Launching a new website is an exciting time for any business. It’s not so different to opening a new shop on the High Street, and done right, it can have just as significant an impact on the bottom line as a traditional brick-and-mortar premises.
But before you throw your doors open and start welcoming customers into your digital world, you’ll need to make sure your platform is set up to deliver the best possible experience to your potential customers (and, of course, leave them with a positive impression of your brand).
Here are 12 essential checks you’ll need to make before your brand new website goes live.
1) Read through everything
There’s a well-worn saying in SEO that content is king. Take a good look at yours and make sure it is the best it can be! Poor spelling and grammar are real turn offs for users, so double check every last piece of text on your site before you hit the launch button.
Don’t rely on spellcheck software, as this will not pick up subtle but important things, like inconsistencies between UK and US spellings. Get a second, and trusted, pair of eyes to look over it all too, as when we’ve created content ourselves, we’re often prone to autocorrecting it!
2) Make sure the SSL certificate is in place
SSL certification is no longer a ‘nice to have’; it’s vital. Without it, browsers like Chrome tell visitors that the site is potentially unsafe and will ask whether they are sure they want to continue. It’s one of the most effective ways of making your site look unprofessional and frightening customers away, so make sure your SSL certificate is paid for and in place before going live.
3) Test your contact form
Imagine opening a shop but forgetting to employ any staff to assist the customers. It sounds like a sure-fire way to drive people away, right? If the contact form on your website isn’t working properly, you’ll basically be turning people away at the door. And that’s not an approach that’s going to get the cash flowing.
Double check that the form itself is hooked up to an email address that is regularly monitored, then send a test message as soon as the site has been launched. (Then get someone else to send a test message, just to be doubly sure!).
4) Mobile optimisation
Well over 50% of internet traffic comes from mobile devices. If your site is not mobile friendly, it won’t just suffer poorer search engine rankings – it will also deter potential customers. Even if your development company have assured you that the site is fully responsive, don’t simply take their word for it! Check it yourself on your mobile and tablet, then try it on any other devices you can get your hands on, too. Make sure the page loads quickly, renders properly and that forms and buttons all work effectively without the need to zoom in on tiny fonts or scroll around the page.
5) Optimise your titles and meta tags
Going through and optimising your meta tags is not the most exciting of tasks but it will pay dividends in terms of your onpage SEO, because these small but mighty pieces of code provide vital information to the search bots. By making sure both titles and meta tags are keyword optimised, you are effectively taking the Google bots by the hand and telling them exactly what your site is all about and the search phrases you want it to rank for.
6) Remove any development tags
While your website was in the development stage, you might have used noindex and nofollow tags to avoid the risk of search engines sending traffic to your site while it was still under construction. Make sure these are removed before the site goes live. After all, you wouldn’t open a physical shop and leave a sign up on the door telling paying customers to keep out, would you?
7) Do a sweep for broken links
Broken links are those blind alleys that can inevitably creep into a site over time, as pages are added, edited and removed. However, when you have a brand spanking new website, the last thing you want is for visitors to have 404 errors flashing up on their screens. It is damaging to the user experience and will inevitably send your valuable visitors elsewhere. There are several tools you can use that will search for broken links; try Screaming Frog, SortSite or Google Search Console.
8) Set up your Google My Business listing
There’s no point being the best in the business if nobody can find you! A company’s location is a core factor that will affect its search engine ranking positions, so if you want to rank well for local search queries, your organisation absolutely must be listed on Google My Business.
9) Welcome the robots
Robots.txt is a text file that instructs web robots on whether they should, and how they can, crawl the pages within your website. The crucial point here is to ensure the code is set to “allow” so the bots from Google and the other search engines know they can take a look around. If your robots.txt is accidentally set to “disallow”, your site will be ignored by the search engines, and you’ll be missing out on all those clicks!
10) Implement Open Graph tags for social
As Oscar Wilde said, “there is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.
Open Graph tags help you to manage chatter amongst your customers to a certain extent by ensuring social mentions of your company or brand are represented by specific images or content. Tailor this code to make sure it displays the right information for social network users.
11) Set up the appropriate Google products
Tools like Google Analytics and Search Console will provide valuable data, particularly in the first few weeks after launch. Make sure you have these products in place from the get-go. You’ll also need to get to grips with Google Ads if you are thinking of running a paid search campaign.
12) Remember your reminders
Finally, remember the small details, such as when your domain name and hosting service are due to renew. After all your hard work, the last thing you want is for the site to suddenly go down – or, worse still, to end up in someone else’s hands! – just because you forgot to re-register with your providers. Set up your renewal reminders now to make sure you don’t accidentally miss a payment, as the consequences could be more than just embarrassing.