15 Things to Check When Launching a New Website
Through an internal web design specialist or through paying a web design agency; launching a new website is a great experience. However, there are many ways this can go wrong. We have collected a list of elements that need to be checked when launching a new website to give you the best chance at success.
Checking these elements for your own site before or soon after it has gone live will greatly help you in the long run. These aspects will not only help avoid your site from having errors; it will also aid in your site’s SEO. Some are required to be done by a web designer; others need to be completed by SEO specialists and copywriters.
1. Website URLs are working correctly
When setting a website live, one of the initial issues might be errors appearing with some of the URLs. Depending on the size of your site, there are two ways you can check your URLs. If you have a small site that has a limited number of pages, you can check the site’s URLs yourself. One way to do this is to download a desktop tool called Xenu. The other method which is used by very large site’s is by using online and downloadable tools. There are many tools that give you this ability and Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a great example.
When checking your site’s URLs, you will want to be on the lookout for any URLs that respond with any of the following:
Client errors (4xx)
Server errors (5xx)
302 Redirections (3xx)
If you do come across these issues, you will need to contact your web designer so that they can get these fixed.
2. Page Speed Checks
Now that you have checked that your site’s URLs are working correctly; it’s time to check your page speed. Your website needs to be quick to load and captivate your potential customers. If they are stuck staring at a loading screen while your site loads; they will be highly likely to leave. Long loading times can be caused by a variety of factors. Un-optimised images, too many images, videos and on-page coding are just some of the reasons behind long load times.
Google have supplied a tool that enables website owners the chance to check their site’s page speed. PageSpeed Insights will give your site a rating for both desktop and mobile platforms along with suggestions on what you can do to improve your site’s speed. One of the key factors that catch businesses out is the lack of optimised images. Utilising tools like this is how you determine what you should target to improve your site.
3. Mobile Friendly
We have recently covered why you should have a responsive website in another article. In that we covered why business owners should move over to a mobile friendly and responsive website. With an ever-increasing number of people using mobile phones and other mobile devices; having a website that can be viewed on any device ensures you reach as many people as possible.
As there will be more and more people looking at websites on their mobile phone, it is greatly beneficial to have a website that can be viewed on them. This does not necessarily mean having a static site (the same site appears on both desktop and mobile platforms). Instead you would need a responsive website that changes the layout and appearance of the site to appear correctly on the screen it is being viewed on.
This can be easily tested as well. Either yourself or someone else can simply view your site on multiple devices to see how the site appears. This can even be tested on a desktop computer! By simply re-sizing the browser window you are viewing your site on, you should see your site’s appearance alter slightly. This will keep changing until you make the window as small as what a mobile phone would be where the site will then change to a mobile view.
Being both a ranking factor and an enticing thing to see when looking at a site; going responsive is one of the best decisions you would make if you haven’t done so already.
4. W3C HTML and CSS Checks
This element isn’t as important as it used to be in terms of your rankings. However, it will still help your site if the code behind it was clean and easy to follow. Removing any HTML and CSS errors is an easy way to ensure you meet the W3 Consortium (the organisation that issues the HTML and CSS standards) guidelines. It is very simple to do these checks as well. It does not require in-depth code knowledge to analyse the code piece by piece. Instead, using online tools such as the HTML Validator and CSS Validator is a quick and easy way to do this.
It will analyse your website and give you feedback on any errors that your site has. Either that or it will give you a green box telling you that you have no errors; which is always a nice thing to see! If you come across any errors, you need to talk to your web designers for these errors to be cleared if they are drastic. Not all errors will have negative impacts on your site however, but they will be able to guide you on this.
5. Install Google Analytics & Set-Up Search Console
Google Analytics is a great tool when looking at collecting information on visitors, users, devices used and a lot more for your website. To implement Google Analytics into your site, you need to have a Google account and then sign into Analytics. From here, you access the Admin section where you can add an account and then create the property which is the site itself. From here you go to Tracking Info and then to the sub-area called Tracking Code. In here, there will be a tracking ID which will need to be implemented into your site (the way to do this is dependant on your CMS).
Installing Google Analytics into your site means that you get to collect information as soon as your site is live. This gives you historic data as to how your traffic was when the site went live to what it is like a few months or years later. Tracking this data will determine what people are searching for to find you and the devices they are using. It tracks a lot of information that is very helpful when determining the success of your website.
