So You Just Completed Your New Website. Now What?
Once a website has been completed and posted to the domain, we have a tendency to think the job is done and that Google and other search engines will do the rest. That is only partly true. Sure, if your new site is built on a search-friendly platform like WordPress, it should do better in search rankings. But if you haven’t properly optimized it for search, or if you don’t take any additional steps — like the ones below — then your brand new website may not do well in search results. Just because your site is “up” doesn’t mean people can find it.
This checklist of pre-launch and post-launch steps will help you get the most out of your new website.
- Create custom Meta Title and Meta Description tags for your most important web pages. Some themes come pre-loaded with this functionality. You can also use a popular SEO plugin like Yoast, All in One SEO, or SEOpress. Yoast is the most widely used, but it is also very robust and can get confusing for smaller sites that just want some simple SEO features. For most smaller sites, I prefer All in One SEO for its ease of use.
- NOTE: The terms used in your Title and Description tags should be geared towards the search terms people will be using to find your website. Hire a reputable web development or SEO company if you need help.
- If the website already has an existing Google Analytics account, make sure to get the code and insert it into the new website prior to launch. The code can sometimes be easily added into the theme options, or you could use a plugin like Insert Headers and Footers. If you are launching a brand new site, post the site first, then create a Google Analytics account and get the code.
- Confirm that your website hosting plan can handle the latest version of PHP. As of the writing of this post, the latest, fastest and most secure version is PHP 7.2. If you’re using a newer theme, PHP 7.2 should work. If using an older theme, check with their documentation to make sure it is supported.
- Verify that your new hosting plan can support SSL. Since 2017, Google has been using SSL (secure sockets layer), aka “https” as a search ranking factor. Non-SSL websites are now labeled as “Not Secure” in the browser bar, which might deter some visitors. If your URL shows a padlock, then SSL is running properly on your site.
- Non-essential, but recommended — install the Akismet plugin on your site. The free version is fine. It helps reduce spam sent through your website forms.
- If your website is a new version of an old website, make sure to create 301 redirects for your main old webpages if they are now using new URLs. This can be done using htaccess or by using a plugin like Simple 301 Redirects. Ask your web developer if you need assistance with this, as it can get a bit complicated.
- Check all forms on your website to make sure that submissions are getting through to the proper email addresses. Occasionally, some servers will block form-generated emails.
- Use Google Search Console. This is an extremely important step. Once your site is launched, either login to your existing Google Search Console account and submit a new XML sitemap (your web developer can help with this), or, if this is a new domain, create a new Google Search Console account. Use the same email address that you used for Google Analytics so that everything is under the same account. Through Search Console, you can submit your site URL to Google.
- If you are a business or organization and you have an address, use Google My Business. This might be the most important step of all, as it gets you listed on Google Maps and allows you to receive and respond to customer reviews. There’s nothing better than showing up on a map and seeing multiple 5-Star Reviews for your business. There are a few steps to be verified with Google My Business, including having a postcard sent to your business address. Once it is setup and working, this may be the one thing that drives more business than anything else!
- Website maintenance and backups! Make sure you hire your web developer or other reputable business to manage and maintain your website. This is probably not something you’ll want to do yourself, as sometimes simply updating a plugin can crash your website. If you don’t have the know-how, experience and tools to repair the site and/or restore a recent backup, we wouldn’t recommend ever doing anything like updating a plugin, theme or WordPress core software.
Please let us know if you have any questions. Radiant Design is always here to help.
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Copyright 2019 Tom Lempner and Radiant Design.