Website Launch Tips – A Best Practices Guide

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As with every other step in developing a new website, there are many different aspects to consider when launching one. Launching websites can be stressful even for the most experienced, and many items can be easily overlooked. This is why we’ve created this website launch guide — to ensure you are prepared for all the basics and any issues that may come up so that your website launch is successful.

Website Pre-Launch Checklist

l In this section we’ll cover many commonly overlooked items that can be done even before a website is launched. Adding these items to your to-do list will ensure the website launch is covered from all angles.

Make Sure Everything is Updated

One of the most important reasons to keep everything updated is security. Making sure your website is up-to-date is very important in keeping your website and information secure. That said, there are always new features, performance and security improvements with new updates to your CMS, PHP version, or plugins.

If you are using a CMS like WordPress, make sure you have the latest version. WordPress accounts for about 60% of all CMS websites and 40% of all websites globally, making it a common target for potential hackers and all sorts of malicious attacks.

Similar to having the most up-to-date CMS, the PHP version of the server is also important to check before launching. Why? Updating the PHP provides you with a fully-supported version that is routinely updated for security issues. Additionally, many CMS and plugin updates require a more recent PHP version.

Ensure You Have the Right Tools

Before you launch, you’ll also want to install Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools. We also recommend that you create a real user sitemap and also upload an SML sitemap to Google. This will allow you properly monitor and analyze your website and its performance.

Check for Title Tags and CTAs

Make sure each page has proper title tags. Don’t go crazy with spam. Pick your best terms and use them in the title tags. If you have a long firm name, abbreviate or leave it out of the tag. Don’t worry: Google will recognize your firm from the copy and footer.

Additionally, make sure all your pages have at least one call to action. Not onl does thihs make it easy for people to contact you, but it also prompts them to engage with you beyond just reading your content.

Redirect Domains and Pages

Additionally, make sure you capture all redirects of all domains. They should redirect to www.your-domain.com (or your-domain.com). Pick one or the other and redirect everything to one version.

You’ll also want to redirect all old pages via 301 to the new pages. Keep in mind: sometimes this is easy for 30-page websites, but can be a several hour task for 100-page websites.

Backup Everything

When launching, it is especially critical to have a backup of all files, databases and DNS entries. Launching can have many points of failure and even a minor update might lead to unexpected issues or errors. Having a backup prevents huge headaches and allows you to fix any problems that can’t be immediately handled more efficiently. A backup can be the difference between a simple fix or hours and hours of troubleshooting. This will also save time if you are changing hosts since those files may no longer be accessible after launch.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Something that can separate you from others is setting up SEO for your website. This starts with making sure that your website is indexable to Google and other search engines. This basically means that the search engines can crawl through your website and make it a possible search result for anyone searching.

Setting up basic keywords on important pages, especially your homepage, and schema helps search engines better understand your website and allow it to show higher in the results. (If you are considering professional SEO help, we offer fantastic SEO services, ranging from basic to a complete rework of your site.)

Another important aspect is your website page speed. This is very important, especially for keeping users on your site. Many people searching for a service, product, or information will always gravitate and stay longer on a site that loads faster for them. Running a speed test at Google’s Page Speed Insights gives you a score and a detailed explanation of the issues that might be slowing down your website.

Top 4 Things that Delay Law Firm Website Launches

Having the above checklist is helpful for getting the basics down. However, there are multiple external factors that may stop you from getting your website up in a timely manner. Knowing the most common reasons for website delays can help you keep your website development on track. Below are the top four things that delay website launches.

Knowing the most common reasons for website delays can help you keep your website development on track.

Knowing the most common reasons for website delays can help you keep your website development on track.

1. Too Many People on Your Website Committee

In our experience launching hundreds of websites, the more decision-makers involved in the project, the longer it takes to launch the website. On average, website committees comprised of over seven members tend to push the website timeline beyond a year. Conversely, sites with only one decision-maker tend to launch much more quickly (as soon as a month).

