Gate Customer Newsletter Gate.com
Issue: July 2014

12 Essential Checks Before Launching Your Website

You’ve done all of the heavy lifting, and you’re nearly ready to launch (or relaunch) your website. But before you pass “Go,” it’s important to make sure you haven’t overlooked anything that will embarrass your company, damage your SEO or cost you money to fix.

You can often forget a number of things in your eagerness to make your site live, so it’s useful to have a checklist as you make your final touches. Some may sound simple, but the devil’s in the details, especially in today’s ultra-connected society.

Here are 12 things you should double-check before showing your website to the world:

    1. Spelling and grammatical errors. Read everything and then read it again. That includes headlines, sidebars and bullets. Even better, have someone read it who is not involved in the process. There’s always something you’ll pick up on and have to change. See if you can reduce the amount of text by removing any ambiguities. Break up large blocks of text into shorter paragraphs. Make sure your headlines are clear. Your CMS likely has a built-in spell-check feature, so make sure to use it to catch anything you may have overlooked.

    2. Links. Do they all work? Do they all go to the correct place? Don’t assume anyone else has checked them – do it yourself. You may often forget to add “http://” to links to other websites. Make sure your logo links to the home page, a step commonly overlooked. Also, think about how your links work. Is it obvious to new users that they are links? They should stand out from the other text on the page. When possible, links should open in a new window or tab so that the initial page stays open.

    3. Titles and metadata. The title of your page is the most important element for SEO, and it lets users know what they are reading. Make sure it changes on every page and relates to that page’s content. Research target keyword phrases, then optimize your metadata (page title tag, meta description, and meta keywords) as well as your copy with at least one keyword per page. Change the description to make it relate to that page’s content, because this is often what Google displays in its search result description.

    4. Cross-browser checks. There’s nothing worse than when you think your design looks great, you check it in Chrome, and see that everything is broken. It’s important that your website works across browsers. The most popular browsers to check are Chrome, Internet Explorer 8, 9, 10 and 11, Firefox, Safari and Opera. Take the time before launch to do final cross-browser testing to ensure all content and functionality is working and appearing how you intended.

    5. Favicon. A favicon brands the tab or window in which your website is open in the user’s browser. It is also saved with the bookmark so that users can easily identify pages from your site. Make sure it’s showing as intended and the image is not broken.

    6. Contact forms.  Forms are a great feature for lead generation, but they’re only useful if they work and actually notify you of a new submission. Make sure that they are capturing all of the information you need to contact an individual without making them too long or invasive, as this will turn potential customers off. Be sure to submit all forms to ensure they work. Leave fields blank and make sure your error message is clean and informative.

    7. Social media icons. You want people to share your great content, so ensure you not only have social media icons on each page and blog article, but also that they click through to the desired site. These should be tested frequently after launch as well.

    8. Image file types and sizes. Check all page images to make sure they are JPG, PNG or GIF image files. Be sure the images are placed in the page at 72 dpi and not their original resolution. If images are only being used at 500 pixels wide on the page, don’t upload it at 2,200 pixels wide and downsize it in the image editor, as this may have an impact on page load speed. Investigate using new image formats such as WebP (put forth by Google) and JPEG XR (backed by Microsoft) that can help reduce image size if you plan multiple pictures and graphics on your site.

    9. Page load speed. Uploading photos that are too large causes a web page to load slowly, which can impact whether or not a visitor stays on the page. It can also impact SEO, since the Google algorithm includes site speed as a factor in determining page rank. Use a free site speed tool to test how quickly your page loads; the industry standard is three seconds.

    10. Sitemap. Towards the end of the site launch process, it’s important to have your sitemap updated and ready to go. Adding a sitemap.xml file to your root directory allows the major search engines to easily index your site by pointing crawlers to all the pages. Many CMS platforms will create a sitemap automatically as the site is created. Just be sure to make it live when the time is right.

    11. Copyright. Most CMS platforms will automatically update your copyright date stamp, but you may need to manually update it. Double-check the date before launch.

    12. Analytics tracking. Once the site is ready to launch, analytics tracking code needs to be added to every page to track post-launch traffic and usage of the new site. Document current keyword rankings and other performance metrics to compare pre- and post-launch performance.

While this list is comprehensive, there will be additional areas you’ll want to continue to test as visitors come through. A website should be a dynamic part of your business and should always reflect the latest content your company has to offer. Frequent reviews with impartial eyes will make your site the best it can be.

What tips have you learned from launching a new website? Share them in the content section below.

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In This Issue
12 Essential Checks Before Launching Your Website
Three Social Media Management Tools for the Small Business Owner
Why Registering Multiple Domains Is Good for Your Business
Connect with Us on Social Media
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Three Social Media Management Tools for the Small Business Owner

As a small business owner and entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard a million times that in order to attract customers in the modern age, you need to be active on social media. But when you’re Chief of Everything, who has time to keep track of Twitter mentions?

With 350 million users on Facebook, 750 tweets being sent every second, and two new users joining LinkedIn every second, the social sphere is buzzing. Not being involved could mean missed opportunities for new customers. Having a strong social presence can also mean increased brand awareness and stronger SEO rankings.

