Once your website is public, it is tempting to share it straight away. However, there are some final steps to ensure that everything is running smoothly. In the name of thoroughness, here is a handy pre-launch checklist for you to tick off.
Pre-Launch Website Overview
- Create a Sitemap
- Robots.txt file
- Register with Google Analytics
- Register with Google Search Console
- Facebook debugger/social sharing
- Meta titles/descriptions
- Mobile testing
- Nameservers & Hosting
- Contact form mailers
Create A Sitemap
A sitemap is an xml file containing the bare bones of your website structure. It helps crawlers understand your page hierarchy and index everything you’ve written. You can create sitemaps by hand, via a plugin or by using an online generator, then by uploading it to your root folder e.g. www.example.com/sitemap.xml
Create A Robots.txt File
The robots.txt file allows or blocks search engines from accessing different parts of your website. You’d tend to allow all main pages, and disallow folders containing backups, sensitive information or files you don’t want to see on Google. Read more about what to write in your robots.txt file.
Register With Google Analytics
Naturally, you’ll want to monitor who’s visiting your site after the launch. Google Analytics offers the best software for this. Head over to their website and register with your account. Set up a property (i.e. your website) retrieve the tracking script, and place it in the <head> section of every page you wish to track.
Register With Google Search Console
Google Search Console gives you the webmaster’s tools to fetch your site, submit your sitemap, check errors and get diagnostic tools for your HTML markup. Like GA, it’s dead easy to set up and just requires a small tag inserted into your website.
Once your site has been verified with Google Search Console, you’ll want to do the following actions, all of which I’ve conveniently written about here.
- Submit your sitemap so crawlers can see your website structure
- Submit your robots.txt file so crawlers not what to allow or avoid
- ‘Fetch’ your page in the Crawl settings, prompting Google to render your site in their listings
Do you notice how a thumbnail conveniently appears when you share something on Facebook? Social networks are clever at picking which images to use for the article. However, you can also specify custom images for specific pages, or for those with no photos. To do so, ask your developer about ‘Open Graph’ data, or check the settings in your SEO plugin. Ideally, each page should have a unique photo, and an accompanying title and description that’s displayed when you share it. Which leads me on to…
Write Your Meta Tags
These are not visible on the web page! Your meta title and description are very important, and require individual entries for each page. Before sharing your website you should write unique captions, targeting the right keywords and making sure they’re legible and enticing to the customer. If you don’t write your meta tags properly, your site won’t have that professional sheen when it’s broadcast around the web.
Test On Mobile/Tablet
Your website should be built with mobile responsiveness out of the box. That said, it’s important to triple check everything before you run an advertising campaign. Dig up your devices and have a browse on everything you can. This includes:
- Portrait mode
- Landscape mode
- Different browsers
- Different operating systems
- Tablets, fablets, smartphones, laptops and whatever else you can get your hands on
Like I said, your site should have all of this in mind, but some things are subjective. Is your key message visible to mobile users? Have they got instant access to what you’re selling on every screen?
Nameservers & Hosting
Sometimes, you can leave your domain and hosting purchases until the last minute. It’s very important to make sure that everything is working under the bonnet. Go into your hosting/registrar settings and make sure that:
- Your nameservers have propagated properly
- You have logins to every part of your server: FTP, cpanel, PHPMyAdmin
- You have activated any caching or backup services offered by the provider
Test Hosted Mailboxes
You might have launched your website with a shiny new email address – firstname.lastname@example.org or something similar. Whatever system you’re using, please ensure things are sending and receiving properly before you take in enquiries!
Run Site Backups
Site backups are crucial, so start as you mean to go on. If your hosting provider offer a backup service, run one and download the .zip to ensure everything is there. If your site uses a database, make sure that is covered too. There are services that run automated backups straight to your email, FTP or cloud storage. Ask your developer about these as its very important for security and peace of mind.
Test Your Contact Forms
When contact forms work, they’re great. When they don’t, they’re a proper pain. Make sure yours are running smoothly by testing them back and forth, on every browser and device you can find. Better to experience teething problems with yourself than with a customer. Here’s a little sub-list for you to chew on:
- Does the form send to my email address?
- Is the reply-to address correct when I try to respond to a query?
- Are the auto-responders sending properly?
That just about covers it! I hope you’ve found this helpful, and that it’s saved you a bit of a headache in launching your website. Remember, this is not the end of the road, but the beginning. Keep a close eye on it, stay in touch with your developer and always be on the lookout for improvements. If there’s anything you feel I’ve missed out then please let me know. Have a splendid launch!
By Bruce Sigrist in: Guides