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How to Unpublish WordPress Sites – 4 Easy Steps

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Why do you want to learn how to unpublish WordPress sites? 

Let me guess.

You want to redesign the sites completely. You mistakenly publish something and feel like taking it down. 

Or you need a break from blogging and think of unpublishing the entire site. What if you need to delete something completely from the site?

Well, whatever the case, there are ways to unpublish, delete, hide, and even password-protected pages in WordPress. 

I will also show you how to make certain parts of your WordPress site private so only people with login access to the admin area can work on the page or post.

Unpublish or Deleting? Understanding The Difference

Before I dive deep into the nitty-gritty of how to unpublish WordPress sites, let me quickly clear a few misconceptions.

Unpublish and deleting a WordPress site, pages, or posts is different.

When you unpublish a post or page on a WordPress site, such action does not remove the content and its URLs from the web altogether. The website might still be accessible to some user roles, such as admins, editors, etc. 

What you’re doing here is simply blocking public access to the live URLs. 

However, deleting a WordPress blog removes the complete database from the hosting server. 

This process is irreversible; it can not be undone. Any damage, content, pages, or posts you deleted in this process can not be retrieved. 

The website will become inaccessible to site admins and the public. All the content and pages/posts published on the site will be removed from the hosting server forever.

The only option to view content ever published on such sites will be through third-party websites that archive web content, such as Way Back Machine. 

Why am I telling you this?

Beginners WordPress might not know the difference and mistakenly delete their blog instead of temporarily hiding it from the public. 

Trust me, I made the same mistake a decade ago when I accidentally deleted my entire WordPress blog instead of temporarily taking it down for redesign. 

Back to the main topic of this post, which is how to unpublish your WordPress site.

4 Ways to Unpublish WordPress Site

In the traditional sense, WordPress does not provide a clear direction or step-by-step guide to unpublish your WordPress blog. 

In fact, going by the literal meaning of the word “unpublish,” you can not unpublish a complete WordPress blog. You can only unpublish posts and pages in a WordPress blog, not the entire database. 

But there are ways to hide your entire WordPress website from visitors. 

So, it won’t be visible to users and search engine crawlers. 

In this post, I show you different ways you can hide or make your WordPress site inaccessible to users until you’re ready to go live with it. 

Also, I walk you through ways you can easily unpublish posts and pages in WordPress. 

1. Set up the Coming Soon Page

The most effective way to unpublish or hide your WordPress blog from public view is to set up a coming soon or maintenance mode page. 

This page allows you to work on your blog on the back end without revealing ongoing progress to the public. During maintenance mode, people who visit your blog will see a customized landing page. 

The good news is that you don’t need to create this page yourself; a few WordPress plugins automatically enable the page. 

One of the most popular maintenance mode plugins is SeedProd. SeedProd is a powerful website and theme builder that allows you to build any website design effortlessly. 

It comes with hundreds of preset templates, including the coming soon pages, website themes, Woocommerce themes, landing pages, etc. 

SeedProd - Coming Soon Page demo

To install the SeedProd plugin, log into your WordPress site and navigate to the side menu. Hover on “Plugin” from the side menu and click “Add New Plugin.”

On the next page, type SeedProd into the search box. 

WordPress admin plugin area

Install and activate the plugin from the page, and click “Setting” next. Enable the “Coming Soon Page Mode” or Maintenance Mode” features on its settings page. 

Coming Soon page mode does not hide your website from search engines unless you’ve set it to private or discourage search engines in the WordPress settings page. More on this step later.  

The Maintenance Mode option automatically notifies search engines that your web page isn’t available. 

So, your option depends on your specific needs for hiding your website from the public. If you want to block access from users and search engines, use the Maintainance Mode option. 

However, if you are only required to hide/unpublish the website while working in the backend, the Coming Soon Page is the right option. People can still visit your website from various traffic channels, social media, and direct and referral traffic, but they will only see a page with notices of what’s coming soon.

2. Discourage Search Engines from Indexing The Site

The discourage search engine option only works or is effective if you don’t want search engines like Google and Bing to index your site. But I don’t know why you’d want to do this for your entire site.

The option does not stop users from visiting your site from other traffic sources, such as direct and referral traffic, email lists, social media links, etc. It only instructs search engine spiders not to add your website to their search index. 

Nevertheless, if you want to do this, follow these steps to block search engines from indexing your WordPress sites. 

Go to WordPress admin, hoover on Setting, and click Reading from the options. 

On the Reading page, check the box that reads “Discourage Search Engines From Indexing This Site.”

