After months of putting off launching a website, you’re finally ready to pull the trigger and get started. You figure you can hire a web designer, write a few posts, and go live in a month or two. Little do you know just how much work goes into actually putting together a website launch. Now that’s not to say that you can’t launch in a month or two — you absolutely can! But what it really comes down to is how prepared you are and how much time you can actually devote to getting everything ready.
In order to help you effortlessly launch your website, I’ve put together the following guide. Below you’ll find all the steps required to get your site up and running if you are launching a site for a new small business. Remember though that every site is different and depending on your goals and plans, some of these steps may not be necessary. That’s okay! The goal here is to give you a starting point so nothing gets left and forgotten until the last minute.
Write a mission statement
Before you can even think about launching a website, you need to know why you’re creating one in the first place.
What is its purpose?
What are you hoping to gain from it?
Who is your ideal audience?
What will you provide?
How will you provide it?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help keep you on track and will guide you through putting together your site. For more help, check out my post on why you need a blog mission statement.
Remember that this doesn’t need to be 100% set in stone. Your mission may change slightly over time and that’s okay. Just think about right now and tailor your mission statement accordingly. Your business and website will evolve over time, so don’t waste tons of time overthinking this. However, it is important to have a solid grasp on what it is you provide and for whom.
Create a plan
Once you know your why, how, and what of your site, it’s time to create a plan. Here are some things to think about:
How often will you blog? What will you blog about?
What social networks will you use? How will you use them?
How often will you email your list? What will you send them?
How will you monetize your site? Will you offer services? Sell products?
Ask yourself these questions and put together a plan to move forward. If this seems completely daunting and gets you overwhelmed, take a step back and breathe. You don’t need to know all the answers. And your answers aren’t the be all, end all. You can always change direction and you likely will.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I suggest focusing on one thing at a time. Maybe start with a blog plan. Figure out how often you want to blog and what you’ll blog about. Forget monetization and marketing. Just get posts written. Then you can add in other things. Maybe choose a social platform and learn how to use it well. Add other platforms in as needed. Then monetize. Remember, you don’t need to do it all at once.
And beyond doing it all at once, remember that you don’t have to do it all period. If you don’t want to use Twitter, then don’t. If you just want to create a website for fun, then you don’t have to monetize it. Don’t feel like you have to do everything and be everywhere just because experts are telling you to. Because honestly, each expert is going to tell you something different, so go with what is most comfortable to you. You’re more likely to be successful if you’re not stressing yourself out over something that just doesn’t feel right.
Choose and secure your name
One of the most important aspects of your website is its name. After all, it’ll often be the first thing people will come in contact with.
Before we can think about securing a name, you’ll need to decide on one. Choose one that is easy to spell and pronounce (if possible). Also double check the trademark database to make sure there’s no issue there. You can also check your state’s business registry to make sure the name isn’t already in use. Also do a quick Google search. Nothing is worse than getting all set up only to find out the name is in use and you need to change it. And one last thing, write down the name as a URL (i.e. allyssabarnes.com). When words are strung together, there could be a hidden word that suddenly appears or your URL could be read differently than as intended. Always double check!
Once you’ve decided on a name, it’s time to secure it. This means purchasing a domain. Unfortunately this part is going to be a pain. There are millions of websites out there so odds are the domain you want will already be taken. This gives you three choices:
1. Go back to the drawing board.
2. Get unique with the domain (for example Flywheel hosting uses getflywheel.com).
3. Try to buy it (if it’s not in use).
Now route you choose is up to you. All three choices will give you some difficulty and I can’t say that one choice is better than the other. Actually, wait, yes I can. If you can buy the domain you want, get it. When people hear a name, they’re automatically going to try and add a .com to the end. Now I understand that this isn’t going to be possible in every instance because a) it can cost a lot; and b) the person might not be willing to sell. But I just wanted to put that out there.
Once you’ve secured the domain (here’s everything you need to know about domains), don’t think you’re out of the woods yet. Now it’s time to secure the name on social media. This means creating accounts for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. Earlier I mentioned how you don’t need to be on all social platforms, but in terms of securing your name, I would go ahead and grab these accounts before someone else does. You don’t have to use them, but just knowing they’re there will help in the future should you decide to.
And one last way to secure your name is to trademark it. Now I have no clue how any of this works, but if you have a really good name and don’t want someone else using it, you’ll want to get that baby trademarked. I’ve heard of a bunch of stories of someone doing their research and choosing a name that wasn’t in use, only to later have someone sue them because that second person had gone ahead and trademarked it. How sad is that? I don’t know how that all works (or if there’s a way to fight it), but always a good idea to think about in order to save yourself some potential trouble down the line.
