WordPress stands as a leading content management system, powering a vast portion of the web. Its ease of use and flexibility make it a top choice for creators and business owners alike. Yet, there are times when privacy takes precedence. Whether it’s for developing a site away from the public eye, hosting content for a select audience, or for internal company activities, keeping a WordPress site private is a crucial need for many. This guide is crafted with beginners and business owners in mind, requiring no previous technical expertise to follow. Here, we’ll walk you through the straightforward steps to secure your WordPress website, ensuring only your chosen audience gains access.
Understanding WordPress Privacy Settings
|Privacy Level||Description||Use Case|
|Public||Visible to everyone and indexed by search engines.||Standard blogs and websites.|
|Private||Only visible to logged-in users with specific roles.||Internal company sites, private blogs.|
|Password Protected||Content is locked behind a password that you share.||Exclusive content for specific audiences.|
WordPress offers several privacy levels to cater to different needs. Firstly, you can set your site to be ‘Public’, which is the default setting, making it visible to anyone and discoverable by search engines. Then there’s ‘Private’, where the site is accessible only to users you approve, such as subscribers or team members. Lastly, there’s the ‘Password Protected’ option, where specific pages or posts are locked behind a password you set.
Controlling your site’s visibility is straightforward in WordPress. Within the dashboard, you can toggle between these privacy settings with just a few clicks. For more granular control, WordPress also allows you to modify the visibility of individual posts and pages. Whether you’re looking to shield your entire site or just parts of it, WordPress provides the flexibility to adjust these settings as you see fit. This ensures that your content is shielded from public view, search engines, or both, depending on your unique requirements.
Preparing to Make Your Site Private
|Backup Method||Tools Needed||Frequency||Storage Options|
|Manual Backup||FTP client, cPanel||As needed||Local drive, Cloud storage|
|Automated Backup||Plugins like UpdraftPlus, BackWPup||Daily, Weekly, Monthly||Cloud storage, Email|
Before diving into the privacy settings, it’s critical to back up your WordPress site. Changes, even seemingly minor ones, can sometimes lead to unexpected results. A backup acts as a safety net, ensuring that your content, themes, and plugins are preserved and can be restored if needed.
Backing up your site involves a few key steps
- Choose a Backup Method: Decide whether you’ll back up your site manually or use a plugin that can automate the process.
- Manual Backup:
- Access your site’s files via FTP or through your hosting provider’s file manager.
- Download the ‘wp-content’ folder. This contains your themes, plugins, and uploads.
- Export your database through phpMyAdmin or a similar tool provided by your host.
- Automated Backup with a Plugin:
- Install a backup plugin from the WordPress repository, like UpdraftPlus or Jetpack.
- Configure the plugin settings to schedule regular backups and determine where these backups are stored (e.g., cloud storage, email).
- Run the backup and ensure it completes successfully.
- Verify the Backup: Check the downloaded files or the backup report if using a plugin to ensure that everything is backed up correctly.
Once your backup is complete and verified, you can confidently proceed to make your site private, knowing that your data is secure.
Using Built-in WordPress Privacy Settings
Accessing and adjusting the privacy settings within your WordPress dashboard is a straightforward process. Here’s how to navigate to these settings and configure them to your preference:
- Log in to your WordPress Dashboard: Go to your WordPress site and add ‘/wp-admin’ to the URL in your browser. This will bring up the login screen where you can enter your username and password.
- Navigate to ‘Settings’: Once logged in, look to the left-hand sidebar menu. Click on ‘Settings’ to expand the options, then select ‘Reading’.
- Adjust Search Engine Visibility: On the ‘Reading’ settings page, you’ll find a section titled ‘Search Engine Visibility’. There’s a checkbox next to “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”. Tick this box to activate this feature.
- Save Changes: After selecting the checkbox, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click ‘Save Changes’. With this setting enabled, search engines will be discouraged from indexing your site. However, this does not provide a complete guarantee as it depends on search engines honoring this request.
Remember, this setting doesn’t make your WordPress site completely private, but it does tell search engines to ignore your site, which is useful when you’re still working on building your content or if you want a lower online profile. For full privacy, you’ll need to use additional methods such as password protection or use of plugins to control access.
Utilizing Plugins to Enhance Privacy
|Plugin Name||Function||Ease of Use||Notable Feature|
|MemberPress||Restricts access to content||Beginner-friendly||Content dripping|
|SeedProd||Coming soon/maintenance mode||Beginner-friendly||Real-time page builder|
|Content Control||Restricts content based on user roles||Moderate||Shortcode for conditional content|
Plugins are add-ons that enhance the functionality of your WordPress site, offering customized features and capabilities beyond the standard installation. They can be particularly useful when you want to extend the privacy settings of your site.
