By Nikole Haiar
You’ve done all of the heavy lifting, and you’re nearly ready to launch (or relaunch) your small business 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 small business website 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 small business website to the world:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Nikole Haiar is Partner Marketing Director at Hostway Services, Inc.