Setting up Search Console is an important part as well. This is still done in the same area as setting up your site in Google Analytics. You will need to stay in the Admin Section, access Property Settings and then click on the Adjust Search Console button.
6. The Site Is Crawlable
A key question that an SEO specialist should be asking is, ‘is your site crawlable?’ If crawlers cannot easily access your site, they will not be able to give a verdict on how well your site should rank. This goes for the pages that have been set to not be indexed or followed as well. When Google or any other search engine is crawling your site, it will ignore anything that it is told to leave alone. This means that if any of your important content is set to not be followed or indexed; you are losing some valuable information which can greatly impact your rankings.
Using Screaming Frog SEO Spider, you will be able to see what pages and resources are being blocked. There are sections in Response Codes which are called ‘Blocked by Robots.txt’ and ‘Blocked Resource’. This will detail what resources and pages on the site are being blocked from crawling.
7. Social Media
Social media is a very good way to have a personal connection to your customers. Many people spend a lot of time browsing through their social media and will follow businesses they like or if they want to be kept up-to-date. Social media is a great avenue for people to be able to find out more on your business, but also get in contact. Someone can find you on Facebook and end up purchasing from you in future if they like what you are doing.
This doesn’t have to be sorted out by a social media manager. Instead, utilise a copywriter so they can create a unique biography and when uploading anything to the social media pages; they can add small and concise descriptions. Combining social media and a new website will give your business new life and give your potential customers the chance to find you and stay in touch.
Duplicate content has been the downfall for many website owners. It has many forms and can have a large negative effect on any website. From wasted crawl budget, link dilution and a drop in your rankings; you will get affected in a variety of ways. There is not only one version of duplicate content either. This does not only mean the same content pasted over the site, it also includes multiple website URLs and duplicate meta fields.
A part of setting a website live if to determine what the favoured domain is. If you don’t, it is possible that search engines will crawl multiple versions of your site; finding duplicate content and giving your site a negative review. Once the preferred domain has been identified, you also need to be careful of similar or duplicate content. This is a primary issue with e-commerce sites that have many products in the same product tree. Every product, no matter how similar they are, needs a unique description.
Lastly, the meta fields also need to be unique. This includes the title and description to ensure that every page is different. The title is a quick way to describe what the page is about. The description goes further in depth on what the page is about which still needs to be unique, even if the page is similar to another. Removing all variations of duplication is a quick and easy method to ensure you don’t get penalised for it. Online tools such as Siteliner and downloadable tools such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider are great ways to check your site for duplicate content.
A way to ensure that your information comes across professionally and effectively is by ensuring there are no spelling or grammar mistakes. Through reading through the content yourself or by getting other people to, it will ensure that most if not all of the spelling and grammar mistakes are detected and corrected. There are even online tools and proofreading applications which enable you to run through the content of your site. Grammarly is one such tool.
Grammarly is a free tool available to be added to Google Chrome as an extension or can be downloaded as a windows application. It will enable you to then sign in and personalise Grammarly to your specific requirements and writing style. The tool starts off free, however it does have a premium version. This means the free version is limited to what it can do while the premium version offers a lot more. If you need a tool to proofread your content, the free version of Grammarly is still a great option.
Proofreading content gives your potential customers an easier time reading your content while also showing that you have respect for your visitors. You should be aiming to provide clear and quality content. This applies to social media as well. When posting online, your posts need to be easy to understand without spelling or grammar mistakes to give your potential customers a better image of your company. No one is perfect though so some might slip through; it doesn’t mean it is the end of the world!
10. URL Length
When creating a new page or adding a new article; you have to be careful with the length of the URL. They cannot be too long for multiple reasons. Not only will the length take someone a long time to type it in if someone was doing a direct search, it also takes a long time to track where the page leads. Imagine having a sub-page of a sub-page, which is under another sub-page below the main page. This can create a very long URL that is hard to track. To visualise, it would look like this:
Main Page - First Sub-Page - Second Sub Page - Third Sub Page
The URL would then look like this:
Reducing the number of sub-pages under a single area will serve you well in the long run. Especially as it will save the search engines time when crawling your website. This applies to blog posts and articles as well. The page title is often converted into the page slug which is what appears as the URL. Changing this so that the URL is shorter, yet still contains the necessary information it needs ensures that the URL is as short as possible.
