5…4…3…2… Are You Ready For Launch?

Posted by Bear Files , October 19th, 2011 in Blog, Search Engines, Web Analytics, Web Design

Website Launch PlanSo you’ve put in months of hard work creating a new website and you are just days away from the live launch, so now it should be vacation time, right? Well, go ahead plan that vacation! These simple tips should allow you and your website team to flee the office and be drinking Mai Tais on the beach while your new site starts wowing your visitors.

First, Check Your Local Rep

What happens when someone “Googles you” or your company? Control what you can by claiming your Google Places listing. You can edit the details of the listing, add images and links your YouTube videos. To confirm that you are authorized to edit the map listing, Google will send a postcard to your address with a PIN number on it. After entering the PIN into your Google Places account your enhancements will start showing up on Google Maps.

Take The Vanilla Out of Your Google Analytics

Yes, Google Analytics is free, but to get meaningful insights a few things should be configured. Hopefully there is already Google Analytics tracking code installed on the old site. If not, it may be worthwhile to install it on the old site. In the time leading up to the launch of the new site some decent traffic data could accumulate.

Benchmark the performance of the old site by noting the site’s past general and specific keyword traffic. A year out from now when you are studying analytics, having the legacy benchmark data available will allow for more meaningful analysis and allow you to more easily judge ROI for the new site.

Set up groups of Conversion Goals. Goals can be configured in a variety of ways to track the important conversions on your site. Set up a bunch, they’ll help you judge how engaged your visitors are with your content, and will especially pay off when you are analyzing which keywords are most valuable. One of the simplest approaches is to set a goal for important pages on your site like product-specific pages, specific service pages, and contact forms.

Establishing a few Custom Segments will also help you gain more accurate insights than looking at all visitor data at once. For instance if you only do business in the State of California then why look at visitor statistics for the entire world? Create a segment that includes just your service area. Try one where all “branded” keyword traffic is factored out, or where a geographic region is isolated,

301 Redirects

Creating 301 redirects takes anyone who tries to visit your old site URLs right to the new site. With the redirect code in place, visitors who try to visit “mysite.com/oldpage.html/” get instantly transported to “mysite.com/newcontent/” – nifty! Don’t redirect all pages to your new homepage. Redirect your old About/Company section to the corresponding new one, same with Contact Us and all the rest.

Get To Know Google Webmaster Tools

There are too many great features within Google Webmaster Tools to mention here, but the first thing to do is submit your sitemap. Your website will have one or more sitemap addresses, which you’ll want to submit to your Google Webmaster Tools sitemaps area. Check later to make sure the sitemap’s status is green. Once this is done Google will index the new site faster and your new pages will appear in the search results instead of your site’s older “cached” pages. While you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for Bing Webmaster Tools and submit you sitemap there. Bing supposedly drives decent traffic so may as well get indexed there too.

Do The Robot

Create a “robots.txt” file to disallow specific folders. Also use it to allow or disallow your site’s images to be indexed by Google Images. Also useful to make sure your wp-admin page does not show up in Google’s index.

Get Visitors Back On Track WIth A Helpful 404

Even the most vigilant website manager will still occasionally find visitors encountering a “page not found” error on their site, also known as a 404 error. Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools diagnostics can both help pinpoint problems. When the inevitable happens and the error page does display, you’ll wish you had created a branded 404 error page. Make sure visitors know that you care about their experience on your site by including a sympathetic “oops” or “we’re sorry” or whatever message is most appropriate for your brand. And include some helpful links to help them find what they’re looking for.

Got Uptime Monitoring?

Signing up for mobile website hosting downtime alerts from a service like Pingdom will let you know if your site goes down, and for how long.

The day after launch, check to make sure that Google Analytics data is accumulating normally. Now go get back to your vacation! Need some reading material? Go study some analytics tips from the GA sage Avinash, at his blog.

Have some website launch tips for us? Please share them in the comments below!

About Bear Files

Visual designer, brand consultant. Owner of Evolution Design, a digital design studio in Carlsbad, California. Husband, dad, mountain biker… a few broken bones are worth the fun!

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