Top 10 Website Launch Tips

There are close to 130 million web sites on line at the moment and every day, 6,000 new web sites launch, creating entrepreneurs by the thousands. The world wide web is a great way to take control of your professional life (you’re the boss) or to add a few bucks to your household income each month while you keep your day job.

A web site launch is exciting and cause for celebration – if you do it right. If you don’t do it right, your pixel-based dream biz will end up on the trash heap along with millions of other sites built on a dream but launched on a prayer.

Even well-optimized, well-designed and -built web sites take time to get a little recognition from search engines like Google, Bing, Ask, Yahoo and the other 4K search engines crawling the web at any one time. But there are some things you can and should do before launch date to improve your chances for web-based business success. Here are a few tips that’ll tip the scales of success in your favor.

1. Don’t do any SEO…yet.

Search engine optimization is tricky business but one thing is etched in stone. A search engine is based on the relevance and utility of its search engine results pages or SERPs.

So, no search engine is going to send its users to a web site that is “Under Construction.” Until you have all of your pages in place, your navigation bar hooked up and your opt-in module in place, stay off-line. If your half-built site is inadvertently spidered by Google, you’ll get slammed for delivering a half-built site and lots of blank pages.

And it can take years to recover, Search engines aren’t very forgiving.

2. Create an off-site blog.

Now that doesn’t mean you can’t advertise your upcoming launch. Create an off-site blog using WordPress, Blogger, Typepad or another blogging platform and start posting articles of interest to your target demographic – your market.

Don’t link these blog posts to your web site until you actually launch. Search engine bots and people follow links and, again, if a bot or a human discovers a half empty web site, chances are they won’t be back.

Instead, provide blog visitors with useful, helpful, FREE information. Announce the launch date of your web site but don’t send your blog fans to your web site until it’s locked down tight.

3. Develop your list of keywords.

Keywords are the search terms that people use when trying to find your web site. Start by taking a look at Google’s Keyword Generator, a great tool for first-time web biz owners. The keyword generator provides actual search terms that have been entered by Google users in the past 30 days.

Choose keywords that are specific to the topicality of your web site. For example, if you sell alternative medical cures and supplements, you’ll discover that the search term “self help” is used over one million times each month. But “self-help” can include everything from career coaching to weight loss to strength training. It’s too broad a term for your web business that sells tinctures and alternative medical treatments.

Developing a good list of 15-20 key words and keyword phrases is one of the most important pre-launch steps you’ll take. And, you’ll, no doubt, tweak your keywords over time. Some keywords will drive more traffic than others. The ones that drive traffic are keepers. The ones that don’t drive traffic are dropped and replaced with stronger keywords.

4. Open and finance an AdWords account.

Google’s AdWords is a pay-per-click advertising program. It’s a little complicated for first-time users so some practice and some study will improve your AdWords results.

With AdWords, advertisers bid for certain keywords – the words that search engine users enter into the search box when they conduct a web search. Some keywords are used more frequently. Others not so much.

You can open an AdWords account, set the parameters for where you want your blue cubes to appear (and not to appear) and even tell Google when to begin your AdWords campaign for just $5.00.

You may pay $3, $4 or $5 for the most popular keywords. The highest bidder gets the best position in the skyscrapers that appear on the right hand side of each Google search engine result page (SERP). Take your time, here. Sure, you can start for as little as $5.00 but you can quickly find yourself spending hundreds of dollars on AdWords and not seeing the results you expected.

That’s why a pre-launch practice session or two will pay off long-term. Understand how PPC programs work and you’ll make the best use of this advertising channel.

5. Create payment gateways.

How will prospects pay for your products or services? There are several options, here. PayPal has a commercial account option. Google Checkout is growing in popularity. The problem with these payment gateways is that they take visitors off your web site and they may never return.