11. Formatting and Page Structure
One of the worst sights when looking at a new website it too much information cluttered onto a single page. It becomes hard to read and is off-putting. Not only that, a potential customer won’t be able to easily find what they are looking for. Cluttered content is horrific to look at and will only have negative effects. Utilising page structure and formatting ensures that everything is where it should be in a clean and understandable format. To show what it would look like, we have removed all formatting and page structure from the beginning of this article. It looked like this:
Not very appealing is it?
This doesn’t only include using paragraphs to split up content or including borders around images. It also includes the placements and use of your header tags. Each page should have a H1 (header 1) unless if it is a one-page website which can have many. Following this should be H2s which can then have H3s and so on. An example of a good page structure would be like this:
Utilising a structure like this means that the content is placed where it can be easily read and identified. All the headers should be detailing a benefit or service the company provides so a potential customer can clearly understand what it is you do and why they should choose you. No matter if it is an article post or a new page for a website; utilising good page structure is key.
12. Keyword Research and Mapping
If you want your site to rank for certain keywords, you need to start with the most important part of any SEO campaign; keyword research. Choosing random phrases to rank for will not do. You should utilise your website’s content and pages to your advantage. Firstly, have a look at the structure of your website and the pages you have. From here, you will be able to identify keywords that you might want to target.
Often enough, you will have a series of pages on the different services or products you supply. Identifying these services, along with any that don’t have pages already is a great place to start. Roofing for example has a variety of different possible keywords. This is due to the many different types of roofing available. Flat roofing, felt roofing, asphalt roofing and GRP roofing are just some examples of the kind of keywords you can get from this.
Once you have made a list of keywords that you would like to target, it is best to map them to the right pages that would be best to optimise. For example, if you were to target ‘felt roofing’ as a keyword, you would want to map it to the Felt Roofing page on your website. Doing this ensures the right keywords are selected and that they are optimised on the right pages for the best benefit. Creating an SEO plan on future actions is great if you are considering a long-term SEO project.
13. Optimise Meta Fields and Content
When performing searches, people want to get the right information from you straight away. This is where the meta fields come in. They are the blue titles and grey text boxes which are seen on Google. Potential customers will want to get the right information from you straight away before they make the decision to click on your site.
Optimising the meta fields doesn’t only mean making them have the right keywords for SEO. Instead, it means ensuring that the content isn’t duplicated and that they contain the right information. Meta fields have a great impact on the decision process your customers make, but it also influences your SEO. Google utilises these fields to get information on the landing page (the page the user lands on when they click on the link).
There are different ways in which you can optimise meta fields. One such way is to remove duplicate content. Another is to go through every page and change the meta fields so they reflect the page they represent better. Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a tool that checks these fields for duplication; if they are too long or too short and if there are any that are missing.
14. Relevant and Valuable Content
Aggressive selling in your content will not work. It will just put people off. Pure promotion doesn’t do your business any good. You don’t want to sell yourself short either. Making sure that there is a balance between sales talk and advice or relevant information ensures it keeps peoples interest rather than them seeing a website that just says ’BUY NOW’. Utilising unique content with unique views and expert advice are just some ways to keep visitors interested.
Relevant and valuable content not only keeps peoples interest, but also ensures that the right message is given to your customers. If you offer a newsletter, you will want people to feel like they want to get updates from you. However, if your site has no reliable or valuable content on offer; they are highly likely not to bother.
15. User Experience Test
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Now, look at your website. Does it entice you? Does it load quickly? Can you view it on your phone? Are you able to find what you’re looking for quickly and navigate through the site easily? If you have answered no to any of them then your site isn’t as good as it should be. A large part of a website is its user experience. Giving a good experience for every user that accesses your site should be a priority.
Google are using user satisfaction as a possible ranking factor as well. If you are giving a bad experience, expect your website to suffer because of it. If your website is brand new, you won’t have to worry about past data such as bounce rates or session times. Instead, you will want to check if your site can be seen on mobile devices and loads quickly. If you have followed all the steps before this one, you are certain to give a much better user experience.
If you have gone through your website before or just after it has been launched, following the guidance and tips we have listed above; you are certain to have a better start in the online market. If you choose to ignore these, expect to see your competitors to go further than you and rank higher. Having a strong start to a new website launch is a great way to ensure your site does well in the long run. If you are in the process of getting a new website or are looking to start a new one; ensure that these steps are involved before your site goes live.
If your website doesn’t cover all these elements or if you are looking for a new responsive website; get in contact with us today.