Time flies. It seems like only yesterday that you set your launch date, and now it's quickly approaching. Maybe you've been so busy with important pre-launch to-do lists and driving high-converting traffic to your website that you've lost track of time. But with launch day just around the corner, it's time to get everything ready ahead of time to take the pressure off of yourself during launch week. In this post, you'll learn a handful of important things you need to do at least one week before launch so you can spend launch week on more important things: interacting with readers, visitors, and fixing small bugs that inevitably will come up. The website launch checklist is Part Four of a series of articles about launching your website or blog to maximize the impact of everything you do.
- Part 1: How to Launch Your Website for Instant Success: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide
- Part 2: How to Drive High Converting Traffic to Your Website Before Launch (Without Spending a Dime)
- Bonus Podcast Summary: How to Launch Your Blog or Website With a Bang
- Part 3: Do These 3 Crucial Exercises Daily Before You Launch Your Website
I'd highly recommend going through all of the previous posts and steps before moving on to this post, and the ones that will follow. If you've already followed along with the previous steps, read on!
1. Don't Forget to Test Everything
When I launched Unsettle, I had four opt-in forms scattered around my site. One was below my blog posts, one in my sidebar, and two on my About page. In the flurry of activity surrounding my launch, I didn't realize that three of the four opt-in forms were not working. People could enter their name and email address, but when they pressed enter it went into a void. I didn't know this until a reader told me, and it undoubtedly lost me dozens (if not hundreds) of subscribers and fans. So before you launch, test everything. Test your links, your opt-in forms, and your emails. Make sure that your social media buttons direct readers to the right places. Sign up for your own autoresponder sequence (the series of emails somebody gets when they sign up for your email list) and make sure it works. Don't leave any stones unturned.
2. Get Your Site Looking Spiffy
After signing up for hosting and loading WordPress and signing up for an email service provider, most of us think of web design as the next step. But I don't address this until now in the series for a reason: Many people trip up on web design and it use it as an excuse to procrastinate. Yes, web design is important. If you land on a web page that uses every color ever established and has flashing ads everywhere, you're probably going to leave. Even if the subject resonates with you, a cheap-looking website design makes people not take you very seriously. But an effective design doesn't need a lot of time and energy. Keep it simple and just make sure your design clearly communicates your message and helps you reach your goal (getting visitors to subscribe to your email list). There are a few ways to reach these objectives with your design:
- Hire a web designer
As a beginner, I wouldn't recommend this for you. At least not right away, because:
- Designers are expensive
- Without a sizeable audience, you don't know what you need in a design yet
- You haven't started your website so you can't effectively brand yourself yet
- It can be a lengthy process.
A cheaper alternative to hiring a web designer outright is 99 Designs, which is used by people like Tim Ferriss for logos, websites, and even book covers. You submit your job receive dozens of submissions from designers, who you can then choose from. It's still more expensive than the options below, but it's easier than going through the process of finding the perfect designer. Click here to check out 99 Designs.
- Use a free theme and personalize it yourself
- Use a paid theme
If you know a bit of coding and don't have much of a budget to make your website look good, then you can always start out with a free theme. There are dozens (maybe even hundreds) offered by WordPress (go to your Dashboard > Appearance > Themes > Add New). With a little personalization, free themes are a good option for people just starting out. Though Unsettle is not my first web rodeo, I still decided to use a paid theme instead of shelling out for a web designer (at least for now). There are many places you can find paid themes. For my other websites, I've always used Themeforest. Paid themes are far less costly than hiring a web designer and you can have a custom look to your website that has more functionality than you can find in a free theme. Whatever you choose, remember to keep it simple. Your website needs to communicate a call to action – whether it's to buy a product or read a blog post – and clutter takes away from that call. The only thing you need in your theme or design is space for subscription boxes so your readers can sign up for your email list, and space for content. No matter what, you should work into your design these few things:
- A feature box. Frequent users of the internet naturally filter out sidebars. When you land on your favorite blog you probably don't notice the sidebar. Your readers are the same, so sidebar opt-in forms are inefficient. Enter the feature box – a box above your content and below your header containing a sign-up form or an opt-in offer. My feature box increased my conversions from 2-3% (sidebar) to over 9%. That means that almost 10% of the people who land on my homepage organically opt-in to my list.
