T-minus three days until your new website is up and running. Undoubtedly, you and your site developer have put a lot of thought into the graphic design, site mapping and link structure. If you are focused on SEO (and who isn’t?), your text is probably rich with keywords and your page titles are SERP-friendly. In the creative, complex process of developing a new website, there are often a handful of critical issues that get overlooked in the pre-launch countdown.
Don’t make the mistake of putting these core steps into the bells and whistles category. They are every bit as important as an attractive design and optimized content to make your new website the optimal online vessel to attract, engage and elevate interactions with your target audience and search engines.
Make Sure a Website Analytics Program is Installed and Active
Having your new site set up from the get-go with a reporting program such as Google Analytics lets you see what is happening in real time so you can assess site activity and functionality and make any needed adjustments. In addition to being able to monitor who is coming to your site and where they are coming from, you can gather information about site visit length, bounce rate, page views and other key data. Most websites will need some fine tuning once they’ve gone live and analytics can help you make those determinations and plot future strategy.
Determine If Your Hosting Account Will Meet the Demands of Your Website
If you are launching a new website, you need to make sure that your existing hosting program can support your new site. Particularly if you are adding new features. Your current web host may not be the best choice for the new site in terms of bandwidth, SSL ability, mobile site capabilities or other site needs. Your hosting account needs to deliver superior functionality, reliability and speed to allow your site to operate at peak potential.
Verify That Your Email Program will not be Disrupted by Your Website Launch
Before your site launches, you will want to review your email program to makes sure your email won’t be interrupted or deleted at site launch. Oftentimes email programs are hosted separately from your website, and you want to make sure if this is the case, the email program is synced with the new site so that it doesn’t crash or disappear when the new website goes live.
Create 301 Page Redirects in Your .htaccess File for All Relevant Pages
In order to make sure people and search engines can find existing pages that are being moved to your new site, your developer will need to create 301 Redirects in your server’s .htaccess (hypertext access) file. This needs to be done for every relevant web page or you run the risk of dead links, diminished quality of your search results and increased bounce rates.
Install Webmaster Tools to Your New Website to Monitor Site Activity
Google and Bing have webmaster tools that let you get a better idea of the health of your website. Much like analytics, having them live on your site at launch lets you monitor site activity and check for backlinks and indexed pages. Using webmaster tools allows you to submit a site map to the search engines just prior to launch. This will let you track how your site is being indexed over time. Your webmaster tools will give you the ability to see crawl errors and make any needed fixes. If you already have one or more webmaster tools accounts, you will need to add and verify your new website in your existing accounts.
Don’t Lose Valuable Backlinks: Update Incoming Links from Other Sites
If other sites are linking to your site, when you launch your new website, you don’t want to lose those valuable links. While 301 Redirect may resolve the issue for the reader, ideally you will want to contact the sites linking to you with the new page URLs and ask them to update their links to maintain optimal search engine rankings.
Update Your Adwords and Advertising Programs with New Website Links
If you are running Adwords or other advertising programs, any links in ads pointing to pages on your existing site should be updated to reflect the new website before it goes live. This offers a measure of protection against link failure and keeps you from wasting your ad spend.