Two-Minute Drill: Pre-Launch Preparation
Your 11th Hour Checklist Before Going Live With Your New Website
Armed with a fresh design and engaging content, you’re ready to launch your new site – right? Maybe not. All too often, we watch websites go live without the proper clearance – and their SEO, conversion rates and brand reputation suffer for it. Sure, edits can be made post-launch, but you really should lead with your best foot forward. Complete these pre-launch tasks to ensure a clean kickoff and rest easy as new visitors enjoy the fruits of your digital labor!
Don’t feel like doing it yourself & want us to take a look? We can make that happen!
The Right Direction: Create an Easy-to-Navigate 301 Redirect Map
The 301 redirect is such a valuable tool for website management personnel. It essentially tells the browser “Hey, this page used to live [here], but now it lives [here] – send these people to the new link.”
When users click an old link to a page that doesn’t exist, they are seamlessly shifted to the proper new page, bolstering an excellent user experience. Google really likes seeing this extra effort toward UX and the search engine will reward you for covering your bases. Speaking of SEO, if you have an existing site, you’ve probably racked up a few SEO points due to domain age, backlinks and other factors. You absolutely do not want to lose these in the move! By creating 301 redirects and implementing them in a timely fashion, you can harbor up to 99% of your site’s SEO power – and if you’re migrating to an HTTPS, you lose 0% of your page rank power.
How to properly implement 301 redirects:
- Crawl your current site using a spider crawler – Screaming Frog is the industry standard
- Open a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Sheets & create two columns – Old URLs & New URLs
- Copy all HTML pages on your site & place them into column one of your sheet
- Go through each old page, determine the most relevant new page (crucial) to redirect traffic to & put that URL into column 2
- Open your site’s FTP folder & make your way to .htaccess
- Implement this line of code for each old URL: RedirectPermanent /OLD-URL.html http://www.domain.com/NEW-URL.html
A more meticulous 301 redirect walkthrough can be found here.
The Fast Track: Install a Consistent Google Analytics Tracking Code
Legacy (old) Google Analytics data is critical for bench-marking and evaluating the performance of your new site. However, this step is often overlooked because it’s simply not as sexy as aligning pixels and making sure everything lines up on mobile. The GA code gets completely forgotten about until, 4 months down the road, someone asks to see how well the site is doing on a quantitative level and you realize you haven’t been tracking a damn thing. Don’t lose out on 4 months of valuable data and, for the love of God, don’t just throw in a new Google Analytics tracking code!
Plug It In: Make the Most of the Yoast SEO Plugin
If you’re launching a marketing website, you’re most likely building on the WordPress platform – that’s the assumption we are going to make in this scenario and you cannot stop us. We typically advise against all unnecessary plugins, but Yoast is absolutely essential – a pre-requisite to SEO success. What exactly does it do? After simple unpackaging and installation, you can edit meta titles and descriptions for all pages throughout the site. While meta optimization seems to be dwindling in regard to SEO impact, it is still a factor and it truly helps improve the user experience. This plugin gives you the ability to tighten up title tags and create welcoming meta description messages – without breaking a sweat or having to learn how to code.
Opening a Shopify store? Not a problem! You pretty much already have a Yoast-style plugin built into your platform. Just be sure to optimize each page & you’re good to go. Learn more about successful Shopify launches here!
Meticulous Inspection: Get Your Eagle Eyes On & Comb Through the Entire Site
The human eye is a glorious thing – it can see colors, speak to your overall health and detect problems on a website that no crawler, bot or spell-check program can find. Before you launch your site, sit down with your site and get to know it better. You’ve watched it grow up, but now you have to learn the idiosyncrasies of each function and investigate each nook and cranny.
Here are some questions to answer before launch:
- Do all of your internal links have destinations?
- Have all of your placeholder images been replaced & do they have alt. Text?
- Do you have a favicon in place?
- Have you proofread all of your content like its the freaking Bible & the rapture is coming tomorrow?
- Does your content (headers, images, body copy) resize properly across all platforms & screen sizes?
- Have you tested your contact form to ensure the information actually goes somewhere?
- Have you test driven an on-site purchase?
- Are your social media icons linked up properly?
- Have you set up a “Thank You” page & goal conversion tracking?
- Did you create a super clever 404 page that helps keep users on the site?
Phone a Friend: Put As Many Eyes On Your Site As Possible
You’ve gone though absolutely everything and you believe your site is perfect. Everyone thinks their baby is perfect, but your baby ain’t perfect! The next, and final, step is to have unbiased, 3rd party people dig through your site for the sole purpose of finding any little thing that keeps your site from being flawless. You’ve been building and modifying this thing since day 1. You may think you know everything about the website, but there comes a point in time where things start blending together – just like when you say the same word 50 times and it starts to sound like gibberish.
Get ALL the eyeballs on your development site. Seriously. Friends, family, coworker, ex-girlfriend (if you’re on decent speaking terms). It doesn’t matter. Have these folks try and break your site. Make them look at it on their various iPhone browsers, laptops, Macs, Razr flip phones – everything to ensure proper cross-functionality and a mobile optimized experience across all platforms. Listen to their critiques and advice – they can give invaluable insight from a new visitor’s point of view.
For more information regarding the proper launch of your new website, get in touch with ForeFront Web today!