One of the mistakes we may make in developing a new website is not having a launch plan. Taking the time to develop a launch plan and an accompanying checklist allows you to make sure all of the necessary things are in place prior to making your website live.
What to Do Before You Launch
Try to think of your website launch as an event. After all, you’ve put in hours of hard work to brand, design, develop, and create content for your website.
To help you prepare your website for the launch event, here are a few things to consider.
1. Have a Launch Date and Stick to It
It’s ideal to have a specific date and time for your newest project to go live on the web. Sit down and think of when you want to unveil your website to the public. Then work towards making that deadline.
To accomplish this goal, you should:
- Write down your launch date.
- Write down the major tasks that need to occur by working your way backwards from the launch date to the very first thing you should do.
- Break down major tasks into minor tasks.
- Put these tasks into a task management application such as Podio, Asana, Remember The Milk, etc.
Knowing when you want to launch your website and having the accompanying tasks outlined will help you stay focused towards achieving your launch date.
2. Set Your Launch Goals for New Visitors
On launch day, your aim should be simple: have traffic coming to your website. Ideally, you don’t want to launch your website and have no one reading your content and sharing your URL.
Of course, if your website is new, having lots of traffic will take time to grow. Therefore, you should target these launch goals and allow your new visitors to do as many of these steps as possible:
- Read your content (i.e. a well written viral piece).
- Subscribe to your email list.
- Share your content and website with others.
- Engage on your website and leave comments.
- Get excited about future content.
If you can allow your visitors to accomplish as many of these steps as possible, then you’ll create an impression that will keep them coming back for more.
3. Have a Well Designed Website
A well designed website that’s clean and easy to navigate is what you should aim for. Your website should also make it easy for your visitors to read your content, share your content, and subscribe to your email list.
Make sure you have branding – tagline, logo, etc. – that gives your website an identity. It should explain to new visitors why you have created the website and the products/services you want to convey.
Most importantly, you should make sure your website is responsive. More people are using mobile devices as their primary method for viewing the internet, so plan for the mobile user experience by making your website responsive for various screen resolutions.
4. Create Content that Will Be Live on Day One
If your website has a blog, spend some time crafting multiple high quality articles that will be live on day one of launch day. A single blog post just won’t be sufficient.
Ideally, you’ll want to have one viral piece of content that you can promote heavily. This piece doesn’t have to be a novella, but the content should be substantial in terms of quality and usefulness.
There are two main methods to go about creating viral content: the expert round-up post and the ultimate resource piece.
The Expert Round-Up
An expert round-up piece is a post that comprises answers to a specific question that experts in your chosen field have answered. You can create the expert round-up piece by doing the following:
- Determine the most important question that your target audience wants answered.
- Email experts in your niche and ask them to answer that specific question.
- Compile all of the answers into a single blog post.
The Ultimate Resource
The ultimate resource post comprises a highly detailed guide on how to do something specific. An example of this is the post you’re reading right now.
Your website can contain several of these ultimate resource guides that cover a variety of topics in your area of expertise. When starting out, you should pick a topic that is appropriate for your target audience.
The ultimate resource should be lengthy and extremely detailed. These types of posts will involve a lot of research and writing, but the work can definitely pay off in the end.
Your viral article should standout above all other pieces of content, and you’ll want to use it as a promotional tool on day one.
If you plan to write both types of viral content, only publish one for launch day. You’ll want to hold the other viral article back for future promotion after your website goes live.
Other Content Types
You’ll need other types of content, primarily pillar articles or evergreen content. While your viral articles might also be evergreen, there are other types of articles that you can write.
Here are three different variations:
- Case Studies and How-To Content: This type of content consists of examples (experiences and results) from the real world and allows your visitors to gain new insight.
- Analytical Content: This type of content appeals to those in your audience who are all about analytics, reasoning, and logic; they’re all about the data and numbers.
- Theoretical Content: This type of content appeals to those in your audience who are all about intuition, emotion, design, and theory.
Taking the time to create these various content types will help to build your credibility and establish your presence in your specific field of expertise.
5. Create Your 30-Second Pitch
Something else you’ll want to do is gather a list of potential contacts to inform that your website is going live. Most people have limited patience, so make sure you have your pitch nailed down to a few seconds. In effect, you should create something similar to the 30-second elevator pitch.
If you can’t pitch your website in 30 seconds or less and it doesn’t sound like a no-brainer for those you are pitching to, then you’re not ready to launch.
As a result, you should spend a significant amount of time crafting your pitch and determining the right language to use. This process will help you figure out your tagline and the website copy you’ll want to use.
