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How to Launch a Website

Getting Ready to Get Ready

Why do you even need a pre-launch checklist?

Launching a website is challenging, overwhelming, daunting, and intimidating. And those characteristics only refer to the design. Your website is the face of your business. It’s how customers and potential customers get their first impressions. For one second, think about sites you went to with broken links, images that won’t load, and blocky designs. Chances are, you don’t go back to those sites.

Your goal, as a business, is to launch something comprehensive that consumers enjoy from the first time they log on. Checklists help you cover all of your bases, from design to functionality to site security. Done right, your website will be a fine-tuned machine when it launches so that you can sit back in maintenance mode. 

That isn’t to say checklists make your job any easier. They just make your job more manageable. 

What to include in a checklist

In a word, everything. 

The biggest problem facing new websites is oversight. You might think you “have a plan,” and you don’t need help, but can you imagine the consequences of a security breach or a legal issue? We use lists to go to the grocery store, so we don’t forget the butter! Why should building a website be different? Consult with design and development teams to make sure your list is complete. 

The pre-launch checklist is the foundation of your website. Since we’re launching a WordPress website, much of the foundation is here already, but that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Vital aspects like design, functionality, and security measures are in your hands. Those features are difficult to course-correct once the site launches. 

Now that we completely stressed the importance of a pre-launch checklist, here is ours.

Content Creation

No website is ready to launch without relevant, constructive content. And no, “lorem ipsum dolor sit amet consectetuer adipiscing elit” does not count as relevant content. Fresh content prepares your website to show up on search engines. The more you have loaded up, the better off you’ll be.

Search engines also pay close attention to page count. Several long blog posts about your business are great, but if your website launches with seven pages of content, it’ll be invisible. Try to have at least 15 separate pages with different content ready for launch.

Content Advice

Writing “about us” pages and short blurbs about your product are some of the essential pages a website can have, but think about including blog posts, videos, and customer testimonials. Make sure to include links to other pages on your website. You want visitors bouncing from page to page and staying engaged with your material. 

Here are some crucial features to include:

  • Relevance
  • Grammar
  • Readability
  • SEO Forward (We’ll get to that soon!)
  • Active Links
  • Video and Images with Metadata
  • A “Contact Us” page

Website Design

First, let’s clearly state that website design and website development are two entirely different things. Sometimes they are mixed up, but they are not the same! Website design is how you want the site to look. This step is your chance to give your brand the look and feel you want. Working directly with web designers is an excellent way to collaborate with professionals and get the perfect product.

Website design is vital because it affects traffic. Poorly designed websites turn off customers before they get a chance to explore. If a website isn’t aesthetically pleasing or easy to navigate, you could face a high bounce rate. The bounce rate describes how long someone is on your site before leaving. High bounce rates mean your website is underperforming, and it’s time for a change.

Here are just a few more things to consider:

  • How does it look on mobile devices?
  • Is it interactive?
  • Optimize the images
  • Create several internal links
  • Preview your site in the major browsers
  • Incorporate social media links and icons

Functionality

Website functionality is the most crucial facet of building a website. We discussed the checklist being a foundation of a good website launch, and functionality is the foundation of a good website. While the customer sees the web designs you have in place, your website development actually makes your site tick.

Functionality is crucial for several reasons. How your site performs determines the user experience, or UX, from beginning to end. Broken links and slow page load speeds have devastating effects on traffic and search performance. The development aspect is all about attention to detail. You want your website to behave correctly and the same across any platform and any browser.

Remember to focus on other items like:

  • Health Checks
  • RSS Feeds
  • Active Links for Inbound and Social Media 

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is how websites show up in search queries. Nearly everything runs through a search engine today. To show up, your website needs content that is “findable” for the search engines. They use different algorithms to find various distinguishing features and rank websites accordingly. SEO doesn’t necessarily refer to content either. Slow page speeds can have a similar negative impact on your results.

Having your website show up in these search results is imperative. Google reigns supreme as the most commonly used search engine. Your goal with SEO is to show up on the first page of relevant Google searches. To put things into perspective, 91% of clicks into websites are on the first page. Showing up below that makes your site nearly invisible.

There are hundreds of books, articles, videos, and blogs about how to maximize SEO. Understanding keyword phrases, text lengths, and metadata are all specific tools for an SEO expert, but you don’t have to be an expert to get good results. WordPress plugins like Yoast put your content through an automated SEO analyzer and provide advice for improvement.

It never hurts to work with professionals, and here are some items to consider:

  • Keywords
  • Relevant Content
  • Page Load Speeds
  • Number of Pages
  • Internal/External Links
  • SEO Plugins
  • Snippets and Meta Descriptions

Marketing

Simply put, marketing is the gateway to new customers to find your business. Marketing puts your product in front of as many potential customers as possible. You can use campaigns to lay out a full plan of action for advertising. With tools like demographic targeting and social media blitzes, marketing is more accessible to everyone. Just like with SEO, there are books and blogs and college degrees built solely around marketing strategies. 

