These days a business is almost not a business without a website.
Your website is the first place anyone will look for information about your company. Designing a website has never been easier. You can pay a website designer or use a webpage builder with a pre-designed template. No matter which method you use to create your website there are a number of crucial steps to take before and after you launch your site. A good website is not just one that looks pretty, but is also easy to be found and is functional for the user.
Before you launch you’ll need to cover things like SEO, content, 301 redirects, 404 pages, functionality checks, cross browser and responsive checks, and a little thing called a favicon. This may sound like gobbledygook right now but by the time you run through the checklist below you’ll be on top of it.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
If you want your business to be found via search engines, then you need to pay attention to SEO.
The following things that will help you with SEO:
- Keywords – Research your target keywords. What keywords do you want your website to rank for? Also, focus on long tail keywords.
- Content – Once you have identified your target keywords, you should create content around them. If you are targeting 100 keyword phrases, you should create at least 100 pages, one page for each keyword.
- Page titles – This is the snippet that shows up when someone has found you. It’s a concise – no more than 70 characters – summary of the page content. Every page on your site should have one.
- Meta descriptions – These are the HTML tags that summarize and describe your page to search engines. This helps show if the content being sought is on a particular page.
- ALT tags – Put simply this is a text alternative for an image. Search engines can’t ‘see’ images so this is a way of translating your image so it can find them. Add these to each image on your site.
Sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not always done, nor is easy to spot mistakes in your own work. You see what you think should be on the page. So have someone else go through it as well. Fresh eyes will spot things you won’t. Another great tip is to read aloud.
85% of a prospect’s judgement is made by the first impression.
Don’t let spelling or grammatical errors create the wrong impression about your business.
As you proofread your content consider the following:
- Make sure you are rested. A fresh set of eyes is more likely to catch errors.
- Get another set of eyes. If you get the help of a proofreader, you will get better results.
- Read your content aloud.
- Correct grammatical and spelling errors throughout your website.
- Fix punctuation mistakes.
- Create a uniform layout throughout your site.
- It might help you catch an error if you print out a page to proofread it.
- Create your own proofreading checklist.
- Don’t assume that your spellchecker will fix errors.
Before going live you want to make sure that the all the links are working correctly. So check, and double-check, internal and external links, social media icon links, and that your logo redirects visitors to your home page.
Consider the following to test your website’s functionality:
- Navigation – Are your menus intuitive? How many clicks does it take to get to the most important content on your website? Do you have a search bar above the fold?
- Readability – Use simple language. Avoid insider terms. Use the second person (you) to really talk to your readers.
- Fonts – Use fonts that are easy to read. Don’t use more than two or three different fonts.
- Accessibility – Make sure that your website is readable for those with disabilities.
- Speed – Your website should be loading fast. There are no rules for this, but anything over 3 seconds is considered slow.
This is the page that lets visitors know that while the server can be found the page can’t. It appears when someone clicks on a broken or dead link or mistypes a URL. A 404 page is customizable and provides a great opportunity to send the visitor back to your homepage in a fun and friendly way.
This is a status code that tells search engines that a page has permanently moved. If you have any URLs that have changed, then you’ll need to make sure there are 301 redirects in place to take your visitors to the new location.
Cross browser and responsive checks
Think devices and browsers – is your site mobile responsive? Does it work on all the major browsers? Does it work on Android and iOS? These all need to be tested prior to your website launch.
Small in size, but big in impact, a favicon is what visitors see on the tab when your website is open. It’s also known as a bookmark or tab icon. It makes for easy identification of your site when a number of tabs are open. For consistent brand recognition, using your logo is a good option.
Now that your website is live, there are a few more steps you’ll need to take.
Google Analytics (GA)
You’ll want to track and monitor traffic to your site. Creating a Googly Analytics account will help you to do just this. To keep the data pure, you might want to exclude internal traffic by blocking your IP addresses.
Google Webmasters Tool
To attract search engine traffic, you’ll want to set up a webmasters tool account. This can be done with Google, Bing, and Yahoo. An account will provide you with data about what’s happening with your website, which in turn helps you make decisions about managing your website.
No index, No follow tags
A NoIndex tag stops a search engine from showing this on search page results.
A NoFollow tag lets the search engine robots know not to follow any links on the page.
You should review these tags and add or remove as appropriate.
Heat map tracking
When it comes to designing a website, it’s not just about what you visitors will view, it’s also about how you will see them.
Installing heat map tracking will help you understand more about your visitors’ behavior. It allows you to see how far they scroll down a page or where they click.
Now you’ve done the hard yards, you can sit back and relax! Just kidding. If you want a website that works for your business, you can never sit back and relax. There is always lots to do, so roll up your sleeves.
photo credit: Trevor Suelzle
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