Launching a website is one of the toughest and most stressful projects even for a seasoned digital marketer. You spend a lot of time on planning, designing, development, testing and so on, just to make sure you don’t overlook any important details.
With the countless things you need to do before you launch the site, there’s a good chance you will forget some critical aspects of the website in the rush to get it live.
To make you sure nothing is missed, create a checklist before you launch. Here’s a short list of critical tasks a brand must do pre-launch.
1. Implement redirects
A redirect is a way to send both users and search engines to a different URL from the one they originally requested. This is a critical to maintain SEO value. Not all your previous visitors will know you have a new website.
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If you have changed your URL, those who bookmarked your old website will not be able to find you. To help those who still go to your old domain, instruct your web developer to make sure your traffic is automatically redirected to your new page and not a “Page Not Found” error.
The developer needs to use an HTML tag like this:
<meta http-equiv=“refresh” content=“0; url=http://example.com/” />
In time, as search engines update their databases, the new domain will pick up its own search results.
2. Check title and meta descriptions are in place
Although it’s a simple thing, many still forget to do this. Make sure every page has a title tag before you make it available to the public – and be sure the title tags are unique.
Also, don’t forget your meta descriptions.
A meta description is still a common way for search engine spiders to understand what the page is about. It also provides visitors with a sneak peak of the page content from the results.
Here’s how meta description is displayed on Google search:
3. Transfer any important content from your old site
Unless you are starting a new business and no longer need your old blogs, case studies or other content, you’ll need to include in your pre-launch plan the transfer of your important content to your new site.
This task can be time-consuming depending on how much content you need to transfer so plan accordingly. This process is easier if you are using same platform (e.g. WordPress).
Don’t forget to check that you have transferred all the content you need before you permanently delete your old database.
4. Design clever 404 pages
A 404 page is used to alert your visitors the page they are trying to find no longer exists or is still under construction. It’s an eyesore but it’s often unavoidable.
If you need to serve a 404 (page not found) error to a visitor, make it fun or friendly. Create a custom page to help your visitor find something else of use, even if it wasn’t what they were looking for (see the Airbnb sample page below). You can also distract your visitors with an impressive visual and make them laugh.
See examples of cleverly designed 404 pages:
5. Remove ‘do not follow’ tags or ‘no follow’ links
When a developer is creating your site they usually install ‘do not follow’ tags on the staged version of the site. These tags tell search engines to ‘move right along’ and to not index your pages.
After all, you don’t want users finding a half-baked version of your new site.
When your new site is ready to be launched and transferred to the live server you need to make sure that the ‘do not follow’ tags are removed.
Otherwise you will literally be invisible to search engines and won’t get listed in the search results.
There’s a tonne of things that can go wrong during and after launching a website. If it happens to you, don’t panic. Get to work right away before your mistakes doom your SEO ranking or drive your visitors away.
Getting help from an online marketing expert will ensure that your new site gets the eyeballs it deserves.
Since starting her outsourced national marketing consultancy Marketing Angels in 2000, Michelle Gamble has helped hundreds of SMEs get smarter marketing. Michelle helps businesses find more effective ways to grow their brands and businesses.