You’ve worked hard to create a beautiful new website and you’re ready to show it to the world. But what should you do before launching to make sure everything works right? We have a list of the top things every business should do before revealing a new website.
We have 55 things on our official website launch list, but this is the top 10 things to check when you launch a site.
- Set WordPress to allow indexing: Settings —> Reading: “Discourage search engines from indexing this site”
- Make sure Analytics is installed
- Add launch date to Analytics as a “shared annotation”
- Along with any other tracking software, like FreshMarketer or CrazyEgg
- Add new site to Google Search Console
- Listen for issues
- Make sure to submit your new sitemap
- Make sure test blog entries have been removed. Remove “uncategorized” category.
- Check time zone settings: eg. New York vs GMT -5
- Make sure posts are “by” the site owner
- Check for special characters.
- Invisible on Mac
- You can see them on Windows or Chrome OS.
- Set up redirects
- Check API keys for Google Maps and Google ReCaptcha
- Make sure your forms work
Robert Carnes 0:05
This is the brighter web podcast insights on growing a small business using the latest technology and marketing best practices. I’m Robert and I am here once again with Mickey, where we we both work at Greenville and a marketing agency here in Atlanta, Georgia, and we specialize in building WordPress websites. So you know a few things about websites. And you know, how many would you say you’ve you and rebuild has built over the years? Mickey?
Mickey Mellen 0:29
That’s a good question. We started in 2009, I’d say we’ve done around 200 or 250. Maybe not a ton, really, when you get down to it. But I mean, ours are pretty big projects. And it’s been a lot of sites.
Robert Carnes 0:41
At least enough that you can talk pretty intelligibly about the topic that we want to kind of discuss a little more in depth today with, which is launching a website you’ve launched, you know, quite a few websites, I’d say.
Mickey Mellen 0:53
There’s a lot you need to do when you launch just to make sure things aren’t broken. Yeah, we have, I think, like 55 items on our launch list. And almost all of them are redundant things just to make sure things aren’t broken. But some are very, very important if you happen to mess them up. So we like to take that extra look at them.
Robert Carnes 1:07
So 55 is a pretty long list. I don’t think we have time. Patience to listen to that entire list. But you know, is there like a top 10? Like, is there a kind of a few high level things that you could walk us through for launching a site?
Mickey Mellen 1:20
I think 10 would be a good way to go. And then we’ll, I’ll put a link to the full full list in our show notes somewhere. So we have that published out there somewhere. We’ll track it down. Yeah.
Robert Carnes 1:28
So what’s the first thing you want to do to make sure that launching goes successfully?
Mickey Mellen 1:40
This is what we talked about a couple episodes ago, but just make sure Google can see your site. in WordPress. Under the settings and reading tab, there’s that magic little checkbox that says to discourage search engines from indexing this site and make sure that it is not checked. And again, you do want to check when you’re building the site, you don’t want Google to see your temporary site alongside your live site. So you do want to block Google from your temporary site. When you go live. Just make sure that’s unchecked. We have it. We have it on our list twice, just to make sure because it’s such a tiny checkbox, but it’s devastating your Google rankings if you happen to leave it checked. So that’s our first one is to make sure WordPress can allow indexing.
Robert Carnes 2:14
Yeah, I love what we call the magic checkbox is something like genuinely like mysterious about what we do. But no, we’re just we’re just unchecking the checkbox
Mickey Mellen 2:22
Maybe the evil checkbox.
Robert Carnes 2:24
Yeah, we should change that. So what’s the next thing?
