How to launch a WordPress site

How to launch a WordPress site

So you’re ready to launch your WordPress site? If you’re happy with how it looks and ready for the rest of the world to see, then it’s time to go live with that new website! It sounds intimidating and complicated but it’s really not. I’ll break it down piece by piece for you. Here’s how to launch a WordPress site, step-by-step:

Step One: Add your domain to your host’s domain list

The first step in launching your new WordPress website is to assign it a domain name. You need to tell your host server what address this site will use when people view it from the web. That address is called your domain name.

If you’re hosting with WPEngine, add your domain name to your account by clicking on Domains when logged in to my.wpengine.com

A helpful hint: With WPEngine, add your domain to your domains list twice, once with www and once without. Trust me, this one is wonky but it’s important.

Step Two: Set domain’s DNS to look at your hosting server

Your domain name is like your street address. It’s how you tell people where your website lives. And its DNS settings are what allows your host to serve up your site at that address.

DNS stands for Domain Name Server, and the settings are found within your Domain Registrar control panel. Your Domain Registrar is whoever you pay to register your domain and reserve it for you. Common domain registrar’s include GoDaddy, Google Domains, Register.com, and sometimes site builders like Wix and Squarespace.

A helpful hint: If you’re not sure who your domain registrar is, you can run a free lookup at whois.net by entering your domain name into the search field and scanning the results for a registrar like those listed above.

Once you’re logged in to your domain registrar, follow the awesome instructions provided by the blog at WPLauncher.com for step-by-step DNS directions.

Step Three: Set your domain as the site URL in the WordPress dashboard

Once you’ve pointed your DNS to your host – whether it has completed propagation or not – go into your WordPress dashboard and open the Site Settings > General panel. In the Site URL field, enter your custom domain with its full path (e.g. https://mysite.com)

A helpful hint: If you don’t yet have a SSL certificate assigned to your domain, which is common at site launch, enter your domain with an insecure “http://” at this time and return to add the “s” later. This will help avoid that “insecure, are you sure?” error message, at least for some users. It is common for SSL to follow a site’s initial launch by a few hours.

Step Four: Request an SSL certificate

SSL stands for Secure Socket Layer, and it basically means, any data that is passed on your site is passed through security first. Not only is it important for security reasons, but it’s important for search, too, now that Google penalizes sites that don’t have SSL and shows a warning to visitors instead (read ServerGuy’s handy explanation here).

A helpful hint: SSL certificates are FREE with all sites hosted by WPEngine and WordKeeper, our two favorite hosts. You can also get SSL for free via Cloudflare, if you host elsewhere. In most cases, you should NOT need to pay for SSL on a single site that is not eCommerce-centric.

If you’re hosting at WPEngine, adding SSL is easy. Just click the SSL item in your my.wpengine.com account and add SSL via Let’s Encrypt. It’s free, it’s easy, and it takes 2 minutes. Just don’t forget to update your site URL after it’s working!

Step Five: Add the site to the Google Search Console

The Google Search Console is a site owner’s way to tell Google that your site exists. It’s free, it’s easy, and it’s imperative to take care of on launch day so that your website is properly indexed by Google.

A helpful hint: Try the URL Prefix method of adding your site, and then follow these instructions to add the header code to your Divi Integration Options to verify the connection.

If your WordPress site uses the Divi theme, good news! Elegant Themes, the makers of Divi, recently published an exhaustive guide to the Google Search Console which covers all the details and more to getting your site indexed. Don’t skip this step!

Step Six: Track with Google Analytics

The last and final step of launching your WordPress site is to embed the code that will enable tracking with Google Analytics. Google Analytics is the most widely used traffic and analytics provider and will give you all sorts of gold in the form of data about your site visitors, what they do, and what parts of your site they like the most.

How to add a news brief widget in WordPress

How to add a news brief widget in WordPress

Need to post notices and news on your homepage to make certain items readily accessible? A text widget in your sidebar is a perfect way to add News Briefs to your homepage. Adding links to the news briefs also lets your readers click to read more.

This video explains how to add and edit a text widget on your WordPress site for the purpose of displaying News Briefs.

Remember that your News Brief widget in WordPress can be placed in any widget area that your theme includes. Maybe you have one News Brief widget in the sidebar of your site, and you place another in the WordPress footer.

If your site has multiple sidebars, you may need to copy the widget into the other sidebar areas. For example, there may be one sidebar for the blog and another sidebar for the homepage – if you want the News Brief widget to display in both places, an instance of the widget needs to appear in each place.

