While those who have started their own e-commerce, business will be well aware of the trials and tribulations in the early days, many visitors will have no idea of the hard work required to launch a website. There are so many different issues to take into consideration. We therefore thought it might be useful to put together a website checklist to use before launching your website. Our suggestions no matter how “obvious” are sometimes overlooked. So, we highly recommend taking the time to go through one by one.
Website design and structure The world of web hosting is competitive. Thankfully, hosting providers like Hosting.uk have many managed accounts and modern website themes now available. So, there is no excuse for website design and site structure problems. From a simple fast hosting404 page error to broken links there is no excuse for poor coding.
Check your URLs are working correctly
Anyone who has surfed the Internet will be aware of the frustration and the disappointment of clicking on invalid links. If this is your first impression of a website, it is not a good one! It is therefore vital that you check for broken links, mistyped URLs and ensure that everything is in order. This is more important than many people appreciate.
Site speed is very important
Research shows that Internet surfers become bored literally in a split second. They do not hesitate to move on to the next e-commerce website - your competitors. If your website is a second or two slower than your competitors you could experience a drop-in traffic. Check your website speed of a regular basis using any of the free speed tests on the Internet.
Redirects help with reputation
In tandem with URLs which no longer work there will be valid situations whereby an old website page has been replaced or moved elsewhere. This can result in old links to your website becoming invalid unless you introduce redirects. You can place redirects into your .htaccess file for specific pages and a general redirect which would for example take visitors to your homepage if the URL was no longer valid. If you see the dreaded fast hosting404 page when visiting a website, that does not give the best impression!
Do you have a mobile friendly website?
We now know that more than 50% of Internet traffic comes from mobile devices such as tablets and smart phones. This is only likely to increase in the short, medium and longer term therefore unless you have both a desktop and mobile friendly website you will lose out on traffic. Whether you go for a desktop website design which is responsive to the device being used or a specific mobile friendly site, this is something you need to look at.
Have you validated your design code and CSS?
As web design coding and CSS trends change on a regular basis, older sites and older designs can in theory contain “old style” invalid code. It is important to look at validating your website design code and CSS data even though many of the “errors” may have little or no impact on your website standing with the search engines. However, regular validation of your code may well highlight some major issues.
Starting your SEO journey There is no doubt that the challenge of SEO is a constant never-ending battle between websites, search engines and visitors. However, you need to start somewhere. Your site needs to have a strong foundation on which to build your content strategy and outreach to clients.
Let the crawlers crawl
Before officially launching your website, ensure that all public pages are available for the search engine spiders to crawl. If you open a Google Webmaster account you can announce your website to Google and also point it in the direction of the pages you wish to be indexed. There may well be content that you do not wish to be made public, and it is perfectly valid to prevent spiders from crawling these files, but make sure the pages you want to be made public are available.
Avoid duplication issues
When we talk about duplication issues many people automatically assume we are talking about content. In the vast majority of cases this may well be true but in this instance we are talking about multiple URLs for your website. For example, the website www.abc.co.uk may also have the following versions abc.co.uk and www.abc.co.uk/index.html through which visitors can drop on your homepage. Unless you instruct the likes of Google otherwise, they may index these three example pages separately which can cause duplication issues. Duplication means dilution of the power of your content/website which is not good news. You need to take the search engines by the hand, show them the correct URL and ensure they go in that direction.
Unique content is worth its weight in gold
We all know the issues of copy content; the search engines aren’t sure where the original content came from and who should enjoy the most benefits. Even though unique content will take more time and could require investment if you bring in professional writers, it is worth its weight in gold in the long term. Those looking for a short cut to boost their website rankings and traffic may make a few bucks in the short term but long-term unique content will shine through.
Meta-tags still have a role to play
The subject of meta-tags and their power in the modern era is certainly a hot topic of debate. While the likes of Google keep their algorithms close to their chest and rarely advise how meta-tags should be used, they do still have a role to play. If you have two pages with the same meta-tags this is a recipe for disaster. Which one does Google rank higher? Which one is the correct one? It is imperative that all of your webpages have unique content and are focused on specific content/products.
Cosy up with the search engines Over time you will realise that the search engines are your friend and, in some case, your worst enemy. If you treat them correctly, give them the right food then they will list you in a manner which can be beneficial for traffic. Treat them mean and they will return the compliment!
Search engine friendly URLs
There are two benefits to search engine friendly URLs - firstly, they tend to be relatively short and sweet and to the point. Secondly, when searching on the Internet if you see details of your particular search in one of the URLs listed, you know exactly what to expect. If the URL is a mixture of non-descriptive words and numbers this may push you towards the next one. It is important to check your URLs on a regular basis and make adjustments where required.
