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Seven Big Things to Consider Ahead of Your Website Launch.
So it’s finally about to happen - the launch of your new baby, the redesigned kick-ass website that you’ve been slaving over the past few months. As a web agency, we always work to a strict go live plan, but as a marketing manager there are many other important things you need to take into account. This is a big event in your marketing calendar and, as with any successful event, good planning is vital.
1. Choose the right date
Reduce risks to the business by ensuring your go live date is not on a day where you have a big campaign running, a newsletter mail-out, and such. Your existing web analytics data will help you deduce the quietest time with regards to traffic and you may wish to consider an out of hours deploy, where your development team works outside of office hours (usually at an additional cost).
NB. A common development rule is don’t ever deploy on a Friday, unless you have good reason and sufficient dev support over the weekend.
2. Check your DNS TTL
Here comes the boring technical bit that your IT team or development agency can handle. If the deploy involves moving your website to a new server, they’ll need to check the TTL - or “Time To Live”. This is the amount of time your website data will remain cached, i.e. the time users may still see your old website after the new one goes live. For example, if your TTL is 24 hours, this will put your launch back a day later than expected, leaving you sitting there waiting impatiently (like the cookie monster).
We recommend lowering your TTL to an hour and doing this 24 hours before your website launch. After launch it can be returned it to its previous state.
3. Minimise impact to SEO
As any decent web agency should point out, there is always a risk that your new website can have negative effects on your search rankings. However, with the right steps you can drastically minimise this.
- As part of the deploy you should ensure you have 301 redirects for any changed or removed URLs. This is where you redirect traffic that lands on the old URLs to the appropriate new ones. For bigger websites this can be a time-consuming process with 1,000s of redirects so preparation beforehand is key.
- Have you set up your Google Search Console yet? Best to do this as soon as possible as you’ll want to submit your new XML sitemap when your website goes live. It’s also a good tool to track any errors, like 404 Page Not Founds.
- Talking of which, your new site should have an XML sitemap - it’s an ugly but important file that contains all your pages and (preferably) their priority. This needs to be submitted to Google via your Search Console after launch, to help them reindex your site asap.
- Meta tags… it’s super important to ensure that your new site will launch with the same (or improved) meta tags as the previous one. These are snippets of text that Google shows in search results and if you lose them, your rankings will no doubt be impacted.
If you have an SEO agency, they should have the above covered, but it’s always good to double check. Ideally you will have allowed them time to audit the new site during the UAT (user acceptance testing) phase.
4. Prepare for Post Launch Testing and Fixes
Your development team should test the website immediately after launch, but ultimately they are never going to know your brand as well as you, and no matter how much testing has been done during UAT, it is natural that there will be bugs after launch. Ensure you and your team have blocked out sufficient time to check through the new site thoroughly to make sure everything works as it should. You’ll particularly want to focus on any common conversion paths, forms and booking processes. Remember to also check your analytics tracking is working – it’s something that is frustratingly often forgotten. Google Tag Assistant for Chrome (https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/tag-assistant-by-google/kejbdjndbnbjgmefkgdddjlbokphdefk?hl=en) is a great tool if you are using Google Analytics and/or Tag Manager.
Many years ago, the company I was working for launched a new website and the web agency we were working with practically dropped us once it was live. All the issues and bugs we found post launch weren’t addressed for months - it was incredibly disheartening. Lesson here: agree with your web agency up front that they will be available to fix problems within your warranty period (a standard warranty can range from 30-90 days - this should be part of your contract) and they have allocated appropriate development resource particularly within the first couple of weeks.
5. Appease your Stakeholders
If your company has many stakeholders, they will already be aware of your go live date, but you may also wish to let them know how to give feedback ahead of the launch. In some cases, setting up a support ticketing system can be a lot more effective than receiving a bombardment of emails. Most people will naturally have an opinion (whether it is informed or not!).
You’ll also want to pre-plan some extra budget for change requests - if you have many stakeholders I can guarantee that you’ll receive some.
6. Pause Paid Advertising
Do you have paid advertising such as Google Adwords? You should allow whoever is managing this to review your new website well ahead of go live, during the UAT phase, as any changes may affect how your campaigns are set up. If you have the appropriate 301 redirects mentioned previously, this will go a long way in ensuring links from ads still work. And remember to check your remarketing tags are all set up and recording correctly after launch.
It is also a good idea to pause ads for a day when going live - in case anything goes wrong. Then once you have the new site up and running, campaigns can be let loose again.
7. Pre-Plan Social, Content and PR
When you launch a new website you should want to shout about it! However, we would often recommend the “soft-launch” approach, where you wait one or two days before you hit up your social media channels. This will allow you to iron out any initial bugs - no one wants to have a bunch of comments on your Facebook page telling you x, y and z doesn’t work. Ask your web agency how they will be promoting the launch as well - perhaps you could collaborate together.
An email campaign and press release are other great ways to drive traffic to your new website and can go a long way - again, your web agency may also want to get involved with this.
Of course, as you will be hoping to draw a large amount of traffic, you need to think about what content you are presenting them with… is your latest blog post your best foot forward? Is there sufficient content to encourage visitors to return? Could you be running a competition in line with the launch to help capture leads? A few questions to ponder.
Finally, the best advice I have had when going live with a new site is never treat the launch as the finish line – but rather, the beginning of a new endeavour. So please get out the champagne and toast your big day, but always be ready for the next steps, as your new baby will need lots of constant care and attention in the months ahead.
Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.
A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.
So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance.
What is a Content Strategy?
It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.
But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business.
Who are my Audience?
You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.
So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context.
Do I need to tailor content?
As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.
Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:
What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?
Who are they most influenced by?
What voices influence their behaviour?
What type of content do they consume?
Where do they consume content and engage with brands?
Different Content, Different Objectives
All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.
There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.
Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale.
Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels.
Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.
Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.
Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.
How do I manage all this?
Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.
Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.
Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.
If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.