Most businesses today already have a website. The average web design project at IDP is a website re-design project. A lot of times it is an existing client that needs to re-design their site to improve it or make it mobile responsive. Or in order to convert it to a WordPress site. Unfortunately, when you launch a website re-design, you can ruin your existing Search Engine Optimization if you are not careful. You can also create malware security issues that will occur later if you do not secure the website properly. The clients and the web design company are so focused on the new design and functionality of the new site that they often overlook the critical step of the website launch checklist. At IDP, we take the time to launch your website the correct way. We have a website checklist we run thru after the launch of every website we build.
IDP Web Site Launch Checklist
- Install Google Analytics and Google Webmaster accounts – Most websites already have Google Analytics accounts associated with them. When you launch a new site you should use the same Analytics account and migrate it to the new website. Don’t start over with a new Analytics account or you will lose your old data. Additionally, all websites should be setup with a Google Webmaster account. The Webmaster account allows you to connect your XML sitemap to Google and to monitor the health of the website and web server. Important errors that occur over time on your website will be documented in the Google Webmaster account for your web design company to review and interpret for you. Your fancy new website is no good unless you have these tools installed to measure traffic and errors!
- Generate A New XML Sitemap – Normally when you launch a new website a lot of URLs change. At IDP, we pay attention to the URLs during a web design project build. If possible we build the new website with the same URL structure as the old website in order to play it safe. We do not like to change URLs unless we have to. But if you are migrating to a WordPress site all of your URLS are going to change, and change for the better. Also many sites have very poor URL structure. For example, using index-2.html, index4.html, index-11.html etc. Nonsense URL structures that have to be fixed and improved to search engine friendly URLs during the web design project. It is critical to generate and publish a sitemap.xml file with a list of all of your website links in XML format. This is different than a sitemap page for people to go to in order to view your links and navigate your website. A XML sitemap is for search engines to index. You should connect your sitemap.xml file to your Google Webmaster account. In fact, all of the major search engines have “webmaster” accounts where you can set this up. We normally focus on Google.
- Setup 301 Re-Directs for ALL web pages where the address changed – This is the biggest mistake that people make and that web design companies overlook. If you launch a new website and your URLs change you have to re-direct all of the old addresses to point to the new addresses. If you don’t do this then you have dead links out there on the Internet. Old pages that have been indexed by search engines and now suddenly do not work. Bad, bad news for search engine rankings. You could lose your page rank for important pages on your website that have now disappeared because your web designer did not properly setup 301 Re-Directs. For example, your old web address product pages may have been /products.html and the new one might be /products-services/. The old link going to products.html will not work anymore. It will throw an error. Creating 301 re-directs for every single old page and pointing it to a new page is very tedious and boring work! Many web designers just skip it or do not even know about it.
- Step 1: Find all of your links that have been indexed by Google – A quick and easy way to find this is to search google for your domain name with the word site: in front of the URL. For example search for site:www.yourdomain.com. This will return all of your URLs that have been indexed in Google and they will be in order and show the meta descriptions of how they look in Google search results. For example if I search for site:www.goidp.com I see all of our web pages how they appear in Google.
- Step 2: Go thru your web addresses that are indexed and make sure they all work. Make note of the ones that are broken or will change, and match up all of the old URLs forwarded to the new URLs. Here is what a typical 301 re-direct list looks like on a new web design launch.
RewriteRule /product_line.html /about-us/product-lines/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /coupons.html /coupons/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-3.html /category/tips-hints/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-1.html /about-us/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-2.html /plumbing-services/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-11.html /about-us/about-bl/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-4.html /request-service/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /feedback.php /about-us/customer-feedback/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /newsarticle.pdf /bl-plumbing-service-inc/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /faq.html /about-us/faq/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /appointments.php /request-service/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /employmentapp.pdf /wp-content/uploads/2016/02/emp.pdf [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /careeropportunities.html /about-us/careers/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /rinnai.html /water-heaters/tankless-water-heaters/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /blplumbing_coupons.pdf /coupons/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-definition.html /plumbing-services/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-5.html / [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-success.html /about-us/testimonials/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-emergency.html /about-us/plumbing-emergencies/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /index-3a.html /water-heaters/thermal-expansion/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule /mobile/mobile.html / [R=301,L]
4. Security and Website File Hardening – Most of the time as new web design projects evolve the new web site becomes a security risk. Web developers typically open up permissions on web site files and web folders in order to complete their tasks. For example, they can’t upload an image or get a plugin to work so they change ownership of the web directory to 777. Or even 755 which is more than you need for the website to function. When a new website is completed, it is typically a hodgepodge of file permissions throughout the site. It is a mess from a security standpoint. We recommend running a couple of commands to change file permissions to a default secure state. 750 for folders and 640 for files.