Google Analytics is your Pandora’s box
Google Analytics is one of the best ways to check traffic, popular pages, bounce rates, introducing third-party websites and much more. Any e-commerce business without a Google Analytics account is well behind the curve and more importantly behind their competitors. If you don’t know where you are starting from how do you know when you’ve reached your goal?
While keyword mapping can be a long and often tedious activity, it is vital to the long-term SEO of your website. Creating a list of keywords and key phrases which are relevant to your website and your business is invaluable. This allows you to allocate specific keywords for specific pages and increase the likelihood of being listed higher in the rankings for popular terms.
Optimise your content and meta-tags
Going through all website pages and optimising content with more relevant keywords and phrases is often a long and odious task. The same can be said of re-optimising meta-tags which is not the most exciting job in the world. So why do we do these? Simple, if you don’t include popular keywords and key phrases in your website content and meta-tag descriptions you could be missing out on serious traffic numbers.
Make use of schema mark-up
When searching the Internet, you will no doubt have come across websites highlighted at the top the results list which not only show the URL but also a snippet of content from the site. This is what is known as schema mark-up which allows you to add a short description about a particular page which the search engines will feed on. The vast majority of modern day content management systems will have an area in which you can add schema content. Make use of it!
Improving visitor experience
There are many ways in which you can improve your visitor experience such as improved content, improve site structure and greater in-depth information. However, how can you tell which pages are successful and which have scope for improvement? Bounce rate is something that you should be aware of as it is an extremely useful indicator of page/site popularity. In your Google Analytics account you will see reference to the bounce rate which is the percentage of visitors who landed on one page and exited your site from that same page after just a few seconds. Google Analytics will show you the bounce rate for your site on average but also for individual pages. This allows you to see where improvements could be made and how these improvements have impacted user activity. Priceless!
Content is still King Time and time again many experts have tried and failed to write-off content and bring the King’s reign to an end. The reality is that content is King and it always will be King. There will be different ways to search, different ways to find particular content but unless you have the keywords and key phrases on your website, how can search engines match requests with websites?
Less is often more in the world of content
While it may be tempting to waffle on for page after page about a particular subject, sometimes in the world of content less is more powerful. Bullet points, short paragraphs and a readable style are imperative when looking for that successful mix. On occasion, silence can also be golden if you have nothing to say. Value added content is all that you should be interested in, flaky expanded waffle can dilute your message both in terms of visitors and the search engines.
Remember to proof read your content
There is nothing worse than bad grammar and spelling mistakes on a website. These can be avoided by proofreading which you may need to do two or three times to complete the process. However, when you bear in mind that one particular page will likely be that visitor’s first impression of your website, it needs to be perfect. Misspellings, bad grammar and other content-related issues just don’t cut it in the modern era – there is no excuse!
Format your content
Even if your content is the most informative, most helpful and well-written piece, if it is simply paragraph after paragraph with no images and no sub headings, it can be difficult to read. Remember that you are looking at the overall experience of your visitors when they come to your website. Packing each page with perfect content is a great start but ensure that you split this up with headlines and images where appropriate.
The truth shines through
As we touched on above, content needs to be valuable and informative and while fake news is popular in the modern era, it will do nothing for your website or your reputation. If you are making a non-standard point about a particular subject then back-up your opinions with third-party links showing research and statistics. That way, if somebody was to question your reasoning and the detail of your content then you can simply point them in the direction of the statistics which backup your argument.
To those starting out on their online journey the word “maps” appears to be everywhere. So, let us add one further map to the mix, content maps. If you look at successful high traffic websites with great content, if you dig a little deeper you will see everything is structured. Content is grouped on a hierarchical basis so that everything on the level below has an intrinsic link to the sections above. This ensures that visitors will also have access to similar content to that which initially brought them to your site. A well thought out and detailed content map will also help with search engine listings and ensure that the search engine spiders crawl all over the well-written informative parts of your website.
Whether you are looking to launch an information-based website or an e-commerce website, the vast majority of the issues mentioned above will be highly relevant. Finding a webhost able to accommodate your particular type of website creates firm foundation for the future. When looking at issues such as broken links, content and a search engine friendly site structure you need to ensure your site is running like clockwork. Updating content and meta-data takes time as does writing quality informative content with no waffle. Those hours, days and weeks spent creating your website ahead of launch day will pay for themselves. There is no short cut to online success!