- A logo or header image: This doesn't have to be difficult to make, but it's a good idea to have a logo or a header image to not only brand yourself but also look professional and put-together. It doesn't have to be fancy, and I'd recommend that it's simple, straightforward, and clean. You can create a logo for free on Squarespace.
- A place to provide content: Whether it's written, audio, or video, other than the two things above, this is all your website needs at first.
Don't let web design trip you up. When you feel yourself getting lost over web design, just remember what your main goal is with your website.
3. Take the Pressure Off of Yourself for Launch Day
Launch day is a big day. You'll be busy checking your stats, responding to comments and social media posts, and promoting your launch posts. So take the pressure off of yourself by scheduling everything you possibly can. Hopefully you've already been on social media ramping up the buzz for your launch, but you'll also need to blast out your blog posts and news of your launch. Spend a few minutes scheduling as much as possible: Use Buffer to schedule Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest posts about your launch:
- On Twitter, schedule a post teaser to entice people to visit your blog to read the entire article and some Tweets about your launch
- On Facebook, schedule another teaser post (with a bit more detail) to post to your Facebook page and a Facebook post telling people you're live
- On Pinterest, a Pin about your opt-in offer and another about your launch post.
Schedule email blasts to go out to your email list: The people you've added to your email list will be your biggest supporters and your best tool to get your launch post and website in front of more eyes. They'll want to know the moment your site goes live so they can support you. If you use Aweber (the email service provider I recommend), schedule two Broadcasts to go out to your list:
- One 2-3 days prior to launch to remind your subscribers of your launch date. In this email, include some reading about your topic (maybe a suggested blog post from a popular blog on your topic, or a book) to get your subscribers thinking about your topic in advance of your launch.
- One on launch day, between 6:00 and 9:00 AM to let your subscribers know that you're now live and direct them to your launch post. Be sure to include a call-to-action and at the end of the email. Ask them to Tweet out your launch post, tell one friend about your website, or share it on Facebook.
Once you have these things in place, you won't have to worry about them on launch day which will free up your time to celebrate, interact with readers, and promote through channels which don't allow scheduling.
4. Leverage Your Launch Post
In Part 3 of this series, we discussed launch content. I suggested that you focus on creating anywhere from 3-5 launch posts to be live when your website launches. To refresh your memory, one post should be an introductory post, one should be a great resource post, and one should be your biggest piece of epic content you can muster: your launch post. Create a content upgrade for your launch post To make this amazing post work uber hard for you, upgrade it. What do I mean? Well, think of content like a lever. A lever is a wonderful tool that helps boost (or unstick) something heavy. The longer the lever, the easier the object is to move. In this analogy, the object you're trying to move is your or your tribe. Poor content is a very short lever. It's so close to the object you're trying to move that it's nearly impossible to make the object budge. The better the content, the longer the lever – and the object (or reach, in this case) boosts more easily. Now think of content upgrades as a lever extension. Content upgrades can double the length of your lever, giving far more leverage to your object (your tribe).
So, how can you use this lever analogy as leverage (pun intended) for your email list? Well, use a content upgrade for your launch post to collect more emails and provide even more value to your readers. A content upgrade is an opt-in offer that compliments a piece of content on your website. You don't use a content upgrade (usually) as a general opt-in offer, but it just entices people to sign up for your email list from a specific post on your blog. For example, let's say you're launching a food blog. Your very first post is a post about stocking your kitchen for cooking. Your content upgrade could be a printable checklist PDF that your readers could enter their email addresses to opt in for. I use Leadpages to deliver my content upgrades (and all of my opt-in offers). You can see an example of how I've used content upgrades here. Here is a screenshot from my Aweber dashboard of just one content upgrade that I offered – it helped me collect 260 email subscribers for just ONE upgrade. It took only about half an hour of work.
You can use content upgrades to create greater leverage on your launch post. Create a checklist, a report, a printable, or a workbook to go along with your article to provide even further value to your readers and collect more emails. Since a lot of eyes will be on your blog on launch day, this will help your efforts be far more effective. Launch day will be an exciting whirlwind. You don't want to get sucked into the undercurrent and let these important things fall to the wayside. So get them done ahead of time. Spend the week before your launch preparing to take over the internet. And set your launch up for massive success.