Establishing a solid web presence is a must for any growing business — and with so many different platforms available, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be carving out your own little corner of the internet. When you’re getting a new site up and running, there’s plenty of possibility for error, so it pays to make sure you’ve done everything right. If you’re in the process of creating a website for your business, here are four things to tick off your to-do list before you take it live.
1. Map Out Your Content Strategy
Driving traffic to a new website begins by populating it with high-quality content. If you’re just putting up product pages or blog posts without giving much thought to carefully crafting audience-focused content, you’re probably not going to get many hits. Identifying your target audience makes it much easier to come up with a workable content strategy and it ensures that the information you’re putting on the site holds the most value possible. For instance, how-to guides, tutorials, and list-type posts show your readers that you’re a problem solver, not a pushy salesperson.
Once you’ve got a firm grip on your target audience — your ideal customer — the next step is honing your online voice. You want to appear authoritative, of course, but using stiff language or technical jargon may be a turnoff to the average Joe. A conversational approach is usually best, and consistency is key. Whether you’re planning to write each post yourself or outsource the task, you want to maintain the same tone throughout. Mixing things up once in a while with an infographic, podcast, or video post is a good way to bring something fresh to the table.
2. Brush Up on SEO
If you don’t know what search engine optimization, or SEO, is, it’s time for a crash course. In the simplest terms, it means optimizing your website using keywords so that it’s easily indexed and highly ranked by various web search engines. When potential customers are searching for a specific word or phrase online, the chance of your site popping up in the top results is greatly improved if you’ve incorporated those same words into your content. If you’re not sure what people are searching for, the Google Adwords Keyword Planner can give you some insight into what keywords are getting the most attention.
You should place keywords should strategically throughout the site to maximize the potential for increased visibility. Included them in each page title and its meta description, as well as the page URL. If you’re including images in your blog posts, they should also have appropriate tags. You want to incorporate the keywords into the posts themselves and each content page on the site. That said, try to avoid overusing them. Repeating the same word or group of words over and over — known as “keyword stuffing” — can actually backfire if it causes a search engine to view your site as spam.
3. Build Early Buzz
Social media is one of the most effective tools for growing your customer base, and using these sites is a great way to start building up publicity before your new site launches. If you haven’t created profiles for your business on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Instagram, you’re overlooking some extremely valuable resources. Even if you’re not actively marketing through these platforms yet, you still want to create presences there so your customers who frequent them have the most opportunities to engage with your brand.
If you’re already a social media expert, you should be taking advantage of every opportunity to get the word out about your new site. For example, if you’re using Facebook to connect with customers you can create an event to notify them when the site’s about to go live. A simple tweet to your followers letting them know that something big is in the works piques their interest so they’ll be more inclined to stay tuned for future updates.
4. Work the Bugs Out
No matter how great your site’s design is or how stellar your content reads, none of it makes a difference if your site lacks basic functionality. Perhaps the most important thing you need to do before launching is conduct a thorough bug check to make sure everything is working properly. That includes testing your URLs, making sure pages are redirecting where they’re supposed to, checking to see whether images load correctly, and testing your RSS feed.
If your site includes contact or subscription forms, you also want to make sure data is being transmitted properly and auto-responder messages are being sent out. Check your social media buttons to see if they’re configured accurately, as well as any internal or external links you’ve incorporated into your blog posts or content pages. Last but not least, you should view the site on different browsers to see how compatible they are, as well as how your design translates across mobile devices.