WordPress admin reading setting area

Note: Search engines might honour or ignore this setting. It’s up to search engine crawlers whether a page gets indexed.

3. Unpublish Posts/Pages in WordPress

Now, this is where you can unpublish WordPress. 

Unpublishing WordPress pages and posts is possible through several options. You can move a page or post to draft and republish later.  

This option is great if you want to work on the page/post later but temporarily remove it from public views. Users can no longer view the page on the website frontend, but it is still available on your website.  

Let’s say you accidentally publish a draft post, or you publish under the wrong permalink structure, and you want to correct that; you can unpublish and republish the post anytime. 

To do that, follow the steps described below.

Go to your WordPress admin dashboard and hover on Post from the menus. Click “All Posts” from the options. 

On the “All Posts” screen, hover on the post you want to unpublish and click the edit option. This action reveals other options you can apply to the post. But the one you’re concerned with is the “Quick Edit” option. 

Click the Quick Edit and Publish to reveal the dropdown menu. From the dropdown menu, select draft and click “Update.” It will revert the post to the draft folder. 

WordPress posts setting options

Another option to unpublish posts and pages is via the WordPress editor screen. I prefer this option because it allows you to think it through before taking the step.

You will see this in a moment. 

Now, instead of reverting a published post to a draft via the Quick Edit option, click the Edit option only. This action will open the post in the WordPress editor screen for editing. 

On the WordPress editor screen within the Post setting tab panel, click Switch to Draft from the option.

WordPress post editor screen - Switch to draft option

Clicking the Switch to Draft option brings up a popup box. If you’re sure you want to unpublish this post or page, go ahead and click ok from the box.

WordPress popup notification

Otherwise, click Cancel. 

You must know that reverting a published post or page to drafts will cause broken links on your website. People visiting the URL from external sources will see a 404 not found error page if you don’t 301 redirect the deleted post/page to a live URL. 

So, you must redirect the draft posts/pages to another relevant live URL to save the SEO and possible traffic.

If you don’t want to republish the post in the future or sooner, you can send it to the trash folder. 

But remember, WordPress posts and pages moved to the trash folder automatically get deleted in 30 days. 

If you need to restore the post/page before this time, you can open the trash folder page and hover your computer mouse on the empty area of the post/page you want to restore. It will reveal the setting under the corresponding post. Next, click the “Restore” option to revert the post to publish. 

WordPress Restore post settings

4. Password-Protected or Make Post/Pages Private

Another way to unpublish posts or pages in WordPress from the public is to set them password-protected or private.

This option is handy if you restrict some sections of your website to co-workers, admins, and clients or give access only to people with passwords. 

Consider creating a client or paid subscribers area only in WordPress. This feature lets you do that successfully. 

Though it does not unpublish the page or post from the website, it only gives access to people with a valid password or access level, in the case of private. 

First, open the “All Posts” list screen and hover on the empty area of the post you want to make private or password-protected to reveal the editing options. Next, click “Quick Edit” from the list. 

WordPress publish posts editing options

Within the options, you will see a space to enter your password or a checkbox to make the post private. 

The password enables you to restrict the post to anyone with the password, while private restricts the post to only logged-in users with administrative or editor roles. 

WordPress posts - private or password protected option

Remember to click the update button after making your selection. 

From now on, WordPress will ask users on password-protected pages to enter a password before accessing the page.

When writing a new article, you can also access the private and password-protected features from the WordPress editor screen. This is helpful if you’re writing a new post that has not been published before and want to make it private or password-protected. 

In that case, ensure you’re on the Post tab from the side panel. 

Click the “Public” button, which is next to Visibility. Three options will pop up: select private or password protected from the list. 

WordPress Gutenberg editor screen

Remember, the Password will restrict the post visibility to people with the password, and private restrict the post to only site admins and editors.

As a side note, if you need to remove the password or make a private page/post public, open the affected page and set the visibility status to public. 

WordPress post visibility status options

Conclusion…

As I said earlier, how to unpublish WordPress sites isn’t possible in the traditional sense of it, but there are several ways you can unpublish, hide, delete, or even make private posts and pages on your site.

I hope you’ve found a suitable option for your specific case. 

If you want to restrict access to your entire site from all users, the coming soon or maintenance mode option is excellent. 

Everyone visiting your website homepage will see a customized landing page with notice information. This helps keep users informed about the launch of your website soon. 

The maintenance mode tells search engines and users the website is briefly unavailable but will return soon. 

However, if you need to protect pages and posts to people with passwords only, you can do so with the password-protected option. The Private option makes posts visible only to site admins and people with editor roles. 

If you need help with these steps, leave your question in the comment box. 

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