Post by Lauren Hong, President of Out & About Communications
Creating a new website for your brand is an incredibly exciting -- yet overwhelming -- task for any small business. In a matter of weeks, you’ll pour your heart and soul into making sure your branding, messaging, and design are all on point so that your new website can show your audience exactly how you can solve its problems.
It’s stressful, that’s for certain. And it’s equally as thrilling.
We’re going to add something to the mix that you likely don’t want to hear right now -- but bear with us. Here’s the thing: just when you have all the building blocks in place, the last thing you want to do is kick back and relax. The weeks leading up to your website launch are the perfect time to take a few extra steps to get your website working for you well before it’s launched -- and to make sure its reveal is absolutely epic.
Your website pre-launch to-do list
Not only are the weeks leading up to launch a prime time for preparing some logistics, they’re also a spectacular time for building up some buzz. How, you ask? Let us count the ways:
1. Coming soon page. Your website might not be ready yet, but have your designer lay out a simple splash page with “coming soon” messaging on it that your developer can use as the front door for your website while they build it behind-the-scenes. Key elements of a coming soon page: your logo, a brief bit about what your company does, your contact info, links to your social media channels, and an email capture to form an interest list. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with it in order to build the hype now so you can capitalize on it when your site launches.
2. Jumpstart your SEO. The coming soon page isn’t just for good looks. Getting content up there -- namely, content that includes your brand and info -- kickstarts the SEO building process. After all, search engine rankings don’t improve overnight. It can take months of optimization before your brand earns its keep in search -- meaning it’s never too early to get started.
3. Give a peek behind the curtain. Offer your social networks -- or the email list you’ve already built -- a behind-the-scenes tour of the website building process as it progresses. Drop some breadcrumbs as you go: screenshot small pieces and share via your blog, Facebook, Instagram, and other networks to keep the anticipation brewing amongst your community. Want to really connect with your audience? Don’t be afraid of transparency and vulnerability.
4. Build your media kit. When you’re writing a compelling story, others will want to help you tell it. Have your media kit at the ready. Consider it your “show-and-tell” up until launch day. Things you may want to include:
- your contact info
- a company overview/company story
- biographies of key team members
- frequently-asked questions
- any media coverage you’ve already received
Remember: storytelling is key. Your media kit provides the foundation.
5. Start blogging...now. Whether or not you have a live blog during the time the site is being built, you should be generating posts. If they can go up during the process, it becomes a fantastic outlet for sharing progress and building SEO. If not, you’ll have a library of posts to go live with the site so that visitors can sift through a selection. (This is a great time to draft that post about the new launch that you want up there on day one, too!)
6. Activate your advocates. Take to the social media streets and the avenues where your loyal customers live to build your team of brand ambassadors who will help you rally as the site is built and upon release. Hype doesn’t happen in a silo. Incentivize when appropriate, and always, always find ways to show your gratitude.
7. Prep your post-launch communications. The day your site goes live is for celebrating. And when you have the following things in place ahead of time, you can do just that:
- Email signature: update links if applicable, and add a quick note about your newly launched site.
- Social networks: prep a few posts for LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc., and be ready to schedule them out.
- Email blast: engage the list you’ve already built, including the contacts you added from your coming soon page. Announce the new site and direct them to your tell-all blog post that’s already live.
- Direct outreach: don’t underestimate the power of personal contact. Reach out individually to contacts who helped or showed interest along the way.
8. And, finally… party. The moment you’ve been waiting for: pop the bubbly and open the dance floor. Your website is live! But wait… what’s a party without some guests? Host a digital launch party where you offer prizes or discounts for people who visit, share, or engage with your site in some manner. (Hint: e-commerce companies: this is a great time for that grand re-opening sale!)
Upfront investment; long-term gain
A new website is a lot of work. (That’s an understatement.) And here we are, telling you to do a little bit more. Take our word for it: we wouldn’t tell you to do it if it didn’t pay off in the long run. The upfront investment you make in your website will reward you with ongoing returns if you add the extra few steps to set yourself up for an epic launch.