Not all visitors have PayPal accounts so that’s a dead end. Consider adding a merchant account to your web site. These payment gateways enable buyers to pay securely with their credit cards, though the merchant account company will take a big bite out of your profit margins, often collecting 3%-4% of the total purchase each customer makes.

That slows down web site growth to profitability but it keeps buyers on your site and provides a payment gateway that anyone can use – as long as they have a credit card.

The more ways buyers can pay, the more buyers your site will attract. Make it simple and secure to buy from you and, in no time, you’ll start to see repeat buyers – the best friends a new web site owner has.

6. Create a compelling headline.

Why should your first-time site visitors stay on site?

You have less than 10 seconds to capture the attention of new site visitors. So, create a headline for your home page that clearly and simply explains what your new web-based business is all about.

The headline should indicate that your site delivers solutions to visitors’ problems. Low prices, free give-aways, free shipping – all attract attention and keep visitors on site longer. And the longer a visitor stays on site, the more likely she is to buy something, or pick up the telephone and give you a call. Consider your headline the most important piece of site copy you develop.

It is.

7. Refine your web site text.

Add your strongest keywords to strong text – headlines, sub-heads or text that’s bolded, italicized or underlined. This tells search engine spiders that this is important information.

Also, your site text should focus on the objectives of the site visitors, NOT your objectives. Your objective might be to generate sales of your products, so you might be tempted to load your text with sales hype. Remember, your objectives and the objectives of site visitors are not necessarily the same. Attend to the needs of visitors and success will follow organically.

8. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Everything about your web site should be simple.

The text should be simple to read or scan. Use bullet points and avoid using jargon or industry-specific words that might be unfamiliar to some visitors. If the site visitor doesn’t get it, he isn’t going to buy from you. Write text in simple, short sentences at an 8th grade reading level to ensure that visitors understand what your site is about and why it’s worth exploring further.

9. Stress test before launch.

Your pre-launch web site resides on a web host’s server. It might be the server your programmer uses or it might be your own server with your own domain. In either case, you can ask friends and family to put your site to the test – the stress test.

Send the link of your site-in-progress to friends and family and ask your testers to try to make the site crash or mis-perform. Are all links connected? Does the color motif shift depending on the browser the tester is using? Ask testers to do everything wrong – to intentionally crash the site. Why? Because if testers can find the dead-end link, a lot of your site visitors will find it, too.

10. Just before launch, submit a site map to Google, Yahoo and other search engines.

Invite search engines to visit and crawl your site the day before you do a hard launch. A soft launch is just for friends and family who will provide their input on how to make the site better. A hard launch occurs when you “go live.”

The day before you undertake a hard launch, submit a site map to the major search engines. This is an invitation to Google and the others to crawl your site and index it within the taxonomy of the search engine index.

Some web sites are never found by spiders. For other site owners, it could be months before a Googlebot finds your site. By submitting a site map to the most popular search engines, you provide a map that spiders can crawl to insure that all pages of your site are indexed the first time through. You also tell the search engine what your site is about, how to navigate the site and which pages to crawl and which pages should not be crawled -pages, like your back office or your data base.

One final thought: be patient. Expect to see some growth in visitor traffic in the first few weeks but typically, it takes 60 to 90 days before you start to see organic search engine results – your link on Google’s SERPs based on the keywords you’ve chosen.

So, even as your programmer in Bangalore or Bangor is creating the HTML code to create your site, there’s still plenty you can do to ensure a successful launch and, in a couple of months, a growing web business.

Even if you haven’t hired a programmer yet, it’s time to get to work. Success on the world wide web is not a given and the more preparation you do before the hard launch, the more likely you are to see successful results.

Ms. Rosendahl has over 19 years experience in systems analysis, hosted applications, and management as well as 13 years experience in web hosting and Internet marketing. Ms. Rosendahl has a Bachelors from Houston Baptist University with a double major in Computer Information Systems and Business Management. Stephanie is the founder and CEO of Austin, Texas firm – green web hosting.