Launching a website is an essential digital marketing strategy. Not only is it an opportunity to increase your exposure to those searching online, but they’re also a crucial touchpoint in the customer lifecycle for building trust and illustrating your unique value proposition (USP).
Your website will be the foundation of your online presence, which all your adverts, social media accounts and online interactions will point back to.
Before creating a site, you’ll need to choose a content management system (CMS) that can facilitate your design, content management and optimization needs. You could instead hire a web developer to create your site for you, but with this, there is a risk of losing control over the final product.
Learning to use a CMS gives you the ability to chop and change the content in the future and reduces the total cost of launching a new website.
An effective website will convince visitors that you can solve a problem or meet a need for them, especially if you’re a business. Of course, they will also want to learn about your brand, product or service. But, you will need to present the specific benefits of what you’re offering to provide a good customer experience (CX).
1. Choose a domain name
When choosing a domain name, make sure it’s relevant to your brand or product. Most businesses will just use their company name for their site domain, and we recommend you do the same.
When people search for you on Google (or any other search engine) you want to appear at the top of the first page. Using your company or brand name as the domain will be a primary indicator for search engines that you’re relevant to a user’s search term.
Try to avoid anything too gimmicky and always check that your company or product name doesn’t have some other intentional meaning when written as a single string.
We won’t include any example here (as some are a bit rude), but you can take a look at this list of the worst domain names to get an idea of what we mean.
It’s hard to recover from a bad domain name. Whilst you can rebrand and change it down the line, it will have some impact on your search engine rankings. Which loses you some of that vital exposure.
So, really take the time to think about what will work in the long run.
2. Create pages and content
Before you get started with your website content, you may want to throw up a pre-launch page that notifies visitors when you’ll be launching. The other benefit of a pre-launch page is that you can start generating a buzz for your site.
Consider including a countdown to your predicted launch date and either a sign-up form or a “Notify Me” call-to-action to start building a prospective userbase early.
Now it’s time to get writing your site content. You’ll want to focus on creating quality content that’s valuable in some way to your target audience. Value can come in many forms, but for the most part, you’ll be aiming to solve a problem for people, whether that’s through your product content or a “how to…” blog post.
Arguably, your homepage is the most important page, as it’s likely the first thing that people will see when they visit your site.
The first section of your homepage you should focus on should be the content that is above-the-fold (if you’ve not heard this term, it’s any content that appears on a page before a visitor scrolls).
Here’s a summary of what should place here:
Your logo should be at the top of the page to trigger immediate brand recognition for your visitors. The nav-menu will then allow visitors to get around your site and find other content that’s useful to them.
The headline should be a concise and persuasive paragraph of text that sums up your value proposition. Confirm to people why they’ve come to your site and convince them of why they should stay.
Your CTA will encourage visitors to take the next step in the sales funnel. You may want leads to fill out a registration form or send them over to your product page, whatever enables them to learn more about what you can offer.
Reviews and testimonials are essential to showing visitors you’re a trusted and user-tested site. This can be difficult to source when you’re creating a new site, but it’s definitely an element you should consider adding further down the line.
Then you’ll want some branded imagery or product pictures that visitors can reference whilst reading your text. All of this should be in line with your site design.
What you include below-the-fold will depend more on your industry and the specific service you provide/ But here are some general suggestions:
Landing pages are standalone pages with a singular purpose or “sell” for visitors. They’ll usually only include one CTA, and have content focussed on persuading visitors to take an action. For example, generate newsletter subscriptions or showcase a promotion.
Landing pages are targetted at leads in the middle of the funnel, where they just need that final push to convert.
The great thing about these pages is that you can use the entire space to encourage conversions, but they must still adhere to the same principles of above-the-fold content as your home page.
Before you launch, create as many landing pages that are essential for selling your product or service. Here are a few examples:
Blog posts allow you to build authority in your industry by sharing insights, news, articles and stories with your visitors. They’re useful for raising brand awareness, increasing organic traffic to your site and generating conversions.
