So you’re ready to launch your new website? That’s awesome! When launching your website, there’s a lot of things you MUST do in order to give your website the best chance of success. Some of these things will help your SEO, others will help you manage your website. All of them should be done as soon as you can.
When I owned my Digital Agency, we ran through a list of tasks every time we launched a website to make sure nothing was missed, and it’s this exact list I’d like to share with you.
This list applies to all websites, regardless of software so – whether you’re using WordPress, Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, or have custom-built your site from scratch – bookmark this page, and remember to come back and run through this list every time you launch a website. You won’t regret it.
1. Check Your Website for Dead Links
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t check their websites properly before launching them. A dead link is a link that leads nowhere – whether that’s because of a typo or because you changed the page URL during development – and they’re a lot more common than you’d think. Dead links will hold back your SEO performance and are an easy fix, so it’s a great place to start.
If your website is small, it’s easy to check – simply go to each page and click on all of the links (remember to check the header and footer too). I like to hold down Ctrl (Windows) or Command (Mac) so each page opens in a new tab, making it quick and easy. When you find a 404 error page, you know to go and fix the link.
If your website is larger, you might benefit from an automatic Broken Link Checker, which will do all the hard work for you. Here are some tools that will do this for free:
- Dr. Link Checker (will check entire site, up to 1,500 links)
- Broken Link Check (will check up to 3,000 pages for free)
Be careful using Broken Link plugins in WordPress – these are great, but will often add unnecessary load on your server, especially if left running in the background. I prefer to offload tasks like this to one of the free tools above.
2. Check Your Website for Spelling Mistakes
It’s the small details that make a website truly professional – and spelling mistakes are a sure way to look amateur. And also easily fixed.
I prefer to leave this up to the robots, because it’s way too easy to miss obvious spelling mistakes, especially on larger sites. Give one of these tools a try:
Remember to take the list of ‘typos’ with a grain of salt – some of them may be legitimate words. It’s just good to check.
3. Check your Images for ALT Tags
There are many benefits to using the ALT tags on your images. Back in the day, everyone would talk about how important it is for SEO – which is still true. Even if Google is getting better at categorising images based on their content, written text is still the best so you should put alternative descriptions for all your images (where feasible… if you have thousands of images, just do the important ones).
However, this reason misses the most important point. Not everyone can see images. Blind people browse the internet using screen readers, and ALT descriptions are important to describe the content of your images. Especially when those images contain useful information.
Here’s a tool to quickly check which of your images are missing ALT tags:
Now some people might consider this step unnecessary, and they’d be right. Your website isn’t going to stop working just because some images don’t have ALT tags. But it’s another easy fix and will boost both your SEO and the lives of those who struggle to see, so you should definitely get onboard.
Side note: I was once contacted by a blind gentleman who wanted to thank me for putting the extra effort into my websites. He had noticed that one of my clients’ sites was particularly easy for him to use, so went out of his way to track me down as the developer and say thanks. It was very kind of him to do so, and brought home just how important these small details are.
4. Add a Favicon
Here’s an easy one. Add a favicon – this is the little icon that appears in a browser tab or bookmark item. It should be square and unique to your website, and helps to identify your website when people have multiple tabs open.
What are the benefits? It will help with SEO, and general polish.
Most website platforms make it easy to add a Favicon. If you’re not sure how, drop a comment below and we’ll be glad to assist. Remember to make sure the background is transparent, and that many computers have both a light and a dark mode, so you will want to avoid icons that can’t be seen against white or dark grey backgrounds.
5. Check your Loading Speed
This one actually encompasses quite a few things. A quick website is a good website, and if your site takes too long to load you will be penalised by both Google and your website visitors.
I recommend running your website through a couple of different tools to test loading times and see where you can improve. Try using both:
Common problems include:
- Images not sized properly
- Images not compressed properly
- Server takes too long to load
- No caching
- Too many additional scripts/apps/plugins
- Slow/cheap hosting
Soon we will be writing a full article on how to improve your website speed and what to look for. Until then, if you have any questions please feel free to leave them below and we’ll be happy to help.
6. Make Your Website Secure
There’s no reason why your website shouldn’t be secure in 2020. SSL certificates can be issued for free in many instances, and there are numerous benefits to having the green padlock. It will give your SEO a boost, and it will encrypt information sharing between your visitors and your server. Of course there are other factors to take into account too if security is a priority, but the green padlock is a great start. And finally, it looks good. Customers are more likely to trust a website that has the green padlock over one that doesn’t.
