Increasingly, your organization’s digital footprint on the Internet is becoming as valuable as the physical real estate where you might build a brick-and-mortar office. Domain names are bought, sold, and traded like commodities, and through the power of social media and inbound marketing funnels, your brand’s name can draw business from all over the globe to your virtual doorstep, your website.
Often seen as your business’s initial opportunity to make a first impression in modern marketing strategies, your website is the lobby for your business, and it has to impress. So whether you’re a start-up looking to establish your foothold on the internet, or an established small- to medium-sized business looking to revamp and revitalize your web presence, GoingClear Interactive has pulled together a checklist of best practices you need to address in launching a website. Follow along as we first look at considerations before launch and performance considerations you need to keep tabs on after launch.
Factors to Consider Before Launch
The lead up to a website launch is an exciting time. But it’s also a time where extremely costly mistakes can be made. We’ve assembled several considerations here that should be addressed in the lead-up to your brand’s launch day to ensure a smooth and successful deployment.
There’s a cliche in creative circles that there is rarely anything new under the sun. You can’t create a truly unique narrative, because over the history of man we’ve told all the stories there are to tell in some form or another. Depending upon the strategy you take for choosing a website domain name for your business, you could run into a similar challenge. Anyone who’s ever tried to set up a targeted website for a new brand understands the challenges involved in finding a word or phrase that is simultaneously unique, available, and appropriate for the brand in question.
While the age of the domain has an impact on SEO rankings, it only takes a few months for a new domain to establish itself and gain traction in rankings. However, where domain age becomes an issue is if you settle on a website domain that’s been used previously for significant amounts of time by one or more other users. You’ll then have a domain name that potentially comes with a history of existing backlinks that will have to be actively handled if they aren’t in line with your marketing strategy. You’ll also have a period where search engine algorithms adjust to the brand being owned by a new business entity and your site traffic upon launch might be a bit skewed as customers of the previous owners discover the “new management.”
History of the Domain
The age of the domain will determine what sort of impact the history of the existing domain will have. For example, there is an extremely technical impact on the back end of launching a website with a domain name that has a history that requires attention to domain name servers and the time it will take for the old version of the website to expire from cached devices and for the new version of the site to disseminate across the Internet’s infrastructure.
Together, the domain age and history can complicate what could otherwise be a successful launch. That’s why it’s more often suggested that you come up with a domain built on industry-specific terms along with a unique element to provide both a familiarity to potential clients, but enough to set it apart from competitors or past organizations who used a similar domain name.
Trust on Google
Creating a unique domain name will start your business almost from scratch when it comes to how Google’s algorithm perceives your brand. A major ranking component is Google’s trust in the brand. You can get an early start on this element by ensuring that you handle much of the leadup to launch with Trust as a targeted metric. While you can’t affect the impact of domain age and history, you can directly impact Google’s read on your trustworthiness by posting content that builds:
- Authority through blogs and content that establishes your brand as knowledgeable and relevant to the industry you operate within.
- Authority through natural backlinks to that content, which further cements your position as a leading voice for the industry or topic.
- A Perception of Expertise by meeting the needs and expectations of visitors. Review sites have to show that visitors find what they look for when visiting your site.
Properly Implementing Technical SEO
Building out your website, you need to designate special attention to the technical elements in the structure of the site that impact search engine behaviors towards the domain. Search engines need to be able to not only find your site but be able to quickly understand its structure and you can help facilitate that on the back end through the use of several key technical inclusions:
- XML Sitemap – This document lives within the file structure of the website and search engines are designed to search for them when web crawlers interact with your site. The sitemap provides a list of your site’s URLs and acts as a roadmap to speed up the search process. It does this by providing the full site topology at a single glance rather than requiring the search engine to traverse the site itself to discover what’s there.
- Robot.txt files – These files serve a similar purpose to a sitemap in that it tells the crawler what pages are on your site. However, it’s primarily used to limit the number of pages on your site a web crawler can interact with. By minimizing the crawl to only a few extremely structured and optimized pages, you maintain additional pages and content on the backend while speeding up the automated search functions of search engine pages and increase your overall ranking.
- Increase Indexability – Make it easier for your page to be indexed and traversed by search engines by creating internal links between content.
- If you can’t avoid duplicating material – for example having multiple location landing pages – then prevent access to the duplicate pages with the use of the robot.txt.
- Build pages optimized for fast-load time, and submit your sitemap to Google rather than waiting for it to be naturally discovered.
- Keywords aren’t only for content. Include targeted keywords and phrases in the structure of the site through the use of metadata tags, URL titles, and throughout page headers.
- Use tags and technical methods for hard-coding in headers and page hierarchies to give search engines a clear roadmap to traverse your page and provide structure to the information that is annexed.
Factors to Consider After Launch
A website is more than a tool that you can set and forget. It takes constant attention to keep it relevant and responsive to search engine inquiries. That means paying attention to how the site is being used and ensuring that you expand its influence beyond your brand.
Tracking KPIs – The Metrics that Count
If all you do is flip a switch and release your website into the wild, never assessing the impact it has on the growth of your business, then you’re not getting the most of your website as a brand-building tool. Post-launch, your organization needs to have an established strategy for tracking traffic, determining channels that have the most impact on visitor behavior, and then constantly tweak and improve your inbound marketing funnels, landing pages, and calls-to-action to improve and increase conversion rates.
Regardless of the domain age and history, you need to consider your site a brand new entity and set out to create as many natural backlinks to your content and infrastructure as you can. This means sharing and distributing content that establishes your place as a voice in the industry that others will find both informative and authoritative. Give them studies, facts, statistics, commentary on the state of the industry, and any other highly quotable bit of information that you can to show that your site is a worthy source for the community at large. Over time, that inbound traffic will start to turn into organic traffic and improve your Google search performance and build your website into a powerful tool for converting leads into customers.
Launching a Website is a Difficult Undertaking – Don’t Try This Alone
We’ve spent this discussion giving you a very introductory road map for managing and organizing your website launch, both in the lead-up and in the post-launch performance tracking. But as Boston’s premier web design firm, we know that there are a million more details involved and that not all businesses have the resources to accomplish a successful launch on their own. That’s why we’re here to help. Learn more about our processes and find out how else we can help to improve your marketing infrastructure through an affordable managed services relationship.