Party! Well, maybe. High fives. Definitely.
It may seem like the work is done, but there still is plenty to do after you launch your site.
For any business (and especially a small business) having a good website is generally the number one priority for marketing. Creating a truly great site takes time, planning, and often a good chunk of the marketing budget, so it is a large investment. That investment is deemed worthwhile because it can have a significant impact on increasing visibility, helping to establish an area of expertise and creating leads for your business. Sometimes it may be the only marketing you have. A great deal of time is spent agonizing over copy, images, messaging, calls to action and the visual look. But few businesses create a plan for what is needed AFTER the site is launched.
Here are the six things you need ro make sure you have in place after the launch:
1. A maintenance plan
WordPress is a constantly evolving platform. It is an open source tool with many developers who are building various plug-ins — chances are you have multiple ones on your site. The WordPress core is updated continually but sometimes the plug-ins lag behind and become incompatible — suddenly your site stops working or acts oddly. If you have not made any changes to your site and this happens, the first thing to do is check to see if your site is up-to-date with the current WordPress version and that all the plug-ins are current and still compatible.
We often see this with websites we are hired to update and/or fix. A web designer or freelancer (or sometimes the small business owner) builds the site but then does no regular site maintenance. So the site languishes for months or years, until something stops working, then we get a call. The site can be so out of date that the less expensive option is to start over and rebuild the site from scratch. Its sometimes better than trying to trouble shoot what is not working — potentially only to have other issues show up later.
2. Period reviews of pages for errors, bad links and outdated content
Once the website is live, it is always good to recheck. Creating a regular schedule to review your own site is very important — both from a technical standpoint and a content standpoint. The technical point is in #1 above. Content also needs to be reviewed to ensure the messaging is still accurate for your business, that old content is updated or removed, your products/services information and contact is current. You would be surprised now many businesses move, change phone numbers, change email addresses and don’t update this information on their website.
The first website review should be 2-3 weeks after it is launched or before you start any major marketing campaigns. This provides recovery time from the push to get it launched so you can look at the site with a fresh perspective. Suddenly that typo that no one noticed is glaring in the middle of the page, or the logo is the previous version that never got swapped out. This is the time to tweak all the little things (and sometimes the big ones) that got missed or did not seem important to launch the site.
Look at it on multiple mobile devices. This may get overlooked a bit when there is a push to get the site launched. Mobile compatibility is hugely important today. Does the site look good? Are the buttons and links large enough to read and click? Is there too much text on one page that scrolls forever?
Check links, downloads and forms to make sure they are all working. You want to make sure if someone takes the time to fill in the form, that you are actually collecting their information.
3. A schedule for updating and adding fresh content
If you want viewers to come back to your site, then you need to provide them a reason to do so. Part of your post-launch plan must include regularly scheduled content updates or additions to your site. If you have a blog, you should already be posting regularly so those that are interested keep coming back.
Other content to add regularly could be testimonials, case studies, videos, ebooks, research or other resources that are of value to your audience. Not only does this give your audience a reason to stay connected with you, but it shows the search engines that your site is active and current.
If your website has a large hero image or rotating banner on the home page, think about updating that regularly as well so when return visitors come to your site they get the sense that you are actively maintaining the site. How often you should change the home page banner depends on the amount of traffic to your site. With a high traffic site or a site with a high percentage of returning visitors, it should be changed more often to keep the site fresh.
4. A plan for lead follow up
Most sites have newsletter signups or forms that are collecting names and emails — all with the good intentions of following up later. Sometimes sign up forms get added just because everyone else is doing it, but there is no real plan for follow up or segmenting those contacts.
One of the first things I often hear from our web clients is that they want more leads and your website can be one of the best marketing tools for that. However, there has to be a clear plan on what to do with the leads once they are collected. Dumping them onto an email list and sending them irrelevant or infrequent emails will quickly lead to people removing themselves from the list, not staying engaged.
When you create the forms or signups on your website, you need to decide if someone who submits the form from that page should be tagged or added to a segmented list. If the page or topic is specific, then you know that is of interest to them and it is a good point of connection for follow up or adding to a nurture campaign.
5. Realistic goals – decide on the metrics
Every marketer is shouting about how important metrics are, and they aren’t wrong. However, there is so much data out there that we can’t possibly pay attention or make sense of it all — nor can we measure everything and make informed decisions. Decide what is most important for you to measure from your website and why. Is it generating leads? Is it building your contact list? Is it actually getting people to purchase a product online? Is it getting people to your blog? Once its clear what you want to accomplish, set realistic goals for those measurements and make sure you are reviewing them regularly.
If you want to get more signups for your mailing list and no one is completing the form, then you have some actionable information — you are not giving them enough incentive or are not clear on what you are asking them to sign up for. If people are starting a sign up process but don’t complete it, maybe your form is too long or you are asking for information that people are hesitant to provide.
Understanding the main goals of the site will help in the process of building it as well. A good designer or web developer should help you design and build your site based on the goals you are trying to hit. You need to clearly articulate what those goals are at the start of the process.
6. An SEO strategy
Most understand the importance of optimizing a site for search. This should be part of the process before launch, including creating the content to support the targeted key phrases you want, making sure you have on-page SEO and submitting your site to the search engines. But if you are updating your site regularly or your offerings change, the SEO on the site may also have to change. So plan to do an SEO audit whenever you make significant changes or add new content to your site. Then periodically review your SEO to make sure the terms are still relevant or valid for your website.
Checking your competition’s websites for search terms and key phrases they use will also help you to continually refine your copy to better target the terms for which you want to rank. This can be done through many online tools or a Google Webmaster account.
SEO is an ongoing task to keep your site ranking properly. Too many spend the time or pay someone to do it once and see results, but over time those results drop off because they don’t have a plan to review and adjust as needed.
The overall point here is that your website is like your car…it needs regular maintenance and tune-ups to function optimally. If it does not get the attention it needs it breaks down. Then it can be costly or time-consuming to get back into working order. Take the time to create a post-launch plan that includes these six key things, and keep your site humming.