For more about WordPress widget areas and sidebars that work with your Divi theme, check out this article: A Guide to Using Sidebars in the Divi Theme

Meet the Founder: WordPress Expert Kate Gilbert

Meet the Founder: WordPress Expert Kate Gilbert

WPMaster.me founder Kate Gilbert has been building and supporting websites since 2006 and knows the web inside-out. Kate is based in Jersey City, NJ and is passionate about making the web more accessible to emerging entrepreneurs – especially women and kids, who she believes are the keys to the future.⁠

Kate spent the better part of the last decade building custom WordPress websites for lifestyle, healthcare and higher education clients in Boston and beyond. As a front-end developer, Kate has experienced first-hand what it’s like to be curious about code when you don’t fit the mold. As a result, Kate has developed a passion for helping female entrepreneurs get more comfortable with the web, and has shifted away from done-for-you web services to focus on educating site owners to do it themselves at WPMaster.me.

Kate and her husband own & operate a coding & robotics enrichment center in downtown Jersey City, NJ. Code Wiz offers after-school coding classes for kids ages 7 to 17, and teaches coding through fun play and learning activities. Adults can also learn at Code Wiz, through daytime and evening courses in WordPress website management, social media marketing, advertising online and more.⁠

Need help with your website?

Kate M. Gilbert, experienced web developer and WordPress expert, is available for hands-on, live web support via Zoom Office Hours.

During these 1-on-1 sessions, you get the undivided attention of a tech expert who’s been there, has worked with your software, and is passionate about helping you figure it out, too, so that you can rock your web marketing.

How to Log In to Your WordPress Dashboard

How to Log In to Your WordPress Dashboard

The dashboard is the place where all the settings, content and imagery for a WordPress site are configured and stored. The first step to editing your WordPress site is successfully logging in to the site’s dashboard.

A WordPress site’s dashboard can always be accessed by typing the site URL and then: /wp-admin at the end of the URL.

Your Username is either your email address or the install name of your site. For example, if your new site’s URL is happyapple.wpengine.com, then your username is “happyapple”.

Your Password was emailed to you when you signed up for this course. If you’ve forgotten it or it isn’t working anymore, click “Lost your password?” and enter the email address that you used when you signed up for this course. You’ll receive a password reset email from WordPress. Follow the instructions to reset your own password and regain access to your site.

When you are successfully logged in to your WordPress dashboard, you’ll see a screen that looks a little bit like this:

You can do a lot from within your WordPress dashboard. It is the hub of your website. If you are confused, be sure to check out this post to get a better understanding of the WordPress dashboard.

Need help with your site right now?

Site Name & General Settings on WordPress

Site Name & General Settings on WordPress

When you are new to WordPress, there are a few things you need to take care of right off the bat – namely, naming your site. And a few other basic settings, like Permalinks. This blog post will walk you through the first key configurations of your site’s WordPress settings that you want to take within your new WordPress site dashboard to set it up for success.

Go to Settings > General and customize the following:

  • Site Title – This is typically your name, your business name, or the name of the group or organization that the site is for
  • Tagline – Tell people what they can expect, in a short phrase or sentence. For example, “we make good websites for good people” is a great tagline.
  • Admin email address – Change this to your own now that you’re in your site. The change requires confirmation; look for an email from WordPress
  • Time zone – Double check to make sure this matches your own time zone

Example settings showing site title, tagline, email and time zone adjusted:

Need help with your site right now?

How to Set Pretty Permalinks in WordPress

How to Set Pretty Permalinks in WordPress

Want “pretty permalinks” on your WordPress site? Here’s how:

“Pretty permalinks” are links that look nice in the browser and make sense. They’re “pretty” because users can read them and make sense. If you’re setting up your WordPress site for the first time, one of the chief things to take care of before launch is your permalinks.

It’s a little known fact, but a brand new WordPress site, when left alone, will spit out some nasty URLs, like mysite.com/post-9-2019. That kind of permalink just isn’t pretty. Wouldn’t you rather see mysite.com/chocolate-cake-recipe? You betcha!

Here’s how to make sure your site uses pretty permalinks:

Go to Settings > Permalinks and customize the following:

  • Choose the “post name” option
  • This will ensure that your pages and posts have URLs that make sense

Hit save and viola! You now and pretty permalinks. If you go look at a post on your site, you should now see the post name In the URL instead of Its numerical ID.

Need help with your site right now?