Most importantly, make your pitch quick — really quick. Even though we are calling it a 30-second pitch, you should shoot for less. You have a small window online to make a first impression before people leave and turn their attention elsewhere. In the case of an email, you have even less time before people determine if your website is worth their time.
The Pre Launch Checklist
As you’re finishing up the design and development of your website, you may not have everything tested and in place before making the website live. This is where a website checklist can come in handy and help you make sure everything is “complete” and ready for launch:
- HTML/CSS passed validation.
- All website links tested. You can use the W3C link checker.
- Placeholder/dummy text removed.
- All placeholder images replaced with legal-to-use images.
- All pages have content and free from spelling/grammatical errors.
- The page formatting is appropriate on all pages.
- The footer includes a copyright statement with the appropriate year.
- The favicon displays correctly (retina included).
- The 404 page exists.
- A print stylesheet exists and tested.
- Open Graph tags included across the website (including images where possible).
- All social media accounts integrated and linking to correct URLs.
4. Accessibility and Compliance
- Semantic headings and structure used.
- All images use appropriate/accompanying ALT text.
- The website meets the appropriate level of WCAG compliance.
- Associated labels used for all form controls.
- Color contrast tested.
- The website accessibility checked with WAVE and issues resolved.
- The website is PCI compliant (if storing and processing credit cards).
- The web pages announce if the website stores cookies (required in some countries).
5. Analytics and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Relevant analytics/tracking tools (e.g. Google Analytics, Matomo, etc.) installed.
- Relevant IP addresses excluded from analytics tracking.
- Meta data included.
- All page titles are unique.
- Page titles are descriptive and SEO friendly.
- H1 elements used for page titles (only one H1 element per page).
- All URLs are clean and descriptive.
- XML sitemap added to the website’s root directory.
- Robots.txt file added to the website’s root directory.
- The website is accessible by search engines.
- 301 redirects for the existing website prepared and in place.
- Necessary fonts, weights, and character sets installed.
- Images optimized.
- GZIP compression enabled.
- Caching/CDN incorporated into the website as required.
- The website tested with Google PageSpeed Insights and optimized accordingly.
- The logo links to the index page.
- The forms passed a validation check after submitting unusual information in your form fields.
- The website search functions correctly.
- All required fields tested.
- The forms tested and process correctly.
- Email marketing platform (e.g. AWeber, MailChimp, etc.) and other relevant third-party integrations configured and tested.
8. Website Rendering
- The website displays and functions correctly in Chrome/Firefox/Microsoft Edge/Safari.
- The website displays and functions correctly on mobile devices.
- Secure areas of the website locked down and not accessible by search engines.
- The default CMS username/login URL changed.
- The default CMS password changed to a secure, strong password.
- SSL certificate requested.
The Post Launch Checklist
Now that your website has passed the pre-launch checklist, it’s time to check a few post launch areas:
- The webfonts integrated and working correctly on the live website.
- The images, media, and links reference live URLs.
- The website is visible to search engines.
- SSL certificates successfully installed.
- 301 redirects are in place and working correctly.
- Analytics integrated into the website.
- The website URL submitted to Google and other search engines.
- A new sitemap.xml generated and uploaded to the root directory of the website.
- The website added to Google Webmaster tools and the sitemap submitted.
- Database backup strategy (for WordPress or websites running a database) is in place.
- The latest version of the code pushed to a version control system (e.g. Git, Subversion, etc.).
Launching a website can be tedious and sometimes stressful. However, using comprehensive checklists will help your launch day be as error free as possible.
What to Do After You Launch
After your website is live, there are a number of things you should do:
1. Email the List You’ve Built
Remember the 30-second pitch you spent time crafting? It’s time to email this list of potential contacts you’ve identified.
Be sure to send an individual email to your contact and use their name in the email. Most people can easily spot an “email blast” that feels like a form email. They are more likely to ignore your email completely and delete it. However, if you’re using their name, you’re likely to hold their attention longer.
2. Thank Those Who Have Helped You
While some of us are capable of doing it all, most of us have probably had some help along the way. Even if you had someone proofread your content or test the website on their devices, you should compose a quick email and thank them.
If people are sharing your content or URL on Twitter, you should send a response and thank them.
3. Reply to Every Comment
If you have traffic coming your way on launch day and visitors leave comments, respond to each person. This shows that you’re present and active on the website.
4. Continue to Produce High Quality Content
You’ll want to capitalize on your new and noteworthy status as long as possible. The absolute best way to do that is to continue to write more high quality content. If you wrote another viral piece that you’ve held on to, release it and promote it heavily. And then do it all over again.