Have you been wanting to design your own website, but don’t know where to start? Are all the template options and SEO rules giving you heart palpitations? Don’t worry, we’ve been there. Launching a new website is no small feat, but it doesn’t need to be overwhelming.
In this 10-step checklist we are simplifying the website launch process for you. We’ll tell you just the basics you need to know to launch your website and you can worry about adding all the bells and whistles later.
Before you dive into the mechanics of putting your website together, you will want to define your website goals – that is, what you actually want to achieve with your website. This will help guide your decisions as you go. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be ready to get started with your first step!
1. Choose a website host, domain provider and website builder
First, let’s define these terms…
- domain – your website’s address, or the URL (Uniform Resource Locator) ie. Facebook.com or kdesign.co
- website hosting – company you pay storage space for your website files ie. Flywheel, Bluehost, Godaddy
- website builder – an app or software that you use to create your design and layout ie. Showit, SquareSpace, Beaver Builder, Divi
These are all three separate things that work together to serve your website up to your visitors. Some hosting providers include a built-in website builder tool, such as with Showit or SquareSpace, while other hosts allow you install your own website builders using plugins.
Think of your website like your business’s home on the internet. You wouldn’t start decorating your home until after you bought your house, would you? That’s why the first step to launching a new website is registering a domain, nailing down your platform and finding website hosting. Do a quick search with this domain checker* to make sure the domain name you want is not already taken.
Also, it’s important to know when you purchase your domain and hosting, they can be separate, meaning you buy your domain from a site such as Namecheap* or Bluehost, and link it to your host, or you can host your website and register your domain on the same platform, for example, like you can with SquareSpace. This can make things a lot easier in the short-run, but it can also complicate things if you ever want to switch platforms.
Our best recommendation would be to purchase your domain from a provider that isn’t platform specific, so if you decide you ever want to switch platforms, you won’t be tied to your old provider. Another pro-tip: If you decide to work with a website agency or web designer that wants to buy your domain for you, say “No, thanks!”.
Always, ALWAYS purchase your own domain so you have total control over accessing your website. I can’t tell you how many clients we have had in the past run into some seriously sticky situations where they can’t access their website because their old agency or web designer that bought a domain for them on their behalf, has ghosted them. Don’t leave something as valuable as your domain in the hands of someone else – EVER!
If you don’t already know which website platform or builder you want to use, these are our favorites:
- Showit* is great for visual learners and for businesses who want a unique website that they can manipulate themselves easily without limitations.
- WordPress is great for more tech-savy user who want a website that is easily integrated with a lot of different apps/tools or someone who doesn’t mind a learning curve to DIY their site using a pre-built theme.
- Squarespace is great for businesses who want to get a website up and running quickly who don’t mind the look or limitations of a template.
- Shopify is great for businesses who are e-commerce focused with physical or digital products.
The best option for you depends on what you want your website to accomplish – not what your friend’s sister recommended works for her. You can try this free quiz if you are still having trouble deciding. Once you make a decision and register your domain, you are ready for step two.
2. Set up a pre-launch or coming soon page
Once you have the deed for your home, erm website, you want to put up a ‘SOLD’ sign, or better yet, a ‘WORK IN PROGRESS’ sign. That way when you have guests show up unannounced, you’ll have a way to let them know your new site is in the works. Most website builders have the option to create a ‘coming soon’ page while the rest of your website comes together behinds the scenes. Once your domain is live, then you can make the switch to reveal your beautiful new website. Set up your coming soon page with links to your social media, a short message, opt-in form (See the next step.) and maybe even a countdown timer that counts down to the day of your website launch.
>>> Need a step-by-step tutorial for creating a Coming Soon page in Showit? Watch the tutorial!
3. Create an email marketing account
Email is one of the most reliable forms of marketing, because you own your subscriber list, unlike your social media accounts. If all social media crashes (God-forbid), how would you connect with your audience? (Hint: it won’t be by carrier pigeon!)
You might think you should wait to start building your email subscriber list until after your website is set up and you have started generating traffic, but you would be wrong! In fact, we think you should have a sign up form for your email list, on your pre-launch page. This way, you can get a head start on building your audience and have a way to let your audience know when your website is officially launched. On the day of your website launch, you’ll already have a crew ready to scroll.