Most systems like Shopify / SquareSpace / Wix offer SSL for free. As do many hosting providers. Check whether your website has the green padlock, and if not, get on it!
7. Install Google Analytics
How will you ever know if your website is working if you don’t have statistics? Many website systems come with their own inbuilt statistics, but none of them compare to the absolute monster that is Google Analytics. The ability to segment and analyse your data in Analytics is unparalleled. Even if you don’t need that info now, you will need it in the future. And you’ll want to look back and see how your website has changed over time – trust me.
So you need to install Google Analytics as soon as possible. Preferably before you launch, so you can capture that all-important launch data.
It’s really easy – simply go to https://analytics.google.com, (log in), fill in your details to set up an account, and add the tracking code to your website.
Most SAAS website builders (like Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, etc) have already built this into their systems, and you can quickly and easily add your Google Analytics tracking.
In WordPress, the best method of adding this code will depend on your theme. Ideally you want to place it just before the closing </body> tag, at the end of the page. Failing that, you can actually place it anywhere in the code without issue. There are plugins dedicated to this sort of thing (e.g. Monster Insights), however I prefer to avoid using plugins unnecessarily, as they can slow down your site. Try editing your theme files or adding it in your theme settings if possible.
Important Things to Remember
- Once you’ve set up your Analytics property, remember to enable Demographic tracking (under Property Settings) so that you can see data on age/gender/interests.
- Link your Google Analytics property to your Google Search Console property (also under Property Settings). Instructions to set up GSC follow.
- If you’re running an eCommerce store, enable eCommerce and Enhanced Ecommerce Reporting (under eCommerce Settings).
8. Set up Google Search Console & Submit a Sitemap
While Google Analytics tracks events on your website, GSC tracks events that happen in Google before people get to your website. This includes things such as how your website appears in Google results, its average position, how many impressions it had (i.e. people who saw your site in results, regardless of whether they clicked it or not). This information is invaluable in assessing your websites performance.
One of the best parts of GSC is the ability to submit a Sitemap to Google, which is a document containing a list of all the pages on your website. This helps Google to find out about your website and start showing it in Search results as quickly as possible.
Simply go to https://search.google.com/search-console to set up your property. You’ll need to verify ownership of your website (this can be done via Google Analytics, or by adding a TXT record to your domain).
When setting up Google Search Console, I like to set my websites up multiple times – using both the Domain Property Type, and the URL Prefix Property type. ‘Domain’ is a new feature which encompasses all potential versions of your site (www and non-www, http and https), however this doesn’t yet link with Google Analytics. As a result, I suggest setting up the URL Prefix property for your main website (which should be https, with or without the www) and linking this to Google Analytics (Under Property Settings > Adjust Search Console in your Analytics account).
Once that’s done, remember to submit your sitemap using GSC’s Sitemap tool. Most website builders come with sitemap features inbuilt. Here are instructions for Shopify, SquareSpace and Wix:
If you’re using WordPress, a sitemap is included by default as of WP version 5.5 (your sitemap will be at www.yourdomain.com/wp-sitemap.xml). However, we recommend using a dedicated SEO plugin like Yoast for greater control. To submit these sitemaps to Google, simply paste your sitemap address into GSC.
If you’re having trouble finding your sitemap, have a look at the docs for the website builder or plugin you’re using. It’s likely to be one of the following – try loading these in your website browser to see which works for you:
That’s it, for now…
Of course, there are many more things you should do when launching a website, but we didn’t want the list to get too daunting. Quickly, here are some of those other things for you to check off:
- Test your website on a wide range of devices (computer, tablet, iPhone, Android, Mac, Windows) and browsers (Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox) to make sure it works for everyone.
- Write SEO Page Titles & Meta Descriptions.
- List yourself in relevant directories (e.g. Google My Business).
- Link your website to your social media (Facebook & Instagram).
- Test your contact forms to make sure they work.
- If running an online shop, place a test order to make sure it works properly, payments go through, and you’re happy with the automated confirmation emails that get sent to customers.
If you’ve found this list helpful, drop us a comment below. Or if you have your own suggestions for things to add, we’d love to hear them!