Ah, website launches.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are something every business needs to do.
I’ve been through a ton of website launches, so it’s kind of a ho-hum process now.
But even if I go into a website launch with a nonchalant attitude, something usually happens—something unexpected.
- In one website launch, the webmaster forgot to turn off the disallow on the robots.txt
- In another website redesign, the developers forgot to add the subdomain to 200k pages.
- In another website redesign, the developers accidentally used the wrong footer for all 1.1m pages.
I could go on and on.
Here’s the thing—website launches are important. And more often than not, there’s something wonky that happens. These wonky surprises can destroy your SEO and cause your entire website to flounder from the start.
Even if you’re fairly experienced with the process and have built multiple sites, launching a new website can still be overwhelming and stressful.
There are a lot of components involved in a website launch, and there’s a lot of potential for hiccups along the way.
Overlooking even a few subtle elements can have disastrous consequences.
What if there are blatant typos? Or what if your visitors get the dreaded “page not found” error?
It’s going to be a poor reflection on your company and could send would-be customers running.
The bottom line is that no one is perfect, and even the top professionals can overlook a few details.
What I’ve learned from launching multiple sites is that it’s crucial to follow a formula that forces me to leave no stone unturned. This way I can cover myself and ensure that the entire process goes off without a hitch.
The best way to accomplish this is to follow a checklist and work your way through it step by step.
Here is the only checklist you need for launching your startup’s website.
First things first. You’ll want to cover the basics in terms of web design to ensure your site looks great and is easily navigable.
Visitors should have a seamless experience without needing to think too much about how to get where they need to go.
Here are things to attend to at this stage:
- Your homepage includes your business’s logo.
- The logo is appealing and professional.
- Visitors should be aware of the product or service you’re selling upon landing on your site.
- Images are optimally positioned.
- Images can be viewed on mobile devices.
Today’s Internet users access websites from a variety of devices and browsers.
In particular, the use of mobile devices has become increasingly common: 80% of people are using smartphones, and 47% are using tablets.
That’s why it’s crucial to avoid fundamental glitches that can create compatibility issues.
Make sure that:
- your site is compatible with all major browsers, including Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.
- your site is fully optimized for mobile users. There are multiple ways to create a mobile-friendly site, but responsive web design (RWD) is regarded as one of the most effective techniques.
- you’ve optimized cascading style sheets (CSS) across your site.
- all coding has been done correctly, and there are no glitches that can ruin the user experience.
It should go without saying, but users expect a fluid experience.
Any glitches or malfunctions can increase your bounce rate, and it’ll be much more difficult to nurture leads.
With 55% of visitors spending fewer than 15 seconds on a website, you need to cover all the bases and optimize your site’s functionality to keep your visitors browsing and minimize your bounce rate.
Make sure that:
- You’ve corrected any issues that could potentially slow down your site’s load time.
- There are no broken links.
- There are no 404 redirects.
- All internal links point to the intended page.
- All external links are working correctly and point to authoritative, relevant sites.
- You’re not linking to resources that offer no value.
- Links open in a new tab. (It can be annoying for users when they lose their place because a separate tab isn’t opened after they click on a link).
- You’ve set up a favicon icon so that users can easily identify your site when they bookmark it. (This is crucial for proper branding).
- You’ve optimized navigation by adding pages either to the top or to the sidebar so that users can quickly find what they’re looking for.
- You’ve added a search bar to expedite the search.
- Your site isn’t clogged with annoying ads or popups.
- Popups can be closed with ease.
Time is of the essence when your website is loading.
The longer it takes your site to load, the higher your abandonment rate will be. If it takes longer than three seconds to load, you’ve already lost 40% of your visitors.
That’s no good.
Here are just a few other eye-opening stats. A one-second delay in page load time yields:
- 11% fewer page views
- A 16% decrease in customer satisfaction
- A 7% loss in conversions
That’s why I can’t stress enough just how crucial it is to check the speed of your site and do whatever it takes to optimize it. Ideally, you’ll be able to get your loading time under three seconds.
Here are some specific things to look into:
- You’ve checked the speed of your website using the Pingdom Website Speed Test. This will let you know the precise speed and provide you with some performance insights to indicate problem areas.
- You’re using high-quality servers capable of keeping up with heavy website traffic at times.
- You’ve enabled browser caching.
- You’re not using an excessive number of images, videos, or other media that could potentially slow down your site.
- You’re not going overboard on plugins. (These can make your site sluggish).
- You’ve ensured that above-the-fold content loads quickly. (This should be a priority over below-the-fold because it doesn’t matter all that much if below-the-fold content takes a few seconds longer).
This should cover the basics, but you can get a lot more ideas about speeding up your website by checking out this resource.
It’s been said time and time again—content is king.
Content is arguably the lifeblood of your website. Any lack of professionalism or mediocre quality will hurt you in the long run.
Providing A+ content is important not only for maximizing average session duration but also for your overall conversion rate.
That’s why you need to be borderline obsessive about dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s in this department.
Make sure that:
- You’ve used a light background with dark fonts to make text easily readable.
- You’ve thoroughly proofread every landing page, blog post, etc.
- You’ve corrected every single spelling and grammatical error.