Before your website is finished, you can start building and nurturing leads with your email list. Want to learn more about how you can build your own email list? Listen to this podcast episode from a fellow Showit designer on email welcome sequences!
4. Write your content and design your website
Your website isn’t just a place for a catchy slogan, generic boilerplate language and some pretty headshots. You need to consider the full experience your visitors will have from the words you use to the images you show. Once you’ve actually gotten someone on your website, you will want to make the most of the opportunity to ensure they stick around and actually engage with your site. Here are some tips that can help you as you are developing your content and beginning to consider your website’s design.
It’s ok to take shortcuts, sometimes. Using a website template can make your design and content creation process easier so you aren’t starting from complete scratch, but you also want to make sure you tailor your website’s content to your business goals and unique needs. Check out the K Design Co. website template shop if you need some inspiration.
Plan it out. Try developing a content outline or sitemap before you start designing to help you identify all the core pages you will need on your site and what content you want to cover on them. This will help you feel better prepared when it’s time to make decisions about your layout and figuring out what different sections and elements you will need.
Stay focused. Imagine that each of your website pages has one goal. Focus your content and writing to that goal and make sure there is at least one call-to-action on each of your pages that tell your visitor what you want them to do next.
Keep it fresh. That means if your website has a blog, then make sure you have at least a few blog posts published. If you are selling digital products, then have some displayed in your store. You get the idea! Make sure to keep your website’s content new and engaging to keep your visitor’s always coming back for more.
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5. Optimize your website for search engines
Depending on how marketing savvy you are, SEO might feel like unfamiliar territory. You probably know that optimizing your website’s SEO plays an important role in the success of your website, but you might not be sure how to implement it yourself without hiring a SEO specialist. Well, good news! There are some simple SEO tactics you can tackle yourself before you launch your website that can help you start ranking in search results.
Actually, when using keywords for SEO, use them strategically. Keyword stuffing your pages can have a negative effect on your site’s search performance, so use these tips to ensure you are implementing your keywords in the right way.
- Identify a single unique keyword focus for each page or post on your site.
- Make sure your primary keyword or phrase is included in your page title, meta description, within a subheading and at least a few times within the body of your post.
- Also, include secondary keywords that support your main topic, which can be variations of the same keyword or closely related ideas that will help you demonstrate a complete understanding of the main topic.
For example, for this blog post, our main keywords are ‘website launch’ and ‘how to launch a website’. These keywords are in the title and spread out throughout the post. Another place to strategically place keywords are in the headings and subheadings of your blog post, and in the ALT text of images (but only if the ALT text is truly describing the content of the image).
Use headings wisely
Every page and post on your website should have a single H1 level heading. This is the primary title used for the page and will be what Google shows in search results. Supporting headings, such as H2, H3, and so forth, should also be used to break up the different sections of your page and add more context to your main topic.
Add ALT text on images
When you add an image to your site or in a blog post, you should always add ALT text (or alternative text) to go with that image. Properly written ALT text will describe what the image is showing in plain English, not be stuffed with keywords in an attempt to rank. Not only will this help visually-impaired people who may use screen-readers to view your site. It will also signal to crawlers, the subject matter for the content on your page.
Think of your website like a tree with branches. All of your pages should be connected, especially those pages which are closely related. Not only does this keep your website readers on your website as long as possible, but it helps to tell Google how content is related on your site and will help search engines develop a better concept of the topics it can expect to find on your website. When you first launch your website, you might not have that many pages to link together, but as your “tree” grows, you should go back and add more links to your new pages and posts.
6. Set up Google Analytics
Whether you are building a website to sell products or write blog posts about your favorite recipes, it’s important to keep track of your website’s analytics. Before you launch your website, set up a Google Analytics account. It will only take a few minutes and it’s free!
