After building and launching websites now since 1998 (yeah, I’m old), I thought I’d break down the essential checklist for that exciting yet nerve-wracking event called go-live. These are just my standard checks and are tailored for a WordPress installation so your mileage may vary.
Check all your links to make sure they’re relative to your live server. Chances are that coming from a development environment you’ll end up with some absolute links to your dev domain so you’ll have to either make the change in the database via a MySQL find/replace query or using a WordPress plugin called Velvet Blues Update URLs that I ran across last year, or another good one called Automatic Domain Changer.
Enable Google to search the site. This one is crucial if you ever want anyone to actually find the site in Google. Sometimes it’s easy to forget to tick that box in the process of going live.
Make sure you’ve got a sitemap.xml file for Google to find. This is how Google will find the pages throughout your site so it’s not something you want to forget.
Hook up Google Analytics so you can track starting from day one. You’ll want a good baseline to see how much traffic your site is getting compared to the old (if applicable) website.
Make it happen, then verify! This is the moment of truth. After you make your DNS switch and push the site into the public realm the first thing to do is to click through everything. Go through every page and look for missing images, broken links, php errors etc. If you were careful in your theme customization and updated your domain as in step 1, then you should be ok. What I always do is to install the plugin Broken Link Checker to make sure everything is ok. It’ll find any remaining links (internal and external) that aren’t resolving and walk you through fixing them one by one.
That’s the gist of my go-live routine. The fun always lies in the surprises and delays in DNS propagation, which can sometimes take hours. Typically, I see DNS propagation these days in a matter of minutes versus hours but there is always that one time where you might see the new site and the client sees the old. As a precaution, I always have my clients close their browsers and do a force refresh of the page to avoid any stubborn caching issues.