Mickey Mellen 2:27
Next one, make sure Google Analytics is installed. There’s other tools you could use, we still prefer Google Analytics over most of the others, just make sure it’s installed. Make sure if you had an existing site using the same Analytics code from before, so it’s seamless, or make sure you have the new code installed. If there’s an existing account, you have analytics has a neat little tool called annotations, you can make a shared annotation just on the front page of that main little timeline of all the traffic, you make a little note in there saying, Hey, we launched the new site today. Now I like to make little annotations, whenever there’s anything noteworthy if we launch a big new product or have a big email campaign or something, pull the annotation, mostly for your future self. So we go back and say, why did the traffic changed so much that day and see the annotation? Oh, we launched the new site. That’s why people shared it on social media. And then add any other tracking software you have, like freshmarketer, we use one called Crazy Egg right now for heat map tracking, just make sure all your tracking software that you want is in place on the site.
Robert Carnes 3:19
That’s important. Getting all those kind of integrations hooked up with the site. Are there any more like Google tools that you would suggest people install before they go live?
Mickey Mellen 3:28
The next one would be Google Search Console, which you don’t really install. It’s more you just kind of go to Google Search Console and prove that the site is yours. And, again, if you have an existing site, that’s probably already set up, there’s probably not much you need to change. But I love Google Search Console for two reasons. The first one is that’s where you can listen for issues. If Google sees a problem with your site, they’re not going to call you or email you or let you know there’s going to publish to your search console say, Hey, we think you’ve been hacked or we can’t access some pages. So you want to have that account, just so you can see if Google thinks there’s a problem, because if Google thinks there’s a problem it’s worth listening to. And then also, you can submit your new sitemap there. The sitemap is just kind of a list of all the pages on your site doesn’t help you rank better necessarily, but it helps Google understand your site. And it’s always a good thing if Google can better understand your site.
Robert Carnes 4:12
Absolutely. They are the way that people find us more than often than anything of which SEO is a thing that we’ve covered in a previous podcast episode. And content was a big piece of what we talked about there. So, you know, I think content may be another piece that you want to talk about when it comes to launching this.
Mickey Mellen 4:30
A few items in here for content. A big one for me is making sure those test blog entries have been removed. You know, when you install WordPress, it creates a test page and a test blog entry. And especially in a site that’s not going to have a blog, people often just leave that test post in there. And that post will get indexed by Google and it’ll sort of show up in bad ways. It’s not a killer thing. We just look sloppy when that’s in there. And the same with the initial category you get is called uncategorized. You don’t ever want to publish something under the uncategorized category. My cheap way around that though. Ideally, everything is a nice manicured category, but I renamed uncategorized to general or main or blog or something. So at least it looks a little better if you happen to leave something sitting in there.
Robert Carnes 5:11
And category sounds like we weren’t sure where to put this. We don’t know what we’re doing. Exactly. We just have some content out there. Yeah, renaming that is probably a very professional thing to do. What’s the next tip you’ve got?
Mickey Mellen 5:21
So the next one is the timezone settings. WordPress has timezone settings you want to check. And this is particularly important if you schedule posts in WordPress. And one little tip I’ll give you for timezone it’s a pretty simple setting, you just set your timezone, you can set like GMT minus five, which is what east coast is, during not daylight savings time, I can’t remember what that is. So rather than choosing GMT minus five or minus four or whatever, you can choose a city. So I just choose New York for most of our clients. And that way, it’ll change with Daylight Savings Time automatically, and keep our timezone accurate. So when we publish posts, the time will show properly and the cycle when we published it, we schedule posts, they’ll publish automatically when they’re supposed to and that kind of thing.
Robert Carnes 5:58
I believe I’ll flex a little bit here. I believe GMT is Greenwich Mean Time?
Mickey Mellen 6:03
Very good. Yes.
Robert Carnes 6:04
So some fun facts there. Yeah, but it is a little bit easier to actually have your timezone based on one of the cities rather than negative five, right, exactly. Three, yeah, one of these meaningless things. All right. So what’s your next tip for launching a site.
Mickey Mellen 6:18
Next one is to make sure any blog posts you publish are written by the site owner. And I put by in parentheses in my notes here, just saying change the display name, it shows up as because in our case, we may load a bunch of blog posts on behalf of the client. But we don’t want it to show up as green melon or Mickey melon, or Robert Carnes, or whatever we want to show up as the clients name. So you can go back through and make sure your blog posts show up under the proper name of who you want them to have been from, or not who actually hit the publish button.