For beginners looking to bolster site privacy, here are some popular privacy plugins:
- MemberPress: This plugin allows you to restrict access to all or specific sections of your site to members only. It’s user-friendly and perfect for creating private online communities or subscription-based services.
- WP Private Content Plus: A versatile plugin that provides a simple way to limit content to logged-in users or specific user roles.
- Content Control – User Access Restriction Plugin: This tool offers an easy way to manage content visibility on your site, whether by user role, logged-in status, or via shortcodes for more specific control.
To install and activate a plugin, follow these steps:
- Access the Plugin Menu: From your WordPress dashboard, find the ‘Plugins’ menu on the left sidebar and click on ‘Add New’.
- Search for the Plugin: Use the search bar in the top right corner of the ‘Add New’ plugins page to search for the privacy plugin of your choice by name.
- Install the Plugin: Once you’ve found the plugin, click the ‘Install Now’ button next to it. WordPress will download and install the plugin for you.
- Activate the Plugin: After the installation is complete, a new ‘Activate’ button will appear. Click it to turn the plugin on.
- Configure the Plugin Settings: After activation, a new menu for the plugin typically appears in the dashboard sidebar or within the ‘Settings’ menu. Click on this to configure the plugin’s options according to your privacy needs.
Remember, while plugins can significantly enhance privacy, they should be chosen with care. Only install plugins from reputable sources, and keep them updated to protect your site from potential security vulnerabilities.
Creating a Private Site with a Password
Password protection is a reliable method to ensure that only specific individuals with the access credentials can view your WordPress site or certain parts of it. This layer of security is beneficial for sharing confidential information, protecting personal posts, or limiting access to content during a website’s development phase.
Step-by-step Guide on Setting Up Password Protection
For the Whole Site:
- Choose a Plugin: Since WordPress doesn’t offer a built-in feature to password-protect the entire site, you’ll need to use a plugin. ‘Password Protected’ is a popular choice that can enable this functionality.
- Install the Plugin: Go to ‘Plugins’ > ‘Add New’ and search for ‘Password Protected’. Install and activate the plugin.
- Configure Plugin Settings: Navigate to ‘Settings’ > ‘Password Protected’ from your dashboard. Here, you can enable password protection and set a password that will be required to access the site.
- Enable Protection: After setting your desired password, make sure to check the box to enable password protection and click ‘Save Changes’.
For Specific Pages or Posts:
- Edit the Page or Post: Go to the ‘Pages’ or ‘Posts’ menu in your dashboard and click on the specific page or post you want to protect.
- Visibility Settings: In the document settings panel on the right, find the ‘Visibility’ option under ‘Status & Visibility’. Click ‘Edit’ next to the visibility setting.
- Choose ‘Password Protected’: In the options that appear, select ‘Password Protected’. Enter a password that will be required to view that page or post.
- Update the Page or Post: Click ‘Update’ to apply the password protection to the selected page or post.
Password protection is a simple yet effective way to control who can see your website content. It’s a versatile solution for a range of scenarios, from creating a private family blog to securing sensitive business information. Remember to securely share the password with legitimate users and change it periodically to maintain security.
Managing User Access and Roles
|User Role||Capabilities||Ideal For|
|Administrator||Access to all admin features||Site owners and developers|
|Editor||Can publish and manage posts including the posts of other users||Content managers|
|Author||Can publish and manage their own posts||Content creators|
|Contributor||Can write and manage their own posts but cannot publish them||Guest authors|
|Subscriber||Can only manage their profile||Commenters and viewers|
User roles in WordPress are designed to give the website owner control over what users can and cannot do within the site. Each role is allowed certain ‘capabilities’ that include permissions to perform specific tasks. WordPress comes with six predefined roles: Super Admin, Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, and Subscriber.
For a private site, understanding and managing these roles is crucial for maintaining control over your content and who has access to it.
Understanding User Roles
- Super Admin: This role is only available on a WordPress Multisite Network and has access to the entire network’s features.
- Administrator: Has access to all the administration features within a single site.
- Editor: Can publish and manage posts including the posts of other users.
- Author: Can publish and manage their own posts.
- Contributor: Can write and manage their own posts but cannot publish them.
- Subscriber: Can only manage their profile and read content.
For a private WordPress site, you would typically use roles to control access as follows:
- Administrator: For site owners and trusted partners who need full access.
- Editor or Author: For team members who need to create and manage content.
- Subscriber: For users who need to view private content but should not have any editing privileges.
Creating New Users and Assigning Roles
- Go to the User Menu: From your WordPress dashboard, locate the ‘Users’ menu on the left sidebar and click on ‘Add New’.
- Fill in the User Details: You’ll see a form where you can fill in details for the new user, including username, email, first name, last name, and website.
- Set the Password: You can either use the automatically generated password or create a new one. Ensure it is strong and secure.
- Assign a Role: At the bottom of the form, there’s a dropdown menu labeled ‘Role’. Select the appropriate role for the new user based on the level of access they require.