Typically, your blog posts should be keyword focused to get ranked highly on search engines. Meaning users will easily be able to find you based on their search queries. But, you’ll also be creating blog posts for your existing customers and newsletter subscribers.
When you’re getting started, you might not have time to build a whole catalogue of high quality of blog posts. But you should set aside some time to create around 5 strong articles that will get you ranked for keywords that are relevant to your brand or product.
This will not only increase the overall visibility of your domain in search rankings but also allow you to easily link between your articles and web pages to create a clear site architecture.
CTAs are the linchpins in converting website visitors. Each of your pages should have at least one CTA that directs visitors to somewhere else on your site.
Their aim is to prompt people to take the next step and move them further down the funnel, whether it’s to fill out a form or make a purchase.
Here are some tips for writing CTAs:
An About page is essential for visitors who’ve stumbled across your site and want to learn more about you. It’s a great opportunity for you to build a strong brand image by sharing your story, messaging and mission.
You can use this space to convince prospects why they should trust in you and your company, so make it as personal as possible. Tell them about what got you started, who your team is and why you’re different from all the competition out there.
Your contact page will likely be the first point-of-contact with you for prospects, so don’t hide it away in your nav menu. Make it easily accessible and encourage visitors to get in touch.
Some basic content for your contact page is as follows:
3. Search engine optimization (SEO)
It’s no good writing all that content if people can’t find your site, so you need to ensure all your pages are optimized for search engines. SEO friendly content enables you to rank higher in search engine listings, which increases the visibility of your site in the digital space.
Increased visibility will mean more traffic to your site, which will be more opportunities for you to grow your customer base.
SEO is topic all of its own, so we won’t be able to cover all its aspects and applications in this article. But here are some of the basics for you to keep in mind when launching a new website.
These are words or phrases that search engine users use to find information on a topic. These search terms are usually specific to that user’s specific needs.
When you’re writing page content, you need to integrate these search terms into your text so that your page (or article) is more likely to be recommended by search engines for that query.
Typically, each page will focus on a primary keyword and then be enriched with a number of secondary keywords that are relevant to the primary one.
Your primary keyword should be used a few times in your content to show search engines you are relevant to that query. But don’t overdo it, keyword stuffing can make your content unreadable and doing so won’t be looked kindly upon by search engines.
You should also avoid using the same primary keyword on multiple pages, this is known as keyword cannibalization.
There are multiple tools you can use to aid you in keyword optimization. Niel Patel has created a free tool for finding keywords relevant to your target audience. If you’re using WordPress as your website designer, then you can use the Yoast SEO plugin (which has free and paid features).
If you’re looking for something more comprehensive and have some spare cash, take a look at SEM Rush. It has a host of tools for finding keywords, checking your content for optimization issues and tracking what performs best on your site. We’ve used it for a number of years and couldn’t be happier with the service.
Meta-data is intended to provide extra information to help search engines rank your webpage. The most common meta tags are <title> (page title) and <description> (meta description) is placed in the <head> (header) section of your page.
This information is then included along with your site link in search engines. There are more meta tags you can use in your HTML, so take a look at the Moz guide to SEO meta tags.
You’ll also be using tags in the body of your webpage. One of the most important is the header tag, which allows you to set headings and subheadings in your content to create structure. They also enabled you to rank for featured snippets on search engines. These results are provided to answer a specific query for users, so are usually long-tail keyword focussed.
The Search Engine Journal has a great article on how to use header tags for SEO.
You should include your primary keyword in these tags in order to optimize your content and rank higher in search results.
Technical SEO covers everything that you’ll need to do to optimize your website to be crawled and indexed by search engines. Essentially, you’re illustrating how accessible your site is to users and your technical SEO is the evidence for that.
Here’s a Technical SEO checklist you can work through when launching a new website:
You should perform audits of your technical SEO strategy fairly often, as it can affect the domain authority (a score that determines how likely you are to rank highly). Here’s a great link for how to optimize your technical SEO.
Link building is the process of acquiring backlinks to your pages and posts from other sites. This is something you’ll focus on once your site is launched, but it is absolutely essential to your SEO strategy.
