At the request of the honorable Ronald J. Vatalaro, Esq., this post will contain my previously seen new website launch checklist. It will cover mostly issues regarding SEO/digital marketing items that should be addressed well before a site (re)launch or quickly fixed afterward. Some of the issues are general UX, security, hosting and other areas that can cripple a site launch.

As many of you have witnessed, I get paranoid around site launches and spiral into a pessimistic, doom and gloom mentality (far from my normal sunny disposition). That is not because I don’t believe in the quality of the product; it’s because as a previous digital marketer, project manager and pseudo-QA specialist, I’ve seen the multitude of ways a new website can falter, break or not be properly prepped for launch for reasons seen or unforeseen. The main point of this mindset is that you’re more inclined to find a bug when you are actively looking for it.

Ignoring these issues can lead to astronomical issues with a website, so astronomical you might find it in Outer Spacey.

The list is as follows and doesn’t adhere to a specific hierarchy:

  • 404 page
    • Nobody wants a 404 because that means there is usually a broken link somewhere, and it hasn’t been properly redirected. With that being said, a custom-made 404 page can do wonders for lost wanderers, with some possessing the ability of a semantic search engine, suggesting what they think a user is looking for.
  • Have an SSL certificate? Are you seeing both www- and non-www versions of your website?
    • Google recognizes these as almost separate entities, and your reporting could be thrown off by it. While your traffic may not be directly negated by this, it is in no way helping you. Make sure all browsers and device OS recognize your SSL as well and don’t throw a security warning. Force to one through a redirect.
  • Check canonicals
    • You’d be surprised how often this can be either neglected or messed up during a website relaunch, especially when URL structure is changed. Run Screaming Frog and make sure they are pointing to the correct version of your page (www, https, etc)
  • Check your title tags and meta descriptions
    • These should be created and implemented during development, but anything can happen to either erase or mess them up. Sometimes they can also be implemented but be sub-par, but be cautious on changing too much on a site at once because you won’t be able to see what exactly worked or didn’t work.
  • 301 Redirects
    • Run a crawl of all your old URLs and make sure that they resolve with a 301 redirect and that the chain is no longer than 2 (1 is better).
  • Check your sitemap
    • Make sure your sitemap is available, readable and clearly marked in the……
  • Robots.TXT
    • This can make or break a relaunch. Don’t make the mistake of no-indexing your entire website or denying access to users for an important section. You always want to indicate where your sitemap is located on your site through the robots.txt file as Google and other search engines directly read it. Anything you don’t want indexed (personal information or files) can also be indicated here. Check your robot self before you wreck your robot self.
  • Run a broken link check
    • Pretty standard fare. Run a broken link checker to discover any 404 errors and correctly redirect them. Same applies for broken images.
  • No broken links?
    • Guess again; just because internal links aren’t broken doesn’t necessarily mean that any other links aren’t broken. My usual procedure is to SITE: your site on Google and start clicking away. It’s just bad when an organic visitor finds you in the SERPS and can’t access your site. (Updated: the venerable Joe Schembri clued me into a chrome extension called Linkclump that helps copy all URL’s in the site:)
  • H1’s and H2’s
    • These are usually purely aesthetic for designers and developers, but they are vitally important to SEO. Make sure they have relevant keywords to the topic at hand but aren’t overstuffed. If you have to, make a list and gradually update them. H1 is most important all the way down to H3:16 if you wanted to go that far.

  • Run either Screaming Frog or Xenu (or both)
    • This will help you quickly identify a multitude of SEO issues, including broken links, tag issues, broken images and what not.
  • GA Script
    • It still surprises me how often Google Analytics is left off of a new or relaunched website. It’s actually shocking how many companies and teams do it. Also, especially in our instances, make sure to check both the main site and the blog as they are technically two sites. Make sure you’re seeing traffic and there isn’t anything crazy happening like 2 pageviews per real pageview. If you’re already tracking events/segments/goals, make sure to update them to match whatever updated structure and naming conventions your new website has. If you haven’t, don’t forget to set your goals and events to have accurate tracking. If you’ve got LPs, check those too, and make sure any pixels and what not are firing for you. Mark the launch of the site as well to benchmark your progress.
  • Test
    • Test everything you can. Just because you’re not part of UX or QA doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care if something on the site doesn’t work. It could be a button or a typo or a failure to respond to screen size. Test everything at as many widths and heights on as many devices as you can. Not all OS operate the same and not all browsers operate the same. Check Analytics to assess how much traffic comes from that source and if the issue that you find should be tasked as a high or low priority. Make sure forms work wherever they are on multiple devices, etc and you receive the proper response and documents from it. Don’t assume all bugs have been caught or addressed.
  • Follow the paths
    • Make sure to test the paths you assume a user would follow to conversion to make sure they work and also make sense for that user. This information can be used for further testing for conversion optimization
  • Search Console
    • Make sure when everything is done to submit the site and all of its versions (www, non, http, https) to Search Console and submit their sitemaps (make sure sitemaps are readable, and check on this again after a day or two)
  • Monitor traffic
    • If you have previous data, make sure to monitor how it is affected. Normally you’ll see an initial slight drop, but that usually comes back within a few weeks of launch. Analyzing pages and users after a launch can also help you identify something wrong with the site as a whole.
  • Always assume something is going to catastrophically wrong
    • Assuming everything works is what causes mistakes to go unnoticed.
  • Check content
    • This can be laborious, but do your best to scan content for typos/mistakes, and make sure the structure of the content makes sense.
  • Check your page load speed
    • Browser caching
    • Image optimization
    • Server load time
    • JS loading and whether to defer it or async it
    • GZip Compression
    • Identifying image sizes
    • This is HUGE for rankings and user experience; check every variable. Remember that onLoad speed and fully loaded speed are two different things.
  • Don’t blame anyone
    • The building, testing, QA-ing, optimizing and so on of an old or new website is a laborious process for a multitude of people. It is not perfect, and things do fall through the cracks; that is just how it goes. We are all on the same team and want to reach the same goals. Offer solutions to issues; don’t offer blame.
This is a solution.

And for those of you who are visually inclined:

Disclaimer: This post was not edited, checked for grammar or even read through prior to posting and these opinions do not reflect that of a sane person. No animals were hurt in the making of this post.

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