How to launch a website (checklist)

16th October

How to make sure that your new (or current) website is set up to get results.

So your brand new website is ready, and you are getting excited about the launch – and so you should be. Before you break out the champagne, however, it is worth noting that the journey has only just begun. If you are willing to go the extra mile and take care of these essentials, your chances of success will increase exponentially.

Get Listed on Google My Business

Did you know that as many as a third of Google searches are for local businesses? Or that 50% of all the mobile consumers who search for a local business in a day visit it as well, with 18% of them going on to make a purchase? With this in mind, it would be crazy not to take advantage of what Google My Business has to offer.

With a Google My Business Account, you get more than a business listing. You get to create a Business Profile that lets you easily connect with customers across Google Search and Maps. You will also increase your search visibility in search engine result pages (or SERPs).

Most Google results pages now contain up to 3 local business listings and their information. These are populated with Google My Business listings. Take a look at the example below for what comes up if you search ‘Influx Digital’. A complete and optimized listing can help your business land in this section, significantly enhancing your search performance. All it takes is one click for searchers to get to the rest of your content or take actions such as call you or get directions.

It even works for non-branded keywords too, here is an example of “sheet metal fabrications telford”. Here you will see one of Influx’s website and digital marketing clients Hitherbest taking full advantage of the local 3 pack with their Google My Business listing.

Best of all? Setting up a Google My Business profile is completely free.

Configure Google Search Console

Google Search Console provides a wealth of tools and reports to help you measure your site’s Search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make your site achieve the best possible results in Google Searches. Advanced analytics allow you to see which queries bring users to your site and analyze your site’s impressions, clicks, and position on Google Search. The platform can help you to get your site properly listed on Google, as well as help you to optimise content.

It also allows you to look after other key aspects such as:

  • Getting alerted on issues and fix your site
  • Understanding how Google Search sees your pages
  • Testing and improving your site’s mobile usability

A quick glance at the screenshot of the new Google Search Console (above) quickly shows how many tools you have at your disposal in this powerful platform. It is worth noting, however, that this can be extremely daunting for those without a pretty good technical knowledge and it may be beneficial to work with an SEO expert to make the most of what it has to offer your business.

If you have used the search console in the past, you may notice that the entire interface has been updated as part of an ongoing “Graduation” by Google, the aim of which has been to streamline and simplify the tool to maximise its usability and value to end-users. Find out more about what changes may affect you as a historical user here at the official Google blog.

SERPs (Submit to Google)

There was a time when once you put a website live, you simply had to wait for the Google Bots to do their thing and hope that your website got indexed and listed fairly quickly. Luckily for business owners, those days are long gone and it is now far easier to submit and manage your listings. Using the Google Search Console, it is possible to manually request that new URLs are trawled by Google. In order to both make sure your site is indexed correctly and that you are able to take advantage of the full benefits of Google Search Console as described in the previous section, it is important to properly set up your console.

This is important for both brand new projects and redesigns of existing websites. You should also do this whether you have built a whole, brand new website or simply updated an existing page.

Imagine that you have added a new offering to your company’s services page and wish to attract customers for this new service. If you simply wait until the next time the page is crawled by Google, you may not appear in search results that relate to that service as Google will not realise your page has changed. The submit to Google tool allows you to solve this problem and start generating sales as quickly as possible.

The Submit URL tool allows you to:

  • See the current index status of a URL: Retrieve information about Google’s indexed version of your page. See why Google could or couldn’t index your page.
  • Inspect a live URL: Test whether a page on your site is able to be indexed.
  • Request indexing for a URL: You can request that a URL be crawled (or recrawled) by Google.
  • View a rendered version of the page: See a screenshot of how Googlebot sees the page.
  • View loaded resources list, JavaScript output, and other information: See a list of resources, page code, and more information by clicking the more information link on the page verdict card.

It is important to note that submitting your URLs does not guarantee that your page will rank in SERPs – how well your page performs will ultimately come down to SEO. If you are confident that you have implemented best practices in SEO for your site, then it is recommended that you make good use of these tools. Again, you may find it beneficial to get expert support.

Google Speed Insights

Since relatively recent updates to the way Google determines its page rankings, the speed at which your website loads is now a key component to your overall search engine performance. There are many different tools available online to help you measure how fast your website loads – so many, in fact, that it can be hard to decide which ones can provide meaningful and actionable results.

Google PageSpeed Insights is a free tool that allows you to quickly and easily test the speed of a web page. Submitting a URL and hitting “Analyze” will quickly generate a detailed report of what might be slowing down a given web page based on two parameters, along with recommendations on potential solutions.

  • Parameter 1 – Time to above-the-fold load: How long it takes for a page to display content above the fold after a user requests a new page.
  • Parameter 2 – Time to full page load. How long it takes a browser to fully render a page after a user requests it.

The tool is described by Google as follows:

“Page Speed Insights measures the performance of a page for mobile devices and desktop devices. It fetches the URL twice, once with a mobile user-agent, and once with a desktop-user agent. The PageSpeed Score ranges from 0 to 100 points. A higher score is better and a score of 85 or above indicates that the page is performing well.”