- You’ve created engaging and captivating titles.
- You’ve broken up content into digestible chunks by incorporating H1s, H2s, H3s, and bullet points.
- You haven’t used massive blocks of text that are ugly and difficult to read.
- You’ve given proper attribution to external sources you’ve cited.
- You have plenty of visuals to make your content appealing to the eye. (46% of marketers say photography is critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies).
- Images are high-definition and professional in appearance.
- You’re not infringing upon any copyrights with your images.
- Images are correctly formatted and can be viewed on any device.
- You’ve added videos where appropriate.
- Videos are correctly formatted and viewable on any device.
- Downloadable content, such as whitepapers, e-books and slideshows, are working properly.
- You’ve added your business’s contact information in a visible area.
- Visitors can find answers to FAQs.
- Pricing information can be easily found.
- There are calls to action in relevant locations.
- You’ve added social share buttons.
- You’ve implemented SEO
Understanding and implementing the fundamentals of on-site SEO is incredibly important.
This is your ticket to getting found in search engines and driving a consistent stream of organic traffic to your site.
When it comes to SEO, a lot of elements need to be covered.
- You’ve created an XML sitemap.
- You’ve performed keyword research to identify which keyword phrases to target in your content.
- You have chosen longtail keywords so that you have a legitimate chance of outranking the competition.
- You’ve peppered those keywords throughout your content but without keyword stuffing.
- You’ve incorporated targeted keywords into your URL.
- You’ve included targeted keywords in your meta description, titles, and headers.
- You’ve added relevant tags to your content.
- Alt tags have been added to images.
- Tags have been added to videos.
- URLs are brief and user-friendly. (They’re not long and ugly.)
- Meta descriptions are a maximum of 160 characters. This ensures they’re not truncated in search results.
- Meta descriptions are engaging and summarize what your content is all about.
- You’ve set up internal and external links.
- You’ve practiced hyperlink optimization where links don’t contain your targeted keywords. (Targeted keywords in hyperlinks can result in penalties from Google).
Right from the get-go, you need to be diligent about keeping tabs on your traffic.
You want to be able to analyze visitor behavior, ways you are acquiring your traffic, length of time visitors are staying on your site, your bounce rate, and so on.
Doing so is essential for spotting patterns and trends and ultimately making key adjustments to optimize conversions.
That’s why I recommend setting up some type of analytics platform when launching your startup’s website.
I think that Google Analytics is sufficient for generating the basic data needed for most startups, especially during the initial stages.
However, you may also want to utilize a more comprehensive platform such as Crazy Egg so that you can visually see where your visitors are clicking. One of my companies, Kissmetrics, is another helpful tool for better interpreting your data.
Here are some essential analytics-related steps to cover:
- You’ve properly inserted your analytics code into your website.
- You’ve checked to make sure that it’s set up correctly with no formatting/coding issues.
- You’ve set up conversion goals.
- You’ve set up e-commerce tracking.
- You’ve set up event tracking.
- You’ve linked Google Analytics and AdWords if applicable.
Did you know that “the number of U.S. data breaches tracked in 2015 totaled 781?”
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, “this represents the second highest year on record since the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) began tracking breaches in 2005.”
Website security is no joke, especially for companies in the business sector, health/medical industry, and banking/financial/credit sector because these industries have reported the highest number of data breaches on average.
According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the catalyst for the majority of cyber attacks was hacking.
It’s important to remember that no one is completely exempt from an attack. If it can happen to big name companies like Sony and Target, it can definitely happen to a small startup.
I’m not trying to freak you out, but website security has never been more essential than today.
If your data is ever compromised, it can quickly open a can of worms. It can tarnish your reputation, lead to costly downtime, and even result in costly penalties from the government.
Some specific points you’ll want to check off include the following:
- You’re running your site on a secure host.
- You have a business continuity plan in the event of system downtime.
- You’ve made sure that your website is properly backed up in case of data loss.
- Your site utilizes a secure login system.
- All passwords are stored in a secure location.
- You’ve made it so that users are denied entry after a certain number of login attempts. You can use a WordPress plugin like Login LockDown for this.
- You haven’t shared login information with unwanted third parties.
- You’ve instructed team members to not share sensitive information through unprotected channels such as unencrypted email.
- Login pages are fully encrypted.
- You’ve protected your site against Denial of Service (DoS) attacks. This is a common type of attack that hackers use. Although it’s nearly impossible to prevent these types of attacks altogether, utilizing a Cloud mitigation provider can help dramatically.
- You’ve implemented a secure payment processing system that will protect financial information of your customers.
- You’ve created a plan to continually test your website security.
This checklist should serve as a way to foolproof the process of launching your startup’s website. By having a systematized sequence of steps to follow, you’ll know for sure you’re not missing any important details.
Once it’s actually time to launch, you can rest easy, knowing your visitors will have the best experience possible.
Your site will load quickly and have plenty of aesthetic appeal; visitors will be able to navigate your site with ease; and security won’t be an issue.
When it’s all said and done, you can keep visitors on your site longer, efficiently move them through the sales funnel, and, most importantly, maximize your conversion rate.
Which elements do you think are the most important to address when launching a new website?