Robert Carnes 6:46
To note, obviously, as we kind of mentioned, to start off here, most of these are a little bit more tailored to WordPress launches, but I think they can pretty much go for for any kind of site that you’re launching. Yeah, for sure. Yeah, we’re obviously a WordPress shop. So we kind of think through things from that lens. So yeah, just just the helpful notation there.
Mickey Mellen 7:03
Yep. So the next one, we have number seven here is checking for special characters. So these are often invisible on Mac, because I see this on sites a lot, because everyone was on a Mac. And they never noticed these special characters. But there’s these weird little there spaces, but they’re not spaces, they show up in a lot of computers as like a question mark in a box. And it just looks funny. You see him on Mac, and you can see him on Chrome OS. And so like our developer has a Chromebook that she keeps by her desk. So periodically, she can browse through the site and make sure that there’s little weird characters in there. Because I mean, most of your visitors are not going to be on a Mac, statistically. And so you want to make sure, just clean up a little special characters. Not a big deal. But again, it looks sloppy, if your main headline people are reading through it has a big funny question mark in the middle of it.
Robert Carnes 7:45
Oh, unprofessional. And I think that kind of almost goes back to our magic checkbox. That seems a little bit more kind of mystical and mysterious, kind of why that might be. But hey, yeah, make sure to kind of check to get rid of those. Yeah. So obviously, if you were, you know, in some cases, if you’re launching a site, it may be a brand new, like, you know, you may be a new business, or you didn’t have a web presence before. So you’re launching a brand new online entity, and it feels so fresh and new. But, you know, in a lot of cases, you know, we had an older site, right, you know, way this was around for 10 years that needed to refresh. So we’re working on a new site. I feel like there’s something really important though, with making sure that you don’t get the streams crossed, when you’re kind of taking down the old site and launching the new one, especially when it comes to those links, that were already out there on the web. Is that right?
Mickey Mellen 8:27
Yep, there you go. Then it’s number eight here setting up redirects. And so there are tools to help do that. But a lot of times your page names may change from your old site to a new site, your about page, you might have been about that HTML. And now it’s just slash about. And if someone goes to that old about page, which is in Google, and maybe in some bookmarks, they’ll get a page not found error, which is not good. And so we use a tool called redirection in WordPress, there’s others in WordPress, there’s others and other systems, and just kind of go through and manually change as many as we possibly can. And then what’s neat With redirections, you can track all the not found errors. And so we’ll kind of keep an eye on the site for the next few days. And a lot of the not found errors are spammers just kind of poking around to see where they can find but we still keep it as it Oh, someone tried to get to about that HTM. So I don’t know, if it’s a typo made with some old versions. Let’s set up a redirect. So next time someone does, you know, they find the right page. This is good for users primarily. So they don’t find the not found page. But good for your search engine optimization too. Because if there’s any link juice on that page, a proper redirect will pass all that link juice to the new page versus letting it just kind of disappear into that not found. So help you rankings help your users it’s a good thing to do. And it takes a little time, especially on a big site, but it’s well worth doing.
Robert Carnes 9:37
And if you’re looking for any business idea, I think link juice might be an interesting one to try out. I don’t know. We’ll check if that URL is available of time I’d get it. Sure. Okay, so what’s what’s the next tip you’ve got for us?
Mickey Mellen 9:50
So the next one is to check the API keys for Google Maps and google recaptcha and things like that. So if you have an embedded google map on your site, If you use google recaptcha, that’s like the the checkbox you see in forums or says, you know, check this box, improve your human, those are tied to a key that you get from Google. It’s a free key, it’s a long string of characters, you have to just plug in insert to the plugin to make it work. But it’s tied to your domain name. So if you’ve had it on test site for a while, you probably use a the test domain. For your Google Maps when you launch an live site, that domain change, and therefore the key change. So it’s easy to do. But it’s also easy to miss because it’s just that little mat buried at the bottom of your contact page. And you might not notice but anyone that comes to the site will say, Sorry, this map is not registered to work versus looking like a working map. And then people get confused by that versus actually reaching out to contact you. So any keys you need for different things, it’s worth just making sure that they’re set to work on the live site, right?
