If you’ve been involved in a website project before, you know how nerve racking it can be to finally give the go-ahead to “flip the switch” from the old website to the new one. There are many last-minute things that need to be completed and double-checked before launching.
Website testing sometimes feels never ending. With all the different browsers and devices, you feel like you are bound to forget something before launch. While your web development partner will have their own checklist, here’s a punch list of items your marketing team needs to check off before the big switch.
1. Cross browser and responsive testing
First and foremost, when you have a development link for your website, you need to test thoroughly—on all browsers (i.e. Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari, etc.) and all kinds of mobile devices (i.e. iPad, iPhone, Android, etc.). When testing, it’s essential that you click on every page and every link. And once the website goes live, you’ll need to do this all over again to be sure nothing went wrong during the switch. To help make the process smoother, split it up between team members to divide and conquer. No one person should do all of the testing by themselves.
2. 301 redirects
301 redirects are critical to ensuring you do not lose any SEO credit with search engines by changing your website. Before the old website goes away, go through every page and record the URLs of each page. Then, choose a page on the new website for each to redirect to. By doing this, if someone clicks an old link going to the old website, they will automatically be redirected to your new website and not receive a 404 Page Error.
If your new website has any forms, such as contact forms, email subscriptions, etc., be sure to test those before launch. Fill them out and submit them to ensure they are working properly. And be sure to do this on all desktop, tablet and mobile versions. Just because a form works in one place doesn’t always mean that it works everywhere. If the forms are integrated with a third party tool such as CRM, marketing automation or email marketing, you want to make sure that all fields are properly pushing information into those platforms.
Favicons are those little images that appear in the address bar and tabs of your browser. These are important because they help with the credibility of your website and provide some additional branding for your firm. These are frequently overlooked during website development, but it’s one of those nice little touches you can add to your website.
It’s essential to set up your website for search engine optimization (SEO) success before launch. One of the most important aspects of SEO is making sure each page of your website has a unique title tag and meta description. This helps tell the search engines what content is on the page so people can search for your firm. Another common SEO oversight is the omission of image ALT tags, robots.txt and other technical factors. Learn more about best practices for search engine optimization (SEO).
6. Tracking snippets
At the very least, your website should be set up with Google Analytics for launch. This helps the client track the number of visitors they have to the website, what pages they are visiting, etc. Google Analytics is free and easy to set up, so it’s really a no-brainer to include it for your clients. There are also paid tracking services, such as HotJar or marketing automation software, that can be added to website to provide more in-depth analytics for websites.
Including XML sitemaps in your website helps search engines correctly index your website. This will inform search engines about the pages that you have published. Many SEO plugins such as Yoast SEO for WordPress, have the ability to automate the creation and maintenance of xml sitemaps. It’s also important to create custom 404 pages with links that direct visitors back to the website.
While most websites today are set up with a content management system and copy changes can be made quickly and easily, no one wants to launch a website with a spelling error. So be sure you and the client proofread the website thoroughly before launch. In additional to spelling, check to be sure all phone numbers, addresses and other contact information is correct.
Once the website has launched, it is critical that the privacy of the website is turned to public. During development, your website is normally set to “private” which tells search engine robots not to index your website while its under development. However, once the website is ready, its incredibly important to make sure this is turned to public so that people can find your new website!
Launch with confidence
You’ll want to make sure your web development partner has their own launch list of other technical items that are typically beyond marketing’s purview. And once the site is live, be sure that you or your development partner have a plan for properly maintaining the website moving forward. Depending on the complexity of the website, there could be many more items to this pre-launch checklist, but these tend to apply to the majority of website projects from a client’s perspective.