audience too well at this point; anything you create can be a hit or a miss. So, you don’t want to spend too much time and effort. Eventually, when you have more experience and you know what works with your audience best, you can create more elaborate opt-in freebies. But to begin with, keep things simple.
There are 22 more points in this checklist. Click here to download the entire 52-point WordPress blog launch checklist or sign up below.