Google takes the number of links to your page into consideration when ranking you, as they’re a signal to that your content has value to those other sites and so you’re likely to have value for their users. They work best when the site linking to you operates in the same industry or creates content on topics relevant to your own.
You should absolutely avoid using directories and other dubious tactics in order to build your link portfolio. Google (and other search engines) look down on this behaviour and may penalize your site for it.
The quality of the site linking to you is also important, if their domain authority is low then the link won’t do much for your ranking. And if there’s domain authority is notably low (that is considered a spam site), their link can damage your own reputation.
There’s so much to consider with this strategy, so I’d recommend heading over to the experts at Moz for their guide to link building.
4. Branding, design and usability
You’ll likely want to think about your site design whilst you’re writing content to determine the balance of text and images on each page.
But this should one of the final checks you do before launching your website, as it needs to be consistent and eye-catching. It’s also very important to ensure your website is easy to navigate and use.
You should have a consistent design across all your pages to make them all feel as though they belong to the same brand. Enabling global styles in the tool you use to design your website will ensure that page designs are consistent, e.g. colors, fonts and logos.
This isn’t to say you can’t differentiate each design slightly. If anything, that will stop your site from feeling stale. But don’t make grand departures from your homepage design on other pages, this will make your site feel like a jumble of different ideas. Which may reflect in visitors’ perceptions of your brand or company.
It is essential to test your site across multiple devices (desktop, mobile and tablet) and multiple browsers to ensure your design is stable and page elements are working correctly.
The last thing you want is to create a bad impression with a new visitor because your design is broken. This may lead to a high bounce rate, which can be a signal to search engines that there’s an issue with your site.
If your site has a lot of content or a lot of options in your navigation menu, you may want to perform a usability test. This is where you collect a group of ‘representative users’ and ask them to complete a number of tasks on your website to determine how easy or hard it was for them to do so.
You want all processes on your website to be as easy as possible for your audience, whether they want to get in touch with you or make a purchase. Poor usability leads to friction with your users, which creates a poor customer experience.
5. Connect to an analytics tool
Now your websites ready to launch, you’ll need to connect it to an analytics tool. If you’re just getting started up, we’re going to recommend you use Google Analytics. It’s free to get started and provides most of the information you’ll need to monitor site performance, so it’s great for new sites and startups.
All you need to do it install the code in your site code and you can start tracking traffic to your website. Here are a few suggestions for what metrics to keep an eye on:
If you do opt for Google Analytics, then you should also connect to Google Search Console. This free tool allows you to monitor different aspects of your technical SEO strategy, such as broken links, issues crawling your XML sitemap, page speeds and missing or incorrect structured data.
6. Promote your website
Now we’re post-launch, which means you’ll need to start promoting your new website. There are so many ways you can do this, both free and paid, so here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Submit URLs to Google Inspection Tool
Submitting your fresh URLs to this tool prompts Google to crawl your pages and may result in them being indexed faster. Just keep in mind you only need to submit them once, multiple submissions will not get you indexed quicker.
Creating accounts with social networks is one of the best ways to build an audience for your brand. Every link you share and all the interactions you have with people go that bit further in increasing your brand exposure and building relationships.
Run paid ads
There’s always the option of running paid ads on search engines and social media platforms. They’re easy to set up and can increase exposure for your site, but do require you to pay-per-click.
They can also take a little time to find the right keywords that work for you and there’s a lot of other competition out there.
Social Media Today has a great infographic on the pros and cons of paid advertising platforms.
Once you’ve got people coming to your site, you’ll want to give them a reason to take the next step. There are lots of ways you can do this, such as offering a discount or promo code to encourage people to make a purchase.
But it’s not limited to encouraging sales, you can also create leads magnets to grow your email list. Once you have your users’ email addresses, you can build more of a rapport with them and offer discounts down the line.
So, that’s our website launch checklist. Hopefully, it will help you get your new site set up. Just remember to keep your eye on your analytics to see what is and isn’t working.
Continue to create content for your website and blog to keep the organic traffic rolling in and don’t let your social media accounts to dry up. If you forget to create content your audience may lose interest in your brand.