Launching your new website can be a daunting task. You need to ensure that you haven’t missed anything important. Even a small mistake can cause problems. The following checklist is what we use at Business Clan to make sure we have covered everything, and our websites are fully functional and ready to go before we push the site live. At Business Clan we design and build in WordPress, but this checklist can also be used for different platforms.
Our checklist is split into three sections: pre-launch, launch and post launch.
- The pre-launch checks are done before the website goes live. This is where we make sure that all our pages are fully functional, indexed properly and any old URLs (website page links) are redirected to the correct places.
- The launch process involves redirecting the website domain to where the website is hosted, removing password protection and taking the website out of maintenance mode (this makes the new website live).
- The final stage, post launch, is checking that everything is still functioning properly and submitting the domain to search engines for reindexing so that our new pages are cached in search engines and will appear in search results.
Going through this list every time we launch a new website means that nothing is missed, and potential problems are avoided.
1. Pre-launch checks
Good web design will ensure a user’s journey is carefully mapped out and managed. Navigation should be intuitive for each user, so that they can accomplish their reason for visiting your website. Good design will direct users to other pages of interest via well positioned content, the use of hyperlinks and clear Call-to-Actions such as buttons. For more hints and tips on web design read our blog on How to design and create an awesome website.
General site check
Double check to make sure your site has the correct title and tagline. Also ensure your site has a favicon – this is usually an icon representing your logo or brand. This helps users to find your website in their website browser tab. Most platforms allow you to add a social share icon. Add this so that when your site content is shared, it is shared with a relevant on-brand image.
On page SEO optimisation
Ensure each page has a relevant and unique title and meta description which includes the keywords that you want that page to be found for. The page title and meta description are pulled into search result pages, so check their length. On page SEO helps search engines to understand the relevancy of the content on your page for search queries. For more hints and tips on SEO read our blog Top 20 tips for website search engine ranking.
Make sure all your images load correctly and have Alt tags. In addition, check their file sizes. All images uploaded to your website should be compressed and have a relevant file name for SEO.
Ensure that your site has a 404-page set up. This is the page that users will see when they type in an incorrect URL or land on a broken link. Make sure that this page is relevant to your site and has links to useful pages on your site (e.g. links to the home page and contact us page).
Required Legal Information
You will need to include your registered address, company number and phone number. Your Privacy information should also be displayed, this includes:
- Terms and Conditions
Cross Browser and Device Checks
It is important to check that your website looks good on multiple browsers and devices as you want to ensure all users can access the features and functionality of your site.
Page Indexing is set correctly for Search Engines
Ensure that only the pages that you want to be found by search engines are indexed and that those that are not relevant are marked as noindex. For example, your Cookie & Privacy policies and thank you pages do not need to be indexed. Marking pages as noindex does not guarantee that they will not be presented in search engine results, but it does tell search engines that they are not relevant to what your business or organisation wants to be found for.
Page Redirects are set up Correctly
If you are replacing an existing website, ensure all the URLs from your original site are correctly mapped and redirected to your new site. We suggest extracting a full list of URLs from your original site while the original site is still live. Redirection is important because search engines cache website pages for quick reference, so that they can display them in search engine results. Even if you resubmit your website for indexing, it is a good idea to add redirects because you may have backlinks (hyperlinks on other websites that click through to your website) with the old website URLs. Redirects prevent people clicking on an old link and getting a browser error. In addition, it will help to maintain your previous website’s domain authority.
- Make sure you are using the latest version of your website platform e.g. the latest version of WordPress. Do this before any other checks.
- If you have a website that uses a theme and plugins, then make sure they are all up to date. Do this after the platform update and before any other checks.
- Enable the Site Map.
- Check for broken links.
Remove any test or draft pages and images that are not needed.
Before your site is pushed live, make a back up in case anything goes wrong during the launch. In addition, if your website hosting platform provides functionality for automatic backups, then make sure it is turned on. Otherwise, remember to do periodic backups (especially after any major changes).
Once you have completed the above, your website will be ready to go live.
2. Making your website live
The process of making your website live depends on the website platform you are using but in general involves updating your domain’s DNS setting to point to where your new website is hosted. This is done through your host domain. DNS changes can take up to 48 hours to update. In addition, you need to remove password protection and take your website out of maintenance mode.
3. Post launch checks
Now that your site is live, check that all the functionality on your site is working as expected (such as Contact forms and third-party integrations).
If your site is new, ensure Google Analytics has been set up and the tracking code has been added to your site. This provides data about your website users and how they interact with your site.
All new sites should be registered to Google Search Console. This provides information on how Google crawls and indexes your site. It also provides you with tools and insights that can help improve your site’s performance.
Re-index your site
All sites – new or existing – should be submitted/re-submitted for re-indexing with the primary search engines e.g. Google and Bing. If you know from your Google Analytics which other search engines your website users frequently use, then also submit your website for re-indexing with those search engines.
Test your site
Google offer a number of tools to help you test your site. The following are useful to determine your sites page speed and to ensure your site is mobile friendly.
At Business Clan, we help our clients design marketing led websites. Our proven process starts with understanding your business and marketing strategy. Your marketing plan will be grounded on a strong marketing strategy using client insights and competitor intelligence with your website at the heart of it. An effective website is one that has a clearly defined role to deliver your marketing objectives in tandem with other marketing tools. Speak to us to discuss our approach.