There’s a lot of components that go into making a website. It’s no surprise that even the best professional companies commonly make mistakes when publishing websites. Here are some of the top mistakes we’ve seen people make when launching websites and how you can fix them!
#1) Failure to set up 301 redirects
Building a new website is a lot like moving houses. Anytime you move you should go to the post office and set up mail forwarding to your new address. This is exactly what 301 redirects do for websites. A 301 redirect is a way of telling computers and search engines that a page or entire website has permanently moved to some new location.
#2) Crawl your new website to check for errors
Using tools like SEO Moz or Screaming Frog SEO Spider you can crawl all of the pages on your website very easily. After weeks or even months of working on a website developers might lose focus. For large websites checking every single link by hand is tedious and it’s easy to miss things. Make sure immediately after launching either yourself or your developer crawls your website to check for broken images or links. Despite the fact this is incredibly easy to do an amazing number of companies skip over this step!
#3) Basic on-site SEO
Most development companies advertise that all of their websites are search engine friendly. Search engine friendly does not mean search engine optimized or search engine ready. Search engine friendly ONLY means search engines will be able to crawl your website. Don’t worry if you don’t understand what each of these things is – your developer will. If your developer doesn’t understand these then you should find a different developer.
Basic on-site SEO ensures your website has made minimalist SEO considerations. Most companies will charge a little extra for doing it but it’s usually worth a few extra bucks. Make sure your basic on-site SEO includes at minimum the following before launching your new website:
- Proper use of heading tags. Every page should have one H1 tag and proper staggered subheadings. For example you shouldn’t go from an H1 to an H4 tag.
- Proper page-title tags that match (or contain the text) of your H1 tag.
- Proper meta descriptions written for all core-content.
- A valid robots.txt file that should reference your XML sitemap.
- An XML sitemap.
- Your website should be indexable post-launch (no meta nofollow, noindex stuff).
4) Reasonable image optimization
Many very talented professionals (our staff included) have made the mistake of uploading unoptimized image files. Giant images can kill your website’s performance and destroy user-experiences. Depending on how your website was built having fully optimized images could potentially be expensive. Reasonable optimization means you’re not pulling in a 3MB or 20MB image file where you should be pulling in a 500kb or less image file. You can be positive the images are properly optimized on your website by using a website crawler like Screaming Frog SEO Spider or putting different pages of your website through tools like GTMetrix.
#5) Reasonable Pagespeed Performance
Many agencies advertise “fully optimized websites” but don’t really deliver on that promise. One could argue that a fully optimized website is simply a website that makes good use of call-to-action buttons. Make sure your website has reasonable pagespeed scores. Both before and after launching. While it’s not possible for every website to get perfect scores there are many website optimization techniques that take very little time and effort to implement. Ask your developer what considerations have been made for pagespeed performance and make sure to run a pagespeed report – Google Pagespeed Insights or GTMetrix once your website launches!
#6) Lack of final quality assurance testing
Websites are usually formed of many different components. In a perfect world each of these components would be tested individually as well as alongside each other. We don’t live in a perfect world; most of us live in a world of tight budgets and deadlines. Even the best-intentioned companies make mistakes and need to be held accountable.
We recommend using a third-party QA engineer through something like UpWork to test your website for you after launch. Keep in mind a good QA engineer will always find bugs no matter how good your website is. Not all bugs are serious or even worth the money to fix though. A fresh set of eyes will help keep anything major from slipping through the cracks.
#7) Backup your old site & get a full copy of your new website
It’s always better to err on the side of caution – backups help you to do just that. Always make sure when launching a new site that your developers take a full backup (files and database) of your old site and your new site before launching. Request a copy of both of those backups that way you have restore points for both versions of your website just in case something goes wrong.
#8) Submit your site & verify ownership
There’s a TON of companies out there that charge hundreds or even thousands of dollars to submit your site to Google. Don’t go to those people, it’s a ripoff. Submitting your sitemap to Google is a simple process you can do for free. Professional developers with the correct access can usually do it for you in under an hour.
#9) Check for mixed-content warnings
Mixed content happens when your secure (https) website is requesting insecure (http) resources. When changing domains or launching a new website it is common for URL’s to get mixed up and mixed-content warnings to appear. This is another common mistake which is very easy to test for. Again using a crawler like Screaming Frog SEO Spider, you can easily find mixed-content errors and usually where you need to go to fix them.