Colour coded results make it easy for you to see which issues should be addressed as a priority. However, there are some key points to bear in mind. In particular, not all of the suggested solutions that Google offers will apply to your site. Some may indeed be quick fixes requiring a minimum of effort, while others may be more complex and require a developer to implement. Some of them may be simply irrelevant to your site. Ultimately, fine-tuning your site to maximise the page speed rank can be a complex job that will often be best achieved in partnership with an experienced developer who has specialist knowledge of the platform upon which your website is built and the server environment.

Technical SEO

According to SEO experts MOZ, the phrase Technical SEO refers to optimizing your site for crawling and indexing, but can also include any technical process meant to improve search visibility. Technical SEO is a “broad and exciting field, covering everything from sitemaps, meta tags, JavaScript indexing, linking, keyword research, and more.”

If you are confident with all of the above, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t take care of technical SEO yourself, provided you have time and it is generally beneficial for businesses to take a proactive approach towards this.

Google Analytics

When it comes to success, measurables are everything – and your new website is no exception. The more data you can collect about who is using your website and how, the more power you have to improve your website’s performance. As a very quick overview, Google Analytics allows you to conduct tasks that include the following:

  • Analyse how visitors find your website and where they come from.
  • Track what visitors do when they’re on your website (which pages they visit, how long they spend on different pages and what actions they perform).
  • Identify which pages are performing well and which are not (are visitors leaving as soon as they get to the page or ‘bouncing’?).
  • Track conversions (for example, contact form submissions, product sales or calls).

Given its immense power, we could write an entire article dedicated to what you can do with Google Analytics. Suffice to say, it all begins by getting your account correctly set up and ensuring the correct actions are taken on your website to generate accurate data. Whilst the fundamentals are fairly straightforward, for those who wish to develop their knowledge further Google Analytics can provide enough data to take your game to a whole new level. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to this, an SEO expert will be able to extract and interpret the data that means the most to you and your business to save you doing the leg work.

Don’t forget about your old website

If you’ve been busy working on a shiny new website to replace an existing one, you might have thought that switching over to the new one was a straightforward process of simply matching up the domain to the new site. Don’t stress – the switchover is indeed a fairly simple matter that your developer will usually take care of. There is, however, an extremely important aspect that you should be careful not to overlook – redirects from your old site.

Unless your new site is a complete mirror image of your old one (which is quite unlikely), a lot of your URLs will inevitably be different. To preserve your SEO and Google rankings as best you can and also to ensure that visitors and search engine indexes aren’t suddenly bombarded with error messages for missing pages, you will need to do some behind the scenes work. If you do this correctly, you will ensure that your new website starts from the best possible position, giving you a powerful base to build upon.

You will need to create what are known as ‘301 redirects’, either from your old domain to your new domain or within your current domain name if it is staying the same. When visitors try to visit an old page that has perhaps been indexed with Google SERPs, instead of the page not existing and your organic traffic for that page vanishing, there will be a redirect in place to automatically direct visitors to the new page. As well as avoiding the ‘404 page not found’ experience, which can impact conversions, it will also help Google to understand where to transfer any SEO value from and to (if there is any to do so). This can also help to preserve any domain authority you may have built up.

Unless this is something you have done before, we would advise you to seek help from an experienced web developer or SEO expert.

Test your contact forms

Another important piece of advice for anybody who has just got their new website live – test your contact forms. You may love the design of your super slick new contact forms, but you want to be absolutely sure messages will come through to you. There are various reasons why a contact form may need adjusting, from test email addresses being left in the system to minor configuration adjustments required on your website’s backend or server. You may also need to ensure that you have whitelisted the address that any submitted forms are sent from.

If your contact form includes an automatic reply, be sure to check how this looks in your email inbox too, to make sure that there is no test text that has been overlooked.

In most cases, you’ll have no problem looking after this step but don’t hesitate to speak to your developer if you have any questions – getting the customer relationship right from the outset is crucial to business success.

Check for broken links

When you include the navigation menu, the average page of a website typically contains something in the region of 25 – 100 links. For a more established website, this number can be exponentially higher. Internal and external links are essential for not just for your visitors, but also for your SEO. As well as giving a poor user experience, broken links can undermine your professional image and ultimately, may cause customers to leave your website.

Although you could manually check every link, this would be a time-consuming task and there would still be a risk of missing the odd one. Far better is to use a reliable tool to check. There are several good SEO software solutions that will check for broken links on your website, and a great tool to use for this is one called Screaming Frog, whose broken link checker is free to use for up to 500 URLs.

Test responsiveness across all devices and browsers

Finally, we recommend that you fully test your device across all devices and browsers. A fully responsive website will be designed to adapt to suit different display sizes to offer the best possible user experience, so how your site looks will vary between a mobile phone, tablet and laptop or desktop computer. Take the time to go through your site on each of these devices to make sure everything looks in order. If you find anything that does not appear to be correct, make a note of the URL, device and browser and inform your developer or designer.

As well as devices, it is important to remember that your website may appear differently on different browsers such as Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge / Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari. Have a thorough browse through your site on as many different browsers as you can to ensure that everything is in order.

A professional web design and development agency will usually have an extensive testing process in place to help ensure that any issues are eliminated well before launch, but it is always a good idea to conduct final checks with fresh eyes.

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