Whether it’s replacing an older site or starting from scratch, getting a new website is always an exciting time. But once the site is fully operational, some companies make the mistake of thinking “well, that’s that” and moving on to the next project.
However, a website isn’t a “set it and forget it” thing – it requires ongoing updates and development to keep it effective and engaging. Time spent keeping your website vibrant and up to date is a vital investment in your online presence.
So if your website is relatively new and you’re thinking “what next?”, then read on for our 10-step checklist to unleash your new site’s full potential.
1. Enable Security & Backups
Before we deal with anything else, we need to look at your website’s security. Firstly, we need to deter hackers – cybercriminals can hack into poorly secured websites and cause all kinds of havoc, including DDoS attacks, defacing content on your site, and even exposing vulnerable data. There are numerous technical ways you can protect your website’s security, but it all starts with a strong password. As a minimum, make all administrator passwords as strong as possible and install an SSL certificate on your site too.
Just as you (hopefully) protect your essential business documents with frequent backups, it’s equally essential to back up your website too. If your whole website developed a serious fault, were to be deleted or hacked with no recent backups to revert back to, it would be devastating. We recommend keeping multiple live backups of your website in numerous locations so if the worst does happen, you’ll be able to upload a recent backup and get up and running again promptly. Your web design agency or hosting provider may be able to advise on backup options.
Once your website is safe from external threats, we need to look at the privacy of your users’ data. It’s likely you’ve heard of GDPR – a piece of legislation that provides essential protections for private citizens’ data.
It’s a complex piece of law with wide-ranging action points for businesses of all kinds. One essential take-home message for website owners is this: if you want to collect, store, or analyse individuals’ data, they need to provide informed consent first. You also need to provide the option for them to opt out of any such activity. This includes usage information like cookies and logs of users’ IP addresses.
Though plenty of information can be found online about how to comply with the new rules (such as this guide from the ICO and this guide from the European Commission), we recommend seeking independent legal advice to ensure full compliance.
3. Maintain Your On-Page SEO
SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is quite a complex topic, but the basics of on-page optimisation are fairly straightforward.
Hopefully in the process of creating your site, you gathered at least a rough idea of which keywords you’d like to rank for in search. Include these keywords within your copy – especially in page titles, meta descriptions, HTML header tags, and alt tags.
However don’t force your keywords in too frequently – an awareness of keyword density is also essential. No single multi-word keyphrase should make up more than 1% of a page’s total copy (disclaimer: accurate at time of writing). SEOBook have a great tool that helps you identify the keyword densities within your own text and we often recommend the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress websites.
4. Start Using Google Analytics
Once your site’s live, you need to know how it’s performing. Google Analytics is a free reporting tool that collects essential website usage data such as how visitors discovered your site, what they did when they were there, and how long they spent there. Google Analytics is a really powerful tool – there’s really no reason not to have it!
Google provide some fairly easy to follow advice on how to install Analytics on your website, but your web developer should be able to assist if you need help.
5. Register for Google Search Console
Google Search Console is another free tool that provides essential data about your website’s search presence; including the number of clicks you’ve earned from search, how many of your site’s pages are present in Google’s index, what keywords people used to find your site in search, and much more.
Once you have Google Analytics up and running, getting started with Search Console is as easy as clicking “add property” and entering your URL. Provided there are no hiccups, the tool will start collecting data from then on.
6. Check Your Site Speed
Websites that are slow to load don’t just annoy their users – they may suffer decreased visibility in search too. Website speed is a significant Google ranking factor, so faster sites may rank higher than slower ones. But this isn’t the only disadvantage of a slow site – there’s an essential human aspect too. Google found in 2016 that 53% of mobile visitors will leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.
Avoid using large, uncompressed images on your website as this can considerably slow down the general performance of the site. If your website uses WordPress, WP Smush Pro is a useful plugin that compresses and resizes large images automatically as they are uploaded to WordPress (there is a very handy free version too).
You might also want to consider page caching plugins like WP Rocket. Caching plugins speed up your website by creating a simpler and easier to process version of your website that it sends to visitors. Without caching tools, the various lines of code and database queries “behind the scenes” of your website can easily slow down performance.
7. Link To and From Your Social Media Accounts
Now it’s time to tell the world! Inform your social media audience about your new online base of operations through informative posts, but don’t forget to include your new website link in static places like your Twitter bio, Facebook “About” section, and LinkedIn contact details.
Your website should also encourage traffic in the other direction too, so site visitors can easily move across from your site to your social media presence. This is usually done by including linked social icons in your site’s header or footer.
8. Register for Online Directories & Review Sites
This is one crucial SEO activity that often gets overlooked. Register your company with online directories and review sites such as Google My Business, TrustPilot, and Yell.com, including the link to your new site. It’s advisable for any business, but essential if you rely on foot-traffic and local search.
These sites provide an essential avenue for previous clients to leave public-facing reviews, but the benefit doesn’t end there. Google also gathers data from trustworthy listing sites from around the web to feature in its knowledge panel and map results – both great places for your business to be visible.
9. Keep Your CMS & Plugins Updated
If your website has been crafted around a CMS (Content Management System) like WordPress, it’s essential that you keep that system up to date. If there is an update available, the system will usually prompt you to install it immediately when you log in. Install any such updates without delay – these releases are designed to keep everything working smoothly and to provide up to date security. Please note that we recommend taking a full website backup prior to installing any updates.
Your site may also have “plugins” installed – these are smaller applications that operate within the CMS to provide extra functionality. These also need to be updated when needed.
10. Keep Your Copy, Content, & Images Updated
Once your website is all set up, don’t neglect it. Get into the habit of updating your content regularly, including amending the copy on your website slightly and changing graphics from time to time. If your website has a blog function, then use it – blogging is a great way to keep your site fresh and up to date.
In fact, keeping your content up to date (especially through frequent blogging) can be a positive move for SEO. The more active and consistently updated your website appears, the more it will generally be favoured in search. If you don’t have time to write regular blogs, it’s a task that can be easily outsourced.
So when a website goes live, it’s not the end of a project – it’s just the beginning! And whether you’ve got a new website planned or you’re feeling a little stuck with your existing website, OLCO are always here to help!