This is one of the best ways to gauge your website’s performance by tracking the numbers. Here are just a few of the things you can keep track of using Google Analytics:
- User Behavior
- What pages your visitors are looking at on your website
- How long your visitors are sticking around on each of your pages
- What paths users are taking to navigate to the different pages of your website
- User Acquisition
- How visitors are finding your website, ie. via social media, search, emails, ad campaigns or direct input
- User Conversions
- What percent of users are converting on certain website pages for goals you specify (such as submission of contact form.)
- Total e-commerce transactions you’ve had in a certain time period
- The URL path someone has navigated that led them to convert
This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the kind of data you can uncover using Google Analytics. If you really want to dive in deeper to this topic, you can sign up for Google’s free GA courses.
7. Optimize your website for mobile devices
Did you know that globally, over 68% of all website visits were on mobile in 2020? With those kind of numbers, it’s clear your website needs to be mobile-friendly. Designing a website with your mobile users in mind will improve the user experience for anyone browsing your website on their phone. And improved user experience often leads to more website conversions, so this is definitely not a step that you want to skip.
Thankfully, Showit, SquareSpace and other website builders make it easy to tweak your website’s mobile design by integrating responsive design tools into their software ready for you to manipulate. Some website builders will give you complete control over how the mobile version of your website renders, while others will just auto-create a mobile-friendly layout for you, but give you the option to tweak it.
8. Make sure you’re “covered”, legally
If you are creating a website for your business or organization, there are a few legal pages you will want to be sure to include. The information within these pages have some similarities across all website, but should be tailored specifically to your own business and based on how you collect and process user data. The main point of these pages is to ensure you aren’t mishandling your user’s information and are 100% transparent about the kind of technology your website uses that may be interacting with your visitor’s personal information.
Terms & Conditions
While a terms & conditions page isn’t required for all businesses, depending on your type of business and the type of information you have on your website, it’s a good idea to have one. You can include information about your policies and any other disclaimers that your industry might require.
With each of these type of website “legal” pages, you don’t really need to stress over the design, but you do want to make sure you make the information clear and accessible for all users. You can use a website like Termly or Termageddon to help you generate the right verbiage for these pages to be sure you are in legal compliance for your website.
Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and I recommend you should contact a licensed attorney for any questions or legal advice regarding your website’s compliance.
9. Proof, test and launch your website
It has probably been drilled into you since your elementary English class to proofread your work. Double-checking your work is equally important when it comes to your website. Keep in mind, your first draft will not be perfect and that’s OK. But it’s still important to go back, to fix those typos or broken links you might not have seen before.
Related Post: 5 Website Design Errors to Avoid Before Launch
Even more so, it’s important to test your website before you launch it. Make sure all of your links are working, your email popups are recording new subscribers, and so on. Everything from buttons, to forms, to any functional aspect of your website should be tested. You can also use a tool like to Browser Stack to test how your website looks using different browsers, operating systems and screen sizes.
Once you’ve thoroughly proofed everything on your site, and published your website pages, you simply need to connect your domain to your host to launch your site. This is done by modifying your DNS records in your domain registrar to point to the IP address that your host provides you. You’ll likely need to reference your host’s documentation for this process because it can vary slightly from provider to provider. Make sure to read your domain registrar and host’s instructions VERY carefully, as messing up your DNS records up can cause your email to go offline or other unwanted issues.
10. Promote your website
Once you have tested everything on your site and you feel comfortable sharing it with the rest of the world, it’s time to promote! Keep in mind, a brand new website will take some time for Google to index so it’s unlikely you will get organic traffic immediately. That means promoting your website is going to be critical at the beginning stages of launching it since people likely won’t be finding it organically. Here are a few ways you can consider promoting your website after it’s launched:
- Word of mouth marketing from friends and family
- Update your social media bio
- Create a post or story on your social media
- Send an email to update past clients/customers
- Create Pinterest pins for you blog posts
However you decide to promote your website, make sure you have a plan and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there again and again. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see traffic immediately within the first few days of launching your site. It is going to take repeated promotion in order to start growing your numbers – but it will happen with consistent effort. This is your big website launch after all of your hard work and it’s time for you to celebrate!
Rachael is the founder of Planned in Pink where she assists small business owners with digital marketing strategies and implementation. She is also a bullet journalist and reader!