Every company from Apple to a lemonade stand sets out a marketing budget to reach customers. For the lemonade stand, that budget might just cover sharpies and cardboard, but for corporations like Ford and Nike, marketing budgets are in the millions of dollars. Even companies with universal brand recognition use marketing to stay top-of-mind for their consumers. 

For growing companies without brand recognition, marketing serves a significant role in differentiating your business from the competition. Most industries are very saturated, making it hard for small businesses to stand out. The arsenal of marketing tools available today gives you a better opportunity to be seen, but campaigns are still a lot of work.

There are a few things to consider when diving into a marketing strategy:

  • Define Target Audience
  • Choose Marketing Method
  • Social Media
  • Pay-per-click (PPC)
  • Word of Mouth
  • Create an Email List
  • Continuously Release Updates as Business Grows

Legal

Covering yourself in legal protection is paramount for a website launch. Remember, there are some people out there who will find any reason to sue, so it’s best to shore up your defenses. You also need to pay attention to the requirements you face, such as displaying privacy policies and implementing a cookie warning. Disregarding your legal needs can lead to problems reaching far past the website. In other words, cross your T’s and dot your I’s!

The best approach is to work directly with a legal team to cover your specific needs. There are dozens of online templates to help jump start your legal process, but no generic model can include every business. Try to collaborate with specialists when possible. 

Here are just a few of the things you’ll want to get in order:

  • Include contact information
  • Display any necessary notifications (Cookies, Affiliate Marketing, etc.)
  • Include website terms and conditions (T&C)
  • Refer to professionals for any local city and state laws

Prepare your Site

Make sure your website is functional. As we discussed, functionality is the foundation of your website. This pre-launch phase is your time for quality assurance. Test every aspect of your website. Go to every page, click every link, and view each video from a phone, tablet, and desktop. You absolutely cannot do too much testing.

Double-check that your domain and server are ready for traffic. Plan for a large crowd because too much traffic can hurt your server speed, causing your pages to load slowly. Slow load times will kill your SEO before your site is even off to the races.

Set up your analytics methods to monitor website performance. You’ll want to follow analytics throughout your launch and for the life of your website. Programs like Google analytics help make it easy, or you can use plugins like MonsterInsights, which integrate directly in with WordPress.

Security

As Target and Equifax will testify, website security is crucial. Even sites with only a mailing list are vulnerable to attack. If your website is an online marketplace, security becomes much more vital since you’re handling customers’ payment information. 

Using cloud-based servers helps with security. You can use secure socket layers (SSLs) to encrypt links and secure your website from malware or other attacks. There are countless security plugins with WordPress, so find one that fits you best and take full advantage of it. You can also never go wrong consulting with an IT security professional.

Make sure to scan the site daily for potential threats, and use complex usernames and passwords for authentication. Most importantly, if there is a breach, make sure your website backs up daily for safekeeping.

Launch Day!

Click the “go” button!

Ok, maybe the launch is not that simple, but it’ll go very quickly. You prepared your website as best as you could. Now is the time to publish all of your content, build a site map to help with navigation, and ensure your legal verbiage is in place. Since your website is live, you can start to make sure your security protocols are in place and monitor analytics. 

Grand openings don’t start with a bang without the marketing strategies you put in place. Make sure your social media accounts are active and announcing your launch. Activate any additional ads you may have purchased on other platforms. Get the word out!

Launch day is exciting and nerve-racking, but the work doesn’t end there. Here are a few things to think about post-launch.

  • Organize website maintenance
  • Update content regularly
  • Make sure your administrative work is done (payments, accounts receivable, etc.)

Celebrate!

You launched a website!

You took an idea and turned it into the face of your company. All the planning, designing, marketing, and building paid off, and you’re open for business. Take some time to enjoy your success before you have to dive back in to work.

Conclusion

This checklist is a comprehensive way to plan, build, and execute a website launch. Sites are an enormous undertaking, and preparation separates the good websites from the great ones.

You learned that content creation is incredibly important but takes a lot of work. We talked about the need for aesthetically pleasing design and easy to navigate site to avoid bounce rates. We covered what role marketing plays in drumming up traffic. Most importantly, we discussed the idea that above all, your website needs to function correctly. Keep in mind; it never hurts to ask the pros for help. 

Aside from the function, we discussed the need to pay attention to the fine print. Get your legal affairs in order pre-launch. Take care of site security, so you don’t open yourself up to any legal liabilities. Again, turn to the professionals if you want more guidance along the way.

Finally, launch day. Hopefully, you were able to incorporate many of the steps included here or even added some of your own. We know this process is long and challenging, but having a roadmap simplifies things, gives you confidence, and helps get you launched faster. 

Enjoy the experience, build the site your way, and good luck with your new website

Have some follow up questions? We’d love to chat! Schedule Office Hours with one of our experts, and start moving toward launching your site!

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