The launch is the crucial first step in any website or web app’s journey. Many people believe that after the launch it’s time to relax — after all, all of the hard work is finished, right? Well, yes and no.
Launching does take a lot of time and energy and a lot of people never actually make it to this point. However, if you truly want your website or web app to succeed and grow, then you need to consistently update and improve your site.
In order to help you navigate the rough waters following a launch we’re going to walk you through the process of creating a website management plan for both the short-term (immediately following your launch), and the long-term growth stages of your site. Without this plan it’s easy to fall off course, get discouraged, and fail to move your site in the right direction.
Central Elements of Your Website Management Plan
Photo via: Imanuel Pasaka
The document you’re creating doesn’t have to be incredibly fancy. Even something as simple as a Google Doc that your entire team has access to, or a large to-do list in Trello will do the trick.
Think of it as an overarching to-do list that will help your site succeed into the future. If you have a team working on your website this can be a great way to give people an idea of the long-term vision of your site while still being able to break this down into actionable daily or weekly tasks.
If your site has been live for a while, then feel free to skip the first step. But if your site is brand new then we recommend starting from the top.
1. Clean Up Any Post Launch Tasks
Your website is live, now what? Launching a website can take a lot of energy and effort. Pat yourself on the back for getting this far. However, once the congratulatory period is over it’s time to get back to work. Since website launches are generally very stressful times, and chances are you might have glossed over some crucial areas of your website — it’s important to get these fixed as soon as possible.
In an ideal world the following tasks would have been completed before your launch, but if not, then just get them done as soon as possible.
Check Site Speed
Having a fast loading website will improve the overall experience for your user, and help you rank higher in the search engines. To get started use a tool like GTMetrix or Google Pagespeed Insights to see how your site currently performs. Make sure you have a schedule that includes regular checks to ensure your performance isn’t slipping over time.
Double Check All Images
Sometimes your images may be the wrong size, or you’ll have duplicate images across your site. Do a site run-through to ensure every image you’re using is the one you intended. To further enhance site speed you can use a tool like Image Optimizer to compress your images before uploading them.
Do A Content Run-Through
If you launched your site in a hurry, then your content might still contain errors that will throw off your visitors. Some basic things to check out include checking all of your content for spelling errors and misused words, ensuring your content is properly optimized for search engines, and making sure that everything is properly formatted.
It can be helpful to have another team member or outside professional comb through your site for you. Often a fresh pair of eyes can catch things that are easy to glance over.
Multiple Screen Size Check
Do you know what your site looks like across multiple devices? It’s hard to determine what size screen your visitors will be using to access your site. For this reason, it needs to look and perform properly across a multitude of screen sizes.
If you have multiple devices around your office, then pull up your site and spend some time browsing around to see how it functions.
Go Through Forms and Sign-Up Pathways
Chances are you’ll have multiple engagement pathways across your site. This includes elements like email sign-up forms, contact forms, buttons, navigation links, and anything else that requires visitor input in order to function.
Also, be sure to check your site for the dreaded 404 page. Take time to click through every active link on your website to make sure it links to the intended page.
Create and Submit Your XML Sitemap
Your XML sitemap helps the Google web crawlers more easily determine the structure of your website. This file will list all of the relevant URLs that you want to rank in Google. This is a crucial aspect of maintaining and improving your onsite SEO.
2. Create and Execute Marketing Strategies
Photo credit: Helloquence
For your website or web app to succeed you’re going to need a way to increase your traffic and customers. Your launch may have made a big splash, but what are you going to do to sustain that momentum?
Luckily, there are a number of online marketing methods for you to choose from. We won’t go into each one in detail, but instead give you an overarching view of the channels you can potentially focus your efforts on.
When choosing which marketing method is best for your business, it’s important to start with the central question: Where does my audience hang out? By answering this you’ll be able to build a plan on how you can best reach them using the methods below.
Social media is usually used to build a community of followers you can then direct back to your website, or use as social proof to increase conversions. Large social media followings take time to build, but can be an incredibly powerful source of influence.
Essentially content marketing is providing value to your readers via both onsite and offsite content. This is usually done in the form of blogs, eBooks, special reports, and guest blogs.
Email marketing is the method of collecting visitor email addresses, so you can provide value and sell them on your services later on. This is usually used concurrently with content marketing and other marketing methods like PPC.
Search Engine Optimization
At the core, SEO will help your website rank higher in the search engines for terms related to your business. These will be keywords that your potential customers will search when looking for the problem or solution your business solves.
The more visible your site is in the search engines, the more traffic it’ll receive.
Pay Per Click
Pay per click is the act of setting up ads on platforms, such as Google Adwords, to then direct traffic back to your website or landing page. But before you dive into this method of advertising, it’s recommended that you properly optimize your website to make the most of the traffic you’re receiving.
3. Continuous Improvement and Optimization
[tweetthis]The website you launch is often very different from the one that serves your audience the best.[/tweetthis]
You might not have enough data or traffic to begin optimizing your website right away. But, proper optimization is crucial if you want a site that allows your business to grow. How else will you know what aspects of your site your audience finds the most valuable?
What Elements Should I Test?
Ideally, you’d test every element of your website (over time) from your link color to the size of your font. However, we recommend starting with the four areas below, as these will have the biggest impact on your bottom line.
- Your headline
- Your CTA
- Your design
- Your displayed social proof
Tools for Testing
When it comes to website optimization there are a number of free and paid tools that’ll greatly help your efforts. To get started you can use Google Content Experiments from within the Google Analytics dashboard.
This is a free tool from Google that’ll allow you to run content experiments, so you can optimize your site by tweaking small elements. The data collected from these experiments will then allow you to make better design decisions.
4. General Website Maintenance and Protection
Photo credit: Sai Kiran Aganani
Without a proper maintenance plan and schedule there’s an increased risk your website is going to break or become vulnerable to being hacked. None of these are fun to deal with and they can be easily avoided through the steps below.
Common Maintenance Protocols
To avoid any unnecessary website headaches, stay on top of your maintenance procedures and stick to a regular website maintenance program.
Regular website backups
The frequency of your backups will depend upon how often you update your site. When running a website backup make sure you store your backup in a secure location.
Ensure themes and plugins are up to date
If your site runs on WordPress, or a similar CMS, then your site will become vulnerable the moment it’s not up to date. Often, all it take is a few minutes to update your themes and plugins.
Run a database sweep
Your database is similar to your library. Over time it becomes crowded and unorganized. If your site runs on WordPress, then we recommend using a plugin like WP-Optimize.
Do routine website tests
It’s important to consistently monitor your website data by checking your site’s performance, loading speed, and traffic numbers. Google Webmaster Tools can give you all kinds of valuable data and insight into your site’s performance.
Website Security Measures
Having a secure website means that your website and the customer data you collect will always be safe.
The more complex your passwords are, the harder they’ll be to guess. You should also consider having a policy where you reset passwords on a consistent basis.
Consider a firewall
Firewalls will take your security up a notch. They act as an added barrier to stop your site from hackers and other malicious endeavors.
Protect your admin directories
The admin and login areas of your website are especially vulnerable. You can protect these through the firewall above, and also by installing plugins that limit the number of login attempts allowed.
A website management plan is a living document that allows you to track and take control of the evolution of your website. By implementing the suggestions above you can ensure your site is primed for success well into the future.