- Send User Notification: You have the option to send the new user an email about their account.
- Add New User: Click the ‘Add New User’ button to create the account.
Assigning roles appropriately is key to managing your private site effectively. For increased control over user capabilities, consider using a plugin like ‘User Role Editor’. This plugin allows you to create custom roles and modify the capabilities of existing roles to fit your site’s specific needs.
Maintaining Privacy for a Business Site
For business websites, privacy isn’t just a preference—it’s a necessity. The stakes are higher, as customer data, trade secrets, and proprietary content are involved. Ensuring this privacy is maintained should be a top priority.
Protecting Customer Data
Businesses must safeguard customer information both legally and ethically. Here are key steps to protect customer data:
- SSL Certification: Implement an SSL certificate to encrypt data transmitted between your site and its users. This is crucial for all sites, especially those handling sensitive data.
- Data Access Controls: Use WordPress’s user roles to restrict access to sensitive data. Only users with a need to know should have access to customer information.
- Regular Updates: Keep WordPress, along with any themes and plugins, updated to protect against security vulnerabilities.
- Secure Hosting: Choose a hosting provider known for robust security measures to further protect your site’s data.
Best Practices for Business Privacy
Maintaining privacy on a business-oriented WordPress site involves proactive and continuous efforts. Here are best practices to follow:
- Least Privileges Principle: Assign user roles based on the least privileges necessary to perform their tasks. Regularly review and adjust these as needed.
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): Implement 2FA to add an extra layer of security for user logins, especially for administrators and others with high-level access.
- Regular Backups: Schedule regular backups and ensure they are stored securely. Use a service that offers encryption and multiple storage locations.
- Monitoring and Audits: Regularly monitor user activity and conduct audits to check for any unusual access patterns or modifications to the site.
- Security Plugins: Utilize security plugins to add firewall protection, malware scanning, and to enforce strong passwords.
- Limit Plugin Use: Install only necessary plugins and delete any that are not in use to minimize potential entry points for hackers.
- Data Encryption: Encrypt sensitive data stored in the database. Plugins that offer data encryption should be used to enhance security further.
- Access to Personal Data: Implement measures that allow users to view, modify, or delete their personal data from your site, in compliance with privacy regulations.
- Educate Your Team: Ensure that everyone involved with the site understands their role in maintaining privacy and is aware of best practices.
- Legal Compliance: Stay informed and compliant with the latest privacy laws and regulations affecting your business.
By integrating these practices, businesses can create a robust privacy framework for their WordPress site, safeguarding both their interests and those of their customers.
Testing Your Site’s Privacy
|Search Engine Visibility||Search for site on Google||Site should not appear in results|
|Direct URL Access||Enter site URL in incognito mode||Should prompt for login or password|
|User Role Access||Log in with different user roles||Access restricted based on roles|
Once you’ve implemented privacy measures on your WordPress site, it’s important to verify that they are functioning correctly. Here’s how you can test your site’s privacy settings:
Using Incognito Mode
- Open an Incognito Window: Use your browser’s incognito or private browsing mode to visit your site. This mode doesn’t use the existing cookies or login sessions, so you’ll see the site as a new visitor would.
- Check Accessibility: Navigate to your site’s URL. You should encounter the login page or a message stating that the site is private if your settings are working.
- Attempt to Access Various Pages: Try accessing different pages and posts directly via their URLs to ensure that the privacy settings are applied site-wide.
Checking with External Tools
- Search Engine Indexing: Use tools like Google’s site search operator (search for “site:yourdomain.com” in Google) to check if your pages are appearing in search results. For a private site, there should be no results.
- Link Checkers: Use online link checking tools to crawl your site for public links. For a private site, the tool should be unable to crawl beyond the login screen.
- Online Privacy Scanners: Utilize privacy scanner tools that check for HTTP headers and other privacy-related settings to ensure your site is not inadvertently sharing sensitive information.
Tips for Ensuring Privacy Settings Are Working
- Check Visibility Settings: Verify that the visibility settings for each post and page are set to ‘Private’ or that password protection is applied where necessary.
- Review User Roles: Make sure that users have the appropriate roles and that no unauthorized accounts have administrative access.
- Confirm Plugin Configuration: If you are using privacy plugins, double-check their settings to ensure they are configured correctly for maximum privacy.
- Inspect .htaccess File: If you have added rules to your .htaccess file for additional privacy or security, ensure they are correct and not conflicting with other rules.
- SSL Certificate Verification: Verify that your SSL certificate is valid and that your site is defaulting to HTTPS, not HTTP.
- Test Forms and Input Fields: If your site includes forms, ensure that they are secure and that any data submitted is handled and stored securely.
- Monitor for Updates: Regularly check for updates to WordPress, themes, and plugins, as these may affect your site’s privacy settings.