Social media management doesn’t have to be a daunting task. There are plenty of tools – most of them free! – that can help you manage your social media presence without eating up too much time. We highlight some of our favorites here:

HootSuite
Whether you have a small marketing team or you’re handling it all yourself,  HootSuite is a great tool that allows you to manage your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, MySpace, PingFM and WordPress accounts. The best part? The basic version is absolutely free! If you need a little more insight, paid plans – starting at $5.99 per month – allow you to add on Google Analytics and other analysis tools.

HootSuite’s user-friendly layout focuses on streams, constantly updating feeds of information, which are customizable by account, network or keyword. This makes it easy to keep an eye on all of your social channels in one place. The tool also makes it easy to connect with users, providing followers’ bios, Klout scores and links to their social profiles in just one click.

CrowdBooster
If you’re an SMB, you know the importance of tracking the ROI on your marketing campaigns. You don’t want to waste time on campaigns that don’t work, and you should be optimizing the ones that do. But when you’re dealing with something subjective like social media, how do you decide if your campaigns are working? CrowdBooster is a great tool that focuses on gathering data from your social profiles to determine exactly that.

It can provide analytics on impressions, total reach and engagement with your posts, allowing you to better target future campaigns. CrowdBooster will also send you alerts on Twitter users who may be a match for your brand and content. The tool also analyzes your posts and gives suggestions to improve your strategy based on when people are most likely to view your latest content.

The lowest plan of CrowdBooster starts at $9 per month and allows you to track up to 50,000 followers.

Feedly
When small businesses begin to build their social presence, they are prone to forgetting that broadcasting their own message is only half the battle. Sharing others’ content in order to engage your audience is also a crucial component, and Feedly is a great tool that essentially serves as a feed reader.

When you have several websites to keep up with, it can become cumbersome to visit each of them to stay updated on their content. Feedly aggregates all of the RSS feeds from these websites into one easy-to-manage tool that can be accessed via desktop or mobile. You can push content to your social media profiles instantly or save an article to share later. This makes the process of keeping up with and sharing relevant industry content much more streamlined and easy to manage.

Feedly plans begin at $5 per month, although you can save some cash with a $45 yearly subscription.

With the help of these social media management tools, creating an online presence for your small business doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With affordable and even free options, it doesn’t have to eat up your marketing budget either. As more customers turn to online research before visiting a business or making an online purchase, social media is a great avenue to connect with your target audience and build relationships. With 92 percent of businesses using social networks for marketing purposes by the end of 2014, you can’t afford to be left behind.

What are your favorite social media tools to use when building an online community for your business?

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Why Registering Multiple Domains Is Good for Your Business

Savvy business owners know that a strong online presence is vital to attracting and converting new customers, and that the specific domain names resolving to a site can greatly impact the success of that business. For this and other reasons, many companies register multiple domains. Here are a few of the main benefits of doing so.

Protecting Your Brand Online Protects Your Business

You spend a lot of time, money and resources on building and optimizing your online brand to increase the traffic to your site. The last thing you want is other people capitalizing on your efforts, siphoning traffic from your site simply by registering domain names that appear to be associated with your brand. Why not identify common additional domains for your business and register them before any unscrupulous competitors do? It’s an inexpensive way of protecting your brand and can improve your traffic at the same time.

A popular way of protecting an online brand is to identify common misspellings of the domain name and registering those typos as domains. These additional domains can easily be set up to forward visitors to your main website, ensuring they end up at their intended destination – your site. Look at google.com as an example: They’ve registered gogle.com and googel.com as typo domains that redirect the user to the main Google website.

If you’re providing products or services to customers in specific countries, I highly recommend registering your domain name under the country code domain extension for the specific countries or regions you are marketing to, such as .us and .ca for the United States or Canada, or .eu and .asia for the European and Asia Pacific regions. These extensions will let visitors know you have a presence in these specific locations. Studies have shown consumers are more comfortable conducting e-commerce with companies within their region.

Marketing Opportunities with Multiple Domains

If your products have unique and catchy names, it’s a good idea to register those product names as domains. You can set up the domains to resolve to specific landing pages on your site, providing potential customers immediate information about that product. Apple does this with iphone.com, which takes the user right to the iPhone page on their website. Unfortunately, they can’t use that strategy with ipad.com, as someone registered it before them and is pointing it to an unrelated website.

You may also want to consider registering domains for promotions and contests, particularly if they are recurring. Something like yourbrandgiveaway.com – resolving to a promotion or contest landing page – gives your users a quick and easy way to get updates on your current promotions and is great for word-of-mouth advertising. If your brand has a catchphrase or slogan associated with it, you can also strengthen that relationship by registering it as a domain that brings visitors to your site, as Nike does with justdoit.com.

Taking some time to carefully plan out a domain registration strategy is a great cost-effective way of protecting your brand and online presence. Using multiple domains will also give your customers more ways of finding you on the net, can make your site more dynamic, and will give you more opportunities to be listed in search engines.

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