Therefore, we recommend keeping your website committee as lean as possible to streamline the decision-making process. Ideally, this number is three members or less.

2. Underestimating Content

Even if you have a long-standing current website, your new site will likely feature some new content or updates to existing content. Writing web content is a big project and many law firms and businesses underestimate this task. We recommend budgeting three hours per web page, including planning, research, writing, edits, optimization, and uploading the content to your content management system or content file.

Writing content is stressful and overwhelming for many small business owners. For busy lawyers who may be expert writers, writing website content is not billable to a client. Since it does not contribute to the bottom line, it often falls to the bottom of the to-do list.

If you have over five pages of content to write, we recommend assigning the work to a qualified writer or group of writers within your organization with a firm deadline. If you have the budget, hiring an experienced web copywriter can help speed up the content process and ensure that pages are properly optimized and written for the web.

3. Lack of a Take-Charge Project Manager

Every web project needs a project manager or point person to manage the project. In a solo firm, that might be the sole practitioner; in a mid-size firm, it may be a senior attorney; in a large firm, it might be the marketing director or firm administrator. Your firm needs a strong project manager who can take charge, corral all stakeholders into making decisions and push the project forward. A project manager who lacks focus or does not have time to devote to the process leaves the project in limbo for months at a time. Similarly, a project manager who lacks any decision-making power will need to circle back with his or her team on every decision, inevitably causing delays.

Switching project managers mid-project can also prolong the process. The new project manager must get up to speed with all aspects of the project (content, design, development, SEO). Often the new project manager has different ideas and wants to change the site architecture, design, SEO keywords, content or other aspects of the website that have already been decided.

Ultimately, we recommend that you appoint a project manager who has time to devote to the project, has decision-making authority, and will remain with the project until launch.

4. Rushing Aspects of Your Web Project

If you want your website to launch as soon as possible, it seems logical to rush through each step to get to the finish line. However, in our experience, rushing any aspect of the website process – SEO, content, design, development or punch list – often extends the final launch date. Rushing causes firm members to overlook important details, cut corners or rethink decisions that were made on the fly, creating the need to redo work, make major changes mid-project or take a step backward.

To ensure you are doing things right, set realistic timelines and set aside proper time for each stage of the project.

In sum, everyone wants their site to launch quickly. Proper planning, a proactive project manager, and a lean web committee will help you reach your launch date sooner.

Post-Launch Issues and DNS Confusion

Once you’ve launched your website, there are multiple problems that may come up. First, don’t worry. Your site is working for most of the world. If you can’t see it on your own computer network, then you probably need to update your DNS cache to get the new IP address of the new server. Until this happens, you may not see the new site.

A good first test is to load your site on your mobile phone on LTE (not WiFi). See if it loads. It probably will. Then compare that to your desktop or laptop on your local company network. It probably doesn’t load on the desktop computer network. If so, DNS is the culprit for your local computer.

A DNS cache is a storage record of all common websites and their IP addresses that you visit. The cache has a list of all IP addresses, so that your computer does not have to look them up each time you visit the same site. This saves time in resolving websites and making them load quicker, especially for sites you visit daily.

For your new website launch, you are on a new server with a new IP address. So your old DNS cache entry is incorrect. Your DNS cache needs to be cleared to get this new IP. There are a few ways to do this:

Reboot

Rebooting is easy and will typically clear the cache (but not always).

Clear Your DNS Cache

Clear your DNS cache via this article. After following these directions, your cache should clear and allow you to see the site.

Call Your IT for Support

They will know how to assist and clear the DNS on your computer or local network. Sometimes they have hard coded a DNS entry for the website into the network and that will need to be updated. We can provide the new IP as needed.

Wait

Wait 24 hours and usually the DNS may clear naturally.

Get Expert Help with Your Website Launch

Preparing for a seamless website launch takes a lot of work, both on your site itself and within your team. If you want to ensure that your website has launched properly, feel free to contact us so our experienced team can get you on the right track.


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