- Consult with Professionals: If you’re not confident in your ability to test your site’s privacy, consider hiring a professional to conduct a security audit.
By thoroughly testing your WordPress site’s privacy settings, you can have confidence that your content, as well as any sensitive information, is secure from unauthorized access.
Troubleshooting Common Privacy Issues
|Search Engine Indexing||Site appears in search results||Check ‘Discourage search engines’ setting|
|Unauthorized Access||Unintended users accessing content||Review user roles and permissions|
|Plugin Conflicts||Privacy settings not working||Deactivate plugins one by one to identify the issue|
Making your WordPress site private can occasionally lead to some challenges. Below are common issues and their solutions, along with resources for additional support.
Common Problems and Solutions
- Not All Content is Private: If some content remains public, recheck your privacy settings for each post and page, ensuring they’re set to ‘Private’ or password-protected.
- Search Engines Still Displaying Your Content: If search engines have already indexed your site, it may take time for them to recognize the updated privacy settings. You can expedite this by using Google’s Remove URLs tool in the Search Console.
- Users Unable to Access Content: Ensure that user roles and permissions are correctly set up, granting access to the intended users. Users may need to clear their cache or you may need to reset any user role plugins to their default settings.
- Password Protection Not Working: Verify that password protection is correctly set up for the entire site or individual pages. If using a plugin for this, check for plugin-specific settings or issues.
- Privacy Plugin Conflicts: Plugins can sometimes conflict with each other or with your theme. Deactivate all plugins and reactivate them one by one to identify the culprit.
- SSL Certificate Issues: If your SSL certificate isn’t working, this could compromise your site’s privacy. Check with your hosting provider to ensure the SSL certificate is properly installed.
- Admin Area is Accessible: If the admin login page is visible to the public, consider using plugins that limit login attempts or hide the admin area.
- Content Leaks Through Feeds: Make sure your privacy settings extend to RSS feeds. Some plugins can help manage feed visibility.
- Cache Issues: Cached versions of your site might display private content publicly. Clear your site’s cache after changing privacy settings.
In this guide, we’ve walked through the essential steps to secure the privacy of your WordPress site. From understanding the different privacy settings available within WordPress to implementing plugins that enhance security, backing up your site, and managing user access—each step is designed to ensure that your content remains private and accessible only to those you choose.
Now that you have established privacy controls, it’s an excellent opportunity to delve into further customization options that WordPress offers. Whether it’s designing a unique theme or adding functionality through additional plugins, the flexibility of WordPress is at your fingertips.
Remember, privacy settings on your WordPress site are not set in stone. As your site evolves or as your needs change, you can easily adjust these settings. Making your site private is a fully reversible process, giving you the freedom to open up or lock down your content as required.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make my WordPress site private without using plugins?
Yes, you can use the built-in privacy settings in WordPress to discourage search engines from indexing your site and to set individual pages or posts to private.
Will making my site private affect my SEO?
Since a private site is not indexed by search engines, it won’t rank in search results, which can affect your SEO if the site was previously public. However, this is only a concern if you decide to make your site public again in the future.
How can I ensure only certain people can access my private WordPress site?
You can manage user access by creating accounts and assigning roles with specific permissions for each user. Alternatively, you can use password protection for your whole site or specific pages.
Can I still have a public blog on my otherwise private WordPress site?
Yes, you can set specific pages or posts to be public while keeping the rest of your site private. This is managed through the visibility settings for each post or page.
What should I do if my content is still visible on Google after making my site private?
You may need to request Google to remove your content from their index using the Google Search Console’s Remove URLs tool.
Is it possible to revert my site back to public after making it private?
Yes, changing your site from private to public is a reversible process. You can adjust the privacy settings at any time to make your site accessible to everyone.
Are there any recommended plugins for enhancing the privacy of a WordPress site?
There are several plugins that can help you manage privacy settings, like ‘Restricted Site Access’ and ‘Members’. Always choose plugins with good ratings and regular updates.
Do I need to backup my site before making it private?
It’s always a good practice to back up your site before making any significant changes, including changing privacy settings, to prevent data loss.
How can I test if my WordPress site is truly private?
You can check your site’s privacy by visiting it in an incognito window or using tools like website privacy checkers. This helps confirm that your content isn’t publicly accessible.
Where can I find more help if I run into issues making my WordPress site private?
The WordPress Support Forums, plugin or theme-specific support forums, and your hosting provider are excellent resources for help. For more complex issues, professional WordPress consultants or developers can provide assistance.
Author: Ihor Lavrenenko
For the last 10 years, I’ve worked for two online marketing agencies (as a SEO specialists and an SEO team lead). It was a great experience in creating local dental websites and big programmatic healthcare projects for the US local market. In this blog I’ll be happy to share my experience with dentists who want to promote their website and my web development colleagues too.