Whether giving your website a new look or building a new website, there are a few important elements that should be considered prior to the official launch.
By using the checklist below, it could help improve visitor experience and search visibility, and by default, increase traffic and/or sales.
Track and Monitor Website visitors.
Tracking visitor behaviour will provide key details about your website traffic, where people are coming from, where they are going, what pages interest visitors most / least, keywords used to find your website, and much more. Many website monitoring tools are free and detailed, like Google Analytics. The few minutes it takes to get the tracking code set up is well worth the time.
Touch / Mobile Friendly Website
More people are using alternative methods to access websites, its not just desktop computers anymore. Its roughly estimated that approximately 20% over 50% of web traffic is through a mobile or a tablet. Building your site so its easily accessible and navigated by alternative platforms will help maximize your website traffic.
What is your website about?
The prime real estate on your website is the space that a visitor views in their browser window before scrolling down the page, It's in this space where you should clearly outline the purpose of your website. If prospective customers/members are coming to your site and can't figure out what its about immediately, they will move on.
Social media sites help customers / members to connect with businesses and share their experience with friends and family. Social media channels such as Google+, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIN are a few of the social networking sites common for business and personal websites. When a business implements social media into their website, the followers help increase exposure to the website and boost traffic.
Another advantage, Google likes social media and indexes content found in social media channels.
Email Marketing / Newsletter
Have news or a special you would like to promote? Make sure your customers/members have the option to sign up for website news and promotions. Sending targeted emails to your customers / members will keep you fresh in their mind and could increase sales / traffic quickly by notifying existing visitors immediately about promotions.
Security is very important when you have a member-base website or selling products. It's your responsibility to ensure your user data is safe. If any stored data you have for your customers / members is compromised, it can cripple your sales, traffic, and lead generation.
Also, downtime caused by a DDoS attacks can cause devastating loss in sales. Always ensure data is safe, server is secure, and you maintain backups in case recovery is required.
Redirecting URLs and Custom 404 Pages
When updating the look or structure of an existing website, sometimes URLs are changed, resulting in traffic coming in and viewing a "Page not Found" page. If this happens, many people will close the page and move on instead of trying to locate the homepage.
Redirecting URLs will ensure the visitor reaches their destination or alternative page. Also, the value of old URLs is passed to the new page with redirects.
To counter any redirects that are missed, having a custom 404 page that links your visitor to your homepage will ensure the traffic coming in on an old URL will still have the option to easily find what they are looking for.
Updating / Blogging
One of the biggest factors in search engine rankings is content. Keeping your website updated with new, relevant, and unique content will assist with increasing traffic to the website, optimizing new keyword phrases, and keeping search engines "interested". Blogging and company news is often the easiest form for most companies to maintain regular updates.
Usability and Customer Experience (UX Testing)
Making sure your website is easy to navigate is important to help visitors find information they may be looking for; however, its also important to consider usability for your main visitor base.
i.e. if you have a high number of older customers, making sure your site is accessible to them by offering a button to increase text size, providing colour friendly design, etc will play a large role if customers / members will read the content on your site and return.
We still see a lot of websites using Flash, even though Flash can (and does) negatively affect search engine ranking and traffic.
Flash can not be indexed by search engines; and to get a Flash site indexed is a much more time consuming and costly effort than a non-Flash site. Also, Flash fails on Apple products (iPhone, iPad, etc), possibly costing you a considerable number of website visitors who can't view your website.
W3C: Markup Standards
Clean markup is an important step that has a variety of benefits that is often missed and causing other tasks to be a little more time consuming. If there are no errors in the website markup, the search engines can index your site better and get you ranked quicker in search engines. Also, clean markup will fix many issues that surface during cross-browser and accessibility testing.
Cross Browser Testing
Outside of mobile devices, one of "the biggest mistakes many websites have is was not testing a website in major browsers (IE9, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) and various screen sizes. Some browsers require specific rules to make things work, including the layout.
Remember Your Audience
Too often companies forget that the website should be built for customers, not for the employees. Its important to understand your customers and provide a website driven for them.