Launching a new website isn’t as easy as you may think. While it would be great if it were as simple as just hitting a red button, the process behind it is complicated, takes time and has implications. Therefore, you and your web agency must be prepared in advance to reduce the risk of delaying your launch or something going wrong.
In this piece, we’ll explore each of the essential elements of this process and what you can do to help keep it on track.
Content is probably the biggest bottleneck for most projects. It’s easy to forget that a website without content (images, words, videos, etc.) is just an empty shell that nobody will want to visit, which is why it’s essential to organise and plan your content as early in the process as possible.
- Images: will you need a photographer? Do you already have your images, or will you need to purchase royalty-free stock imagery?
- Page content: are you writing the wording for your new website yourself, or will you need to source a copywriter?
- Content population: who will be adding your content to the website? Have you asked your agency to do this for you, or will you do this yourself?
- Are you including any downloads or additional content such as videos, blogs or whitepapers that will also need time to be created?
If you already have an existing website that your new site will replace, you will want to address your current URLs (pages) and how these might differ from the equivalent ones on the new website. Your agency can support you with redirects, but ultimately someone from your organisation will need to decide which existing page on the old website points to which page on the new website and which will not be coming across.
Redirects are vital in retaining SEO value (your rank on Google) and are also important in maintaining a good user experience. Visiting an old URL and landing on an unrelated page is bad for users and search rankings, resulting in high bounce rates. Be sure to give your redirect paths proper consideration and don’t leave it to the last minute.
Your website is just your site’s visual side; your domain (www.yourcompanyname.co.uk) is how people will find it. If you already have a website, you’ll need to determine who owns your domain and via which provider (i.e., GoDaddy, 123 Reg etc.). If this is your first website, we recommend purchasing your domain before doing anything else.
Once your site is ready to go live, either you or your web agency will need to update some settings on the domain called DNS records, which will point your domain to your new website. Your domain provider will be able to support you with this, and your agency will be able to provide the information required to carry out this update. However, it’s important to note that your website agency typically does not control domains, which is why you should address this early on.
Domains are another part of the go-live process that can often cause complications when clients cannot access the records to carry out the necessary updates. It’s also worth noting that depending on who the domain provider is, the DNS settings can take up to 48 hours to update during the go-live process – more on this later on.
Website hosting is the space where your site lives; it’s what keeps it accessible to the public. There are several different types of hosting. The benefits and costs of each vary depending on your business’ needs, including speed and security. You can learn more about hosting here.
You’ll need to organise hosting ahead of your site’s launch. Many website agencies can provide hosting for you. However, you can use a separate hosting company, but you’ll need to discuss logistics with your website provider.
If you’re preparing to launch, then there are a few SEO or search-related tasks you can carry out to optimise your site for search engines:
- Add metadata – things like page titles and descriptions
- Use backlinks – links from other popular websites to link your pages
- Ensure your images have relevant ALT text
- Ensure your content is relevant and keyword-rich
- Use headings and subheadings
These are a few of the basics for preparing your site for search engines. However, we recommend working with an SEO agency such as Sleeping Giant Media for optimal results.
If you plan on using Google Analytics to track your website’s performance, then you’ll need to set up your account and provide your agency with the tracking code. You’ll also need to update your privacy and cookies policy to ensure your website is GDPR compliant. You can learn more about setting up Google Analytics here.
Paid Adverts (Social and PPC)
If you’re using paid advertising tactics such as paid social or pay-per-click (PPC), then you’ll need to pause these during the launch process – this will help minimise the risk of wasting money by sending traffic to the wrong pages while the domain is updating. You’ll also want to revisit your ads post-launch to edit landing pages and key terms if necessary.
There are a few sticking points that often take clients by surprise following the launch of a website, including:
- It’s not always instant – once the DNS switch begins and the website launches, it can take up to 48 hours for the new domain to propagate, which means that you might see your old site on your mobile but the new site on your desktop. After 48 hours, the transition should be complete.
- Google won’t index the new website straight away – while you might have just launched your website, it can take days or sometimes weeks for Google to index it properly, so don’t expect to see it in search results straight away. If you have an existing website, it will also take time for your new site information to replace the old, indexed data Google has. If your new website is substantially different to your old one, there can even be a period where your rankings drop temporarily while Google figures out all of the changes.
Overall, the launch process is an exciting time for your business and following these checkpoints as a guide will help you ensure it’s as smooth and successful as possible.
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