6 Things to Check Before Launching Your Website
Have You Prepared to Launch Your Website?
Launching your website is exciting, but it can easily become a stressful experience for your company. Reviewing your website before launch requires every team to check their work, from designer to copywriter to developer.
Once everything is confirmed, then it’s time to flip the switch and enjoy seeing your hard work go live! To help minimize stress and maximize your success, these are the most important pieces to focus on.
Content: Remember the Foundation
Content is arguably the most important part of your website. Even a poorly designed website can share valuable content, though we wouldn’t recommend it! The content on your website shares who you are, insights into your industry, and answers important questions visitors may have.
Your website’s content also helps with your SEO. Because of this, it’s essential to get this right before you launch.
- Remove placeholder text, and make sure all final content is proofread by multiple people. Nothing ruins your company’s trustworthiness like a grammar or spelling mistake!
- Double check all formatting to ensure your content is easy to read. This includes mobile versions.
- Replace placeholder images with final stock or original photos. During the build out, designers may have used placeholder images with watermarks. Before launch, make sure all are replaced with approved photos.
- Verify all video and audio files are linked properly. This includes the correct videos in the correct places, as well confirming they all play when needed.
- Test all page links. You add page links for a reason, so make sure they are all headed to the right page.
- Confirm downloadable files are linked correctly. This includes guides, e-books, and other necessary documents.
- Create a 404 error page. While your website theme has a default error page, building a custom page with your brand voice can be beneficial.
- Set up applicable redirects. This is particularly important if you want to preserve link value.
When launching your website, verifying all content needs to be a priority. Content is the foundation, and design is the framework that helps it shine.
Design: Build a Strong Framework
Your website’s design is the scaffolding for your content. This is the time to ensure that everything is working as intended so your visitors will have the best user experience possible.
- Validate HTML and CSS markup using a tool like W3C’s Markup Validation Service (HTML here and CSS here), so every page meets web standards.
- Preview website in all major browsers, making sure there are no compatibility problems. (Pay close attention to images and videos.)
- Check responsive design, from phones to tablets. A significant amount of website browsing happens on mobile, so your website needs to function well on these devices. (Use Google’s Mobile Testing tool for helpful feedback.)
- Optimize images by reducing their file size as much as possible without compromising quality. This can improve loading times, which impacts user experience and SEO.
- Add a favicon. This is a frequently forgotten website element, but it’s easy to do! Use a tool like Favicomatic.
- Confirm your company logo links to your home page. This has become standard practice, which means skipping this step may irritate and confuse visitors.
- Create a print stylesheet so it will look just a good printed as it does online. WordPress Codex is a great tool for this.
These steps can be time consuming but doing this now will ensure that your website behaves as intended after launch.
Functionality: Build a Users’ Dream Website
Testing functionality is a critical step of your pre-launch checklist. You want to find the bugs before your visitors do! Even if you have the best content and design, a poor functioning website will prevent users from finding what they’re looking for.
- Test all web forms. This includes contact, order, and survey forms to make sure they’re submitting data correctly.
- Confirm form messages and redirects. This includes help messages and that they’re redirected to the correct page after submitting a form.
- Review autoresponders. This is the time to make sure all email automation is working correctly.
- Check your website’s speed score. Using Google PageSpeed Insights, check how fast your website loads and if there’s anything you can do to improve the time. (Aim for below two seconds.)
- Confirm social sharing. Whether from your blog or in your website’s footer, check that all links are correct.
- Test website feeds. If your WordPress website has RSS, news, or social feeds, make sure they’re working.
- Review accessibility. This is often required by law, but it’s an important step regardless. You want all users in your target audience to enjoy your website!
- Check third-party tools. If you’re using a CRM, e-commerce platform, or another third-party tool, make sure they’re functioning correctly.
SEO: Make Your Website an Easy Find
There are many different variables in a website’s SEO ranking. One way to ensure you start strong is making sure your website is visible to search engines from the very beginning. This means it will be indexed right away.
- Install a SEO Plugin. WordPress is already configured well for SEO, but a plugin like Yoast can help guide your team to optimize your website.
- Write meta descriptions for every post and page, including applicable keywords.
- Configure SEO page, post, and website titles. This is done under Settings > General. Be sure to include relevant keywords.
- Set up permalinks so each page URL contains its main keyword. This is under Settings > Permalinks.
- Determine your website’s focus keywords for both pages and posts. Make sure they’re applicable! These keywords are part of the SEO foundation for your website.
- Create your sitemap. This helps search engines understand your website’s organization and shares important metadata, like how often pages are updated.
- Set up metadata for your social and RSS feeds, which includes selecting relevant tags like “nofollow”.
SEO Plugin Tip: In Yoast and other high-quality SEO plugins, there is a check box, “discourage search engines from indexing my website.” If this isn’t turned on, then your website won’t be indexed. Bear in mind that this is just a suggestion to search engines, but it’s an important step to complete.
Marketing: Build Your Strategy to Maximize Your Website
Your company’s website is the only piece of your digital marketing efforts that you truly “own.” Social media is rented space, making a high-quality website essential. This is your time to share your mission, highlight products, and answer the questions your visitors will have.
- Include newsletter signup forms. This includes popups, gated content, and sidebar forms. Wherever there is information that could prompt people to contact you, include a form.
- Integrate with your email service provider. Services like MailChimp will take the data from signup forms and organize it per list, making it easy to send emails as needed.
- Add social icons and link correctly. An expected place is in the header and the footer, but you may also want to include them in the sidebar on certain pages.
- Ensure consistency with your social media profiles, especially if your new website involved a rebranding.
Your new website will bring attention to your brand, so let’s make sure it’s in a good way!
Legal: Yes, You Need to Include It
- Include company details. This includes important information like tax registration and contractor ID number. A built-out About page is also a way to build trust with customers and investors and should be one of your website priorities.
- Purchase required licenses. If you’re using stock photography, plugins, fonts, or other licensed content, it’s time to ensure all licenses are purchased. It can be tempting to cut costs by acquiring licensed content without paying, but we definitely don’t recommend it. It can become a costly mistake. Instead, make sure all licenses are up to date.
- Add a copyright notice. You own your website, and protecting it is essential. Adding a copyright notice to your website’s footer helps protect your website from infringement.
- Share terms and conditions. Another dry part of your company’s website, your terms and conditions should always be on your website. If you have an e-commerce platform and are dealing with financial transactions, it’s a necessary statement to have.
- Confirm local website requirements. Depending on your state or city, there may be additional requirements regarding anti-spam measures, payment processing, and more. Before launching, confirm your website meets these requirements.
To engage potential clients, you want to focus on building the best website possible. This “owned” space paired with “rented” space like Facebook and Instagram can help establish your authority in your industry and provide the value visitors are looking for.
Before you can provide that value, though, you need to verify your website is ready to launch. These six pieces break down the most important tasks so you and your team can prioritize and launch efficiently.
Launching a website in addition to running a company can seem like a never-ending task. Are you looking for an experienced team to help you with these final steps? We’d be happy to talk to you about how we help small business owners and startups maximize their website and increase leads. Reach out here!
By Marc Apple
Marc Apple is recognized as a leader in the marketing industry and has 20+ years of experience helping businesses of all sizes improve their digital marketing. He specializes in website design, SEO, social media, and paid search programs. He is a frequent contributor to other marketing websites and speaks regularly about marketing to small business owners and startups. To learn about Marc and to contact him, visit his author bio page.
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