Launching a New Website? Read This First!
by Kate Lett
Over the years, we have watched and aided in the launch of many new websites for our clients. While we have never witnessed a launch go 100% perfectly, some go much smoother than others. The following list includes the major things to keep in mind before you launch your new website. Failing to check these items can have major impacts on your revenue and overall business.
Change in URLs: Will your URLs stay the same or are they all changing? For the way pages are indexed there is a huge difference, for example, between lettdirect.com/blog and lettdirect.com/blogpage. If the URLs for your pages change, chances are you will see a huge decrease in traffic after you launch. There are a couple of reasons why this happens, but the important takeaway is to ask your developer before you launch. The fix is easy enough; if your URLs are changing, be sure 301 redirects are put in place before you launch. This will significantly decrease drops in traffic and prevent Google from flagging a bunch of 404 errors on your site.
SEO Migration: If you are using a new platform, the way meta information is added to your site will most likely change. Talk with your developer about how to add meta page titles and meta descriptions. Will the platform automatically pull content for these items from the top of the page? Where do you go to make changes? Will proper meta information be present at the launch of the new site? Meta information is important; without it, you are not passing important information to Google and this will negatively impact your rankings.
Tracking Codes: Have Google tracking codes been added to your new site? If they have not been added, are out of date, or are incorrect, none of your metrics in Google Analytics will come through. The first place we check when sales nosedive after a launch is the tracking code. Often sales are there, but because of a lack of tracking, they are not being reported. Save yourself the panic and stress of disappearing sales and double check that your tracking code is correct before launch!
Website Security: In this age of personal data hacks and security breaches, a safe site is more important than ever. When searching in the Chrome web browser, a notification is shown if the site you are trying to visit is not secure. Many people will choose to not visit a site that is not secure. This means you are losing potential customers and revenue. Ask your developer if your new site will have an SSL. Your new website should start with https not http.
The Dreaded Holiday Launch: You planned to launch before the holiday season with enough time to work out the kinks. The timeline didn’t go as planned, though, and now you are looking at launching in the 4th quarter. One word: DON’T. When you launch a new site, bugs are inevitable. Big or small, there will be some issues to correct. Trying to make these corrections during the busiest time of the year is a recipe for disaster. If your launch date falls within the 4th quarter, we highly recommend waiting until after the holidays.
Check Your Cart: Does your cart work? Stupid question, right? Still, it’s one that is absolutely critical to your business. Check your cart… then check it again. Have someone outside of your organization check your cart. Do so on different browsers and on different devices. A beautiful new site only works if customers can buy what you sell.
Talk to the Team: Are you thinking of designing a new site? If so, now is the time to notify your entire marketing team. Talk to the person or team in charge of each channel and ask what needs to be done before you launch. What your email marketing person needs may be very different from what your PPC manager requires. Keep your marketing team aware of the progress of the new site. We encourage you to give the marketing team access for a final walk through before you launch. Catching bugs and fixing them when the site is still in development saves a lot of headaches. Also, be clear on when you plan to actually “flip the switch” so your marketing team can monitor the new site.
Google Search Console / Monitor the New Site: You made it! You are ready to launch and watch the customers pour through your digital door. You are not done yet, though. It is important that your new site be submitted to Google Search Console and that you have a robots.txt file and sitemap.xml file in place. You want Google to index your site and you want to be able to see and fix any errors. That’s where Google Search Console comes into play. Task one person on your team with adding your site to GSC and watching the indicators regarding he health of your site. Typically, this will fall to your team’s SEO manager. There are many things that can wrong when launching a new website. If you use the above items as a checklist, though, your launch should go much smoother!