So you are preparing for a new website launch for your business. What is the best way to do it? New sites can change a lot and should be done carefully. The most important considerations are online marketing, user experience testing, and promotion. This is why I created this checklist to study before you launch a website.
Prepare New Website for Search Engines
Your new site will not mean much if you aren’t preparing it for search engines. However, there is a lot that business owners can do to make sure the new site appears in search before the launch. This is especially important when replacing a website on another domain. A lot can go wrong if there is no plan for the website launch. So make sure you are following these SEO best practices for launching a new website.
Set Up Redirects from Old Domain
If you prepared a new website to replace an old domain, there are steps you must take unless you want a very long journey towards a presence in search engines. If a previous domain did not exist, you may skip this step. This is something a lot of businesses do not do. Either they do not think about it, or control of the previous domain is not accessible. It is very important that you try.
Domain redirects will pass all SEO success from your previous domain on to your new one. You can remove your previous domain eventually but Google recommends you keep redirects live for at least a year. This will allow your new domain to build SEO of its own and let the SEO from the previous domain become less relevant.
There are different ways to handle redirecting the domain, depending on the situation. If you own the previous domain, you need to create a 301 redirect. Most web hosts have a user-friendly way to do this so check with your previous domain’s web provider. If somebody else owned the domain, you may need to persuade them to perform these steps. Here are instructions for the popular web hosting companies:
If the previous domain is inactive, but you cannot reach the previous owner. You may need to constant the domain’s registrar for assistance. To find out where the previous domain is registered, search for the domain here.
It is also important to create redirects from pages on the previous website to equivalent pages on the new website to be most effective.
Submit Website to the Search Engines
Believe it or not, search engines always find your website eventually, but whether they crawl and index it properly is another story. This is why it is important to take a proactive approach. There are two crucial steps for this to happen.
- Verify the Website for Search Engines
Set up accounts with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. These are tools provided by the search engines to monitor and manage your website’s SEO presence. Through these accounts, you will need to verify your website.
- Instructions to verify your website on Google Search Console
- Instructions to verify your website on Bing Webmaster Tools
- Create and Submit Sitemap to Search Engines
A Sitemap for a website is a file maintained within the domain that instructs the search engine on how to crawl it based on structure, priority, and modification dates. There are plenty of tools that will create this for you. Here is a free tool that will guide you through how to create a sitemap for a new website.
Once this is created, both Google and Bing have ways to submit the sitemap and be found by search engines during an upcoming crawl.
Publish a Coming Soon Page on Website
If the domain is owned and live, it is a good idea to have a coming soon page on the website approaching its completion. There are two reasons for this that offer search engine optimization benefits. First, it means the website can begin receiving traffic, even if the website is not complete. Second, it sets your organization up for promotion ahead of the launch.
I advise against a coming soon page with that only says “Coming Soon”. It should be branded and engaging. Make sure the content addresses two types of messaging for the audience. First, that a new and exciting website is launching soon, the reasons for the new website and what new features to expect. Second, speak about your organization using search terms you want to rank for. Specifically your brand name and any names associated with your brand. This will allows your homepage to begin ranking early on, which sets a great precedent for the rest of your new website.
Test Website Usability
Nothing can squander the buzz and excitement of new website launch than when it breaks on day one. This happens too often when a website is not tested beforehand. The website belongs to you. This means you and your web developer should keep your excitement in check and make sure each page is completely ready. A good web developer will do this anyway, but each page of a new site needs to be examined inside and out.
My advice is to go through two rounds of testing. During the first round, exhaustively go through every page on Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari. There are differences between browsers that could impact how code works. Make sure the design stays correct and functionality works the way it is supposed to. I also advise checking the website on tablets and mobile devices as well. Especially since most searches are conducted on a mobile device these days. Although a check on actual devices is ideal, you can simulate these checks in most browsers.
The second round of testing will require less time, but possibly a little stressful. Find a friend or family member whom you both trust, and you know will be completely honest. Create a list of things you want them to do on the website without instructions. Just sit them at a computer and have them go through the list. Ideally, this person will be representative of your target audience. A few more testers are even better, but the important thing is, somebody other than yourself is testing the website.
Once any issues that arise from testing are fixed. Your new website is ready to launch from a technical standpoint. But you might want to hold your trigger-finger a little bit longer for this next part…
Create a Timely Launch and Promotion Plan
Now that plans for making the website technically sound before the official launch, you need to promote it. The most important goal here, is to create buzz around the launch of your website. These next few list items will discuss the steps you need to take to properly promote your new website.
Choose Features and Highlights to Emphasize
Whether you are promoting a new website or launching a new product, new features are one of the most important marketing drivers you have. There is a reason you are launching this website. There is going to be something about it that makes it different than before. Something that is going to make your website appeal to the customer. These new features and the benefits that come with them are going to be at the center of the content surrounding the launch. Once these features are identified. It is time to write.