Robert Carnes 10:44
Google Maps, like you’re mentioning, is kind of one of the most common that people will use to get out. There are plenty of other API keys, stuff like maybe HubSpot, or MailChimp, any other kind of integration tools that you’ve got connected through API.
Mickey Mellen 10:56
A lot of those will work on multiple things. Like if you use HubSpot, and those the key will work on your test site and your live site without changing but some will, some won’t. So it’s worth just kind of spending a few minutes going through all the things that keys just to make sure they work. All right. So
Robert Carnes 11:08
You’ve been through quite a few checkpoints so far. And I think hopefully, this will get at least most people’s website in a pretty good spot. So what’s the final tip that you provide to us just especially around testing to make sure that the site is actually working? Like it’s supposed to.
Mickey Mellen 11:21
And that’s the big thing is just to test, we actually have one item on our list, it’s not on my list today is to have our whole team just kind of just go through the site, just kind of click around and make sure things work, right, just kind of random clicking but the last one that I specifically go after is making sure your forms work, your contact form your email signup form, that kind of stuff. Because again, your your testing site is probably on a different server than your main one. And so perhaps your main site, email on the server is not configured correctly, or using a plug in to help with that, or there can be a variety of reasons. But if the form doesn’t work, you won’t really notice that because people fill out the form and you won’t get it. And so you won’t know that you didn’t get it. And that’s a big problem, because those people who felt the contact form are often potential clients. So we just want to go to the form, fill it out, make sure it saves to the site and emails, the proper people and, you know, super easy thing to check and usually is not a problem. Again, most of these things are not a problem, you know, on this list, but that’s a good one to check just to make sure because that’s a lot of cases, that’s the goal of the site is to get people to fill out that forms, you want to make darn sure that it works when they do.
Robert Carnes 12:19
That’s an awesome list. In case people have forgotten some of the different points in there, I’m gonna do a quick recap, just to make sure that I’ve been listening. There you go, cool, perfect, drifting in and out here. So first to set up to make sure that magic checkbox is unchecked. So Google can actually find you. Number two, to make sure Google Analytics is installed. And three, similarly, to get a site on Google search engine or Google Search Console yet, again, number four would be to make sure that those test blog entries have been removed. So that you know it doesn’t say hello world, as soon as people come here, site, five would be to check the timezone settings to make sure that those are accurate. Six would be to make sure that the posts are actually by the site owner and not you as maybe this site developer or just an individual user on the page. Seven, make sure to check for those, again, those magical mystical little special characters that don’t show up on Mac, eight, make sure to set the redirects so that people are actually coming to the right links on your new site and not actually breaking a link on your old site, nine to check those API keys, especially for things like Google Maps and recapture. And then number 10, to actually test out the site and forums and make sure that those actually work, and are filling errors for new people that come to your site perfectly
Mickey Mellen 13:38
That’s a good lesson. Again, our list is a good bit longer than that. But it gets even more small things that, again, should all be done already. But just to double check and make sure things are good. And we’ll have that in our show notes.
Robert Carnes 13:50
The point overall is you put it a lot of work to build this new website. I’m sure you’re very proud of it and can’t wait to show it to the world. But yeah, just make sure to kind of do these last minute little things to make sure that it’s going to work the right way that you expect that to.
Robert Carnes 14:05
Well, thank you so much for listening to this episode of the brighter web podcast with Robert and Mickey from green melon, a digital marketing agency. If you want more insights like this, including the full list of all 55 things on our website launch checklist. Be sure to check out a brighter web.com And if you want even more insights, visit our blog at Green melon media.com