New Website Checklist – Top 25 Tips – 2015 Version

Building a new website or changing your current site can be a daunting task (see this list of website checklists)! We have put together a website checklist of the top 25 tips to get you started. Good Luck!

  1. Establish your differentiation. Isolate the specific things that set your business apart from your competitors and prioritize them according to their importance, potential and effectiveness, respective to the wants and needs of your audience.
  2. Do some basic keyword research to determine the best possible keyword phrases for your company’s business; then prioritize them (choose your top 10 to 15). This will be needed for your websites’ sitemap and architecture, as well as for any ongoing website marketing efforts you may plan after your website is up and running.
  3. Figure out your ideal clients—your “target markets.” Segment these markets into groups based on demographics, roles and buying habits. Prioritize the segments.
  4. Have you developed your UVPs (Unique Value Propositions)?
  5. Ensure that you maintain control of your site as its owner. You should be able to make small changes like adding video, images and new content without having to ask permission or wait on your web designer. A CMS, or content management system platform is usually best for small and medium-sized businesses.
  6. Make sure your website partner does not use a proprietary custom development platform. After your website’s initial build, it’s best to keep your options open when it comes to whom you want to work with. If the relationship between you and your web company falters, you don’t want to end up “stuck” working with them just because no-one else is familiar with their proprietary development code. This type of custom development can be slow to evolve and typically can’t keep up with new technologies and the new functionality being built daily for other open-source platforms. It can also be expensive, and may not give small businesses enough control over their own websites. That said…since I first wrote this website development checklist in 2012, a lot has changed and many custom solutions are just as easy to transfer to new ownership, etc. If you’d like to learn more about the good and bad – just call us for a conversation and we’ll share some of the risks/benefits with you directly.
  7. Choose a CMS website development platform that’s search-engine friendly. Some platforms and/ or hosting companies are not ideally suited for successful search engine marketing efforts—research carefully before choosing.
  8. Make sure you own your website, your domain, all of your site content, any custom development you have had done, the hosting account, and everything else related to your site. This is very important! Some web companies will hold your website and information hostage if you decide to work with another partner. You must have administrative access to everything…keep all those user names and passwords!
  9. Base your site architecture on relevant calls-to-action, or CTAs. CTAs act as a guide for your site’s visitors and make navigation easier for them. They let you choose where you want a visitor to “go” and what you want a visitor to “do” on your website in a clear and simple way. CTAs must be prioritized for each web page (and sometimes for different audiences).
  10.  Be sure your website is optimized for mobile viewing. Mobile viewing and accessibility is a critical component of your website’s visibility in today’s marketplace. Most CMS platforms will have mobile responsive options for your site and it is not always necessary to build a separate mobile version of your site. Ask for “responsive design.”
  11. Find out who is responsible for security updates and regular security maintenance on your website once it’s completed. It might be YOU! In addition, figure out who is responsible for other essential elements of your site, such as website updates, hosting, email, and so on.
  12. Get a search engine optimization or SEO specialist on board early. This isn’t a must for every website, but it’s definitely necessary if you plan to use your website to bring in more customers.
  13. Hire a copywriter to help you think through your site architecture. Share your keyword strategy with him or her to ensure that your content is keyword-rich in the most effective way for your audience (and for the search-engine “eyes” too).
  14. Identify and begin collecting the exact elements you may want on each page of the site, such as imagery, staff photography, staff bios, credibility icons, your mission statement, product and service details and images, testimonials and client success stories. Ask your site architect to help you through this process.
  15. Develop keyword-rich titles for each webpage. Page titles, headers and meta-descriptions should clearly indicate what each web page is actually about.
  16. Keep your keywords in mind when you name the images on your site. Choose keyword-rich names. Give your images alt tags. Alt tags enable search engines to “read” what the images are about.
  17. Make sure your site architect, copywriter and SEO expert work together to develop the best possible site map. Submit it to main search engines like Google, Bing (includes Yahoo) and Ask. You can do this yourself, but an SEO expert will have access to lists of the most effective search engines.
  18. Don’t use Flash animation on your home page if you want your website to show up in a Google search (unless it’s tucked away deep inside your site’s sub-pages).
  19. Incorporate a blog within your website (not a blog that’s separate from your website). This is an easy way to add fresh information and content on a regular basis.
  20. Install Google Analytics (GA) on every page of your website. This is a must. Note: the GA account should be set up using a Gmail account that is owned by you…not the website or web marketing company. Google Webmaster Tools (WBT) is also a great resource for your site to help you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google search results.
  21. Decide on the best website visitor tracking methods for your site. If you plan to track different types of inquiries from your website, such as calls, emails, or contact forms, install the appropriate tracking codes. You can add thank you/confirmation pages to track contact forms.
  22. Use your web analytics data to isolate the IP addresses of all of the people who work on your site. Separating these addresses from general web traffic will help improve the accuracy of your visitor data (visits are now called “sessions” in Google Analytics).
  23. Make sure your web developer plans to test/edit everything before you go-live. And make sure you have plenty of time after you go live to make adjustments to your site.
  24. Set up any operational needs that may derive from website inquiries, such as click-to-call or 24/7 chat services.
  25. Connect your social media profiles to your site. Only add the social media profiles that you actively post from. If you have a blog, make it easy for followers to share your content with their own social media profiles.

If you find yourself overwhelmed by all of this, or you want to make sure you don’t end up needing to reinvest in your website just because you forgot to include a specific step . . . then hire an online marketing consultant to see you through the process!