Write a Blog Post About New Website Launch
Now that you have identified the most important and engaging new features of the new website, write a blog post about it. Either on your current website, or as a link from the coming soon page on the new website. In this blog post, you need to highlight the new features, explain why you are launching a new website, and thank anybody that helped with the website’s launch. This can include business partners who help test the website, distributors, or anybody that gave you the idea to create the new website in the first place. And make sure to give your audience a reason to return post-launch. Make sure this blog post targets the audience you wish to reach.
Ways to engage and attract viewers to a new website:
- Email marketing, send email updates to your current customer database.
- Make an event out of it. Have a launch party and invite anybody involved in the website’s creation and your intended customers.
- Discuss in industry forums and on social media.
- Offer early previews of the new website.
It Is Time to Announce the New Website Launch
The website is ready and a promotion plan is in place. It is time to publish the website on the selected date. Now what needs to be included in the specific launch? You may want to run a website launch campaign to get that first load of traffic and sales. Additionally, a campaign will increase your SEO quickly. Here are some opportunities for marketing a website launch, that would benefit you the most.
Send Out a Press Release
Public relations (PR) is a very powerful tactic for an SEO strategy, especially for a website launch. It builds brand recognition, authority in your business, and links to your website. This is why a website launch is the perfect time to begin doing this.
To do this well, there is a format you should follow. Online PR Media created a template especially for website launches, that you can follow. A press release should be around 400 words. But the most important parts of a press release for a new website launch include:
- A 100-character title with a keyword you want to rank for near the beginning.
- A 175-character summary using two other keywords.
- A first paragraph that announces the launch.
- A second paragraph explaining the new features (that were identified earlier).
- A third paragraph that includes a quote about the importance to the reader.
- A fourth paragraph describing the business. Make sure you include differentiators.
- A fifth paragraph that focuses on one of the new features. Include a quote explaining why the feature helps the reader.
- A statement about your company including a link to the website.
A press release can truly make the difference between your business being noticed, and being invisible, so consider it carefully. I am not a PR expert, so I reached out to my friend Lauren Leetun, an accredited 20-year Public Relations industry veteran. She says to make sure it has a newsworthy angle, and to provide visuals that will help media outlets see the value to their readers.
“A press release is a succinct storytelling tool, which should be written as a journalist would typically cover the story, not as an advertisement. Lead with the newsworthy angle, then follow with several supporting messages that bolster the story. It’s also prudent to share visual elements along with the release, as a powerful image or video often makes the content more compelling.”
Without consideration of the angle, the press may not publish it.
Promote Internally to Your Employees
Your own employees and team mates are great advocates for a new website. I have worked on internal communication teams in my career and it doesn’t matter how large or small an organization is, you can get them excited about your website. Here are some simple ideas on promoting a new website launch internally:
- Hold a contest to name a promotion or offer to customers
- Ask them to participate in a company photo for the about us page
- Highlight employees on social media channels
- Give them early access to the website
This is a good way to help drive that initial traffic to the website. When an employee is involved in something as big as a website launch at their place of work, it is likely they will tell their friends and family and talk about it on social media. This brings me to my next point…
Engage With Current Customers On Social Media and Email
Do not ignore the positive effect your current customers can have on your new website. They have engaged with your business before. They displayed enough interest to follow your business on Facebook and subscribe to your email list. They will likely be interested enough to check out the new website and see if there is anything new that they could benefit from. This is why connecting with your current customers is important.
To reach customers directly, send an email to everybody in your customer database announcing the new website. Provide an engaging subject line to get them to open the email. And in the email itself. In the email body, repeat what is stated in the press release about the new features, and end it with an invitation and link to visit the new website. A well-written email should drive traffic to your website. Additionally, it will give an easy means for your customers to share the information to their contacts as well.
To promote on social media, you need to choose your platforms strategically. What are the communities online where your customers can be found? Also consider new segments that you may appeal to, with the new features on your website. Create a set of posts highlighting new features of the website, and begin a conversation with your potential customers about it. You can also create ads on most platforms to target specific groups and target audiences.
It is very important before you roll out your announcement communications that you apply consistency across all channels. You can vary the exact messaging on each channel. In fact, from a digital marketing perspective, I recommend not including the same exact copy for each post and channel. But make sure you are on message.
A common mistake for any business is not mapping out a path through the communication channels towards a desired course of action. One message should seamlessly lead to the next, so make sure your press release, emails, social media posts and website are all relevant and support each other.
Stop When New Is No Longer New
Your website has launched, it has been promoted. You should begin seeing the results quickly. But it is important to know when to stop promoting your website as new. Remember, news does not last long these days. Your goal from here on out is a digital marketing strategy to keep customers engaged, and drive more sales on your website. This means implementing a new marketing strategy and unique content that piggybacks off the success of your launch.
I hope this will serve as a resource and blueprint for outlining your new website launch marketing plan. If you need consultation for this or any other part of your digital marketing, please reach out to me for help with a free quote.