find . -type f -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 640
find . -type d -print0 | xargs -0 chmod 750
You could get even stricter than this if you want to completely lock down the website with tighter permissions, but if it is a CMS website like WordPress it will most likely not function. Even the 750/640 will break a few things but you can fix those directories individually and only open up certain directories with looser permissions.
We host a lot of content management websites like Magento, Joomla and WordPress. The typical hacking and malware injection we see is that malicious people are able to inject some bad code into files on the website. If you have your files setup with the proper file permissions, it will be a lot harder to inject the code into your files. If you have very loose file permissions, it will be very easy to inject malicious code into your web site.
If you are running a CMS software site like WordPress it is a good idea to install a security plugin. We recommend Sucuri Security plugin for WordPress. We install it on all of our WordPress sites. But you have to configure it and go thru the hardening steps for it to actually work.
5. Backups – If your website breaks you need a backup. It is very time consuming to “fix” a broken website. If a website is broken the quickest and easiest solution is to pull a backup and restore it. At IDP we have a backup server and automated backup software that backs up each server once per day. You need to have an automated backup system that backs up the site each day, and the capability to be able to go back in time and restore the site. Normally 10 days of backups works pretty well. If you keep the backups forever you will run out of hard drive space. But normally in the web hosting world, you would never want to take the website back to last year, you just want to restore it to how it was yesterday, or last week. At the very least when you launch your new website you should grab a copy of it so that you have a copy of the finished, working product. If it is WordPress then you need a copy of the database and the website files. IDP uses R1Soft Server Backup Software.
6. Speed Optimization – Website speed continues to be a huge factor in search engine results. Unfortunately, your old out of date HTML website was probably faster than your new fancy WordPress site. You should test your new website with GTMetrix or Google Developer Tools and see what the page load times and errors are. You will not be able to complete all of the items listed most likely, but you can find big errors and fix some things in order to speed up the site. For a quick fix to setup some basic rules you can add this to your .HTACCESS file. These are some common Apache modules normally enabled on a web server that can be added to your website to speed it up.
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
# Enable expirations
# Default directive
ExpiresDefault “access plus 1 month”
# My favicon
ExpiresByType image/x-icon “access plus 1 year”
ExpiresByType image/gif “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/png “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/jpg “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType image/jpeg “access plus 1 month”
ExpiresByType text/css “access 1 month”
Header unset ETag
Header add X-UA-Compatible “IE=Edge”
Another big speed optimization tip is to go thru every image on your home page and optimize the image to reduce the file size. Normally on a new site, you have a fancy new slideshow banner rotator with large images rotating thru. Normally these big images can be reduced by 30% easily without losing quality. Minimal effort for a big benefit.
There are also a lot of WordPress modules for speed performance. We recommend W3 Total Cache, but there are lots of options, lots of good plugins for speed optimization depending on your needs and circumstances.
If your target audience is the entire United States you should consider adding a Content Delivery Network (CDN) system to your site. CDN software hosts all of your website files on the cloud and supplies quicker download speeds for you customers from coast to coast. We recommend MaxCDN and it has a very slick connection to W3 Total Cache plugin.
7. Testing – I’m assuming if you have a brand new website it works and it was built correctly. I’m also assuming you did a lot of testing during development. But it never hurts to do a couple quick and easy tests against your website to make sure it is setup correctly. We recommend SEO Site Checkup and Google Mobile Friendly Test. You can run these tests in 5 minutes and get a quick diagnosis of the shape of your website.
About the Author: Monte Persinger
President and owner of Internet Design and Publishing, Inc. Putting the Web to Work for YOUR Business since 2003. Expertise: Launching websites, managing web servers, testing websites, testing mobile responsiveness, search engine optimization, finding problems with websites, website speed optimization, website technical analysis, project management, managing web developers, managing clients, entrepreneur.