You’ve got a plan and you’re well on your way to getting that website launched. Now it’s time to create content. Yes, I know we haven’t actually started doing anything with the website, but the website is the easy part. It’s getting all this other stuff in order that takes the most time, so I like to get it done and out of the way first.
First up is to write some blog posts. How many blog posts do you need to start with? The answer is that it depends on your goals and your site’s setup. Ultimately though, I recommend having 3-4 posts ready to go for launch.
Then there’s the whole planning ahead thing. Remember how you decided how often you would post? Because life often gets in the way, if you can get ahead, that’ll save you a headache in the future. So let’s say you want to publish a new post once a week. I would try to write at least 2-4 additional posts that won’t be published at launch. Instead, you can schedule them to go live in the weeks after your launch, which gives you time to focus on other things or, you know, get even further ahead with your editorial calendar.
After you’ve got your blog posts written, you’ll want to create social media content promoting them. This means writing Tweets, Instagram captions, and Facebook posts that you’ll publish after your site is live. In addition to the copy, you’ll also need to create images that go along with them. Here’s my go-to resource for finding the proper size for these images. And while we’re talking about images, if you haven’t already, you’ll want to create a pinnable graphic for each of your posts. This graphic will pull double duty: it’ll be the image included in your post as well as the one that’s shared on Pinterest.
The last piece of content that you’ll need to create is a lead magnet. A lead magnet is a freebie that you offer someone in exchange for their email address. Why is this so important? To put it briefly, you want to grow an audience via email because you own the list. Focusing solely on a social media platform to grow an audience isn’t the smartest move as a) you don’t own the list and you’re subject to their every whim; and b) remember Myspace? Social platforms aren’t around forever, but email is here to stay.
To create a lead magnet, start simple. I’d suggest a checklist, short guide, or worksheet. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you want to create something that your ideal audience will find super valuable. Here’s a tutorial on how to create a workbook/worksheet without Photoshop.
Setup website and tech
Finally the moment you’ve been waiting for: actually getting your website up and running. So first things first, you’ll need to buy some hosting. Hosting is the space on the internet where your website will live (and is different from your domain). I recommend Siteground for hosting because they’re reasonably priced, have great support, and are just quality all around. Here’s a guide all about hosting so you can learn about all the different options available and decide on a plan that best fits your needs.
Once hosting is purchased, it’s time to setup WordPress. Most hosts make this easy with a one-click install (Siteground does). After getting WordPress installed, you’ll need a theme. There are free ones available in the WordPress theme directory, but honestly I’m not a fan. I believe you get what you pay for, which is why I recommend Studiopress themes. There are a ton of options available so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs. I’d recommend Boss Pro or Hello! Pro.
When your theme is picked out and installed, it’s time to customize it and configure your WordPress settings. I’m not going to go into detail here, but here are 5 things to do after installing WordPress. I’d also setup a coming soon page that includes an opt-in for your email list.
Speaking of your email list, it’s time to get that all setup. I recommend MailChimp for beginners as it’s free (for up to 2000 subscribers) and it’s easy to use (P.S. I’m launching a course all about how to get MailChimp setup and integrated into your WordPress site. Click here to sign up to get notified when it launches). You’ll want to create a list, setup the delivery of the freebie, and configure your forms. Once that’s done, you can grab the embed code for use on your coming soon page.
At this point you’re ready to start promoting. You’ve got your coming soon page which links to your email list and your social platforms are ready (I didn’t go into detail on this, but once you get your various social accounts setup, add a headshot, a bio, and a cover image). Now is the time to get the word out there about your upcoming site launch. Start sharing other people’s content and interact with them. And of course, let the world know that your site is going live (make sure to include a date!).
Now don’t be all spammy and constantly share that you have a new site coming. I’ve found that just working on building relationships and genuinely sharing excitement for the launch will do wonders. Ideally during this time you’ll start growing a following on various social networks and more importantly, your list. By promoting your site like this, you won’t launch to crickets (and hopefully you’ll make some new friends along the way).
Finalize site and get ready for launch
While you’re busy promoting, you still have some work to do on your site. Remember those blog posts you wrote? Get them added to the site and scheduled for the day your site goes live (or you can simply save them as drafts, which you can publish when you go live). Also don’t forget to schedule those additional posts you wrote for after launch. That way they’re all ready to go.
As launch day approaches, take a final inventory of your site. Is there anything else that needs to be done before launch? Maybe you need some small design tweaks or you totally forgot to write copy for your about page. Now is the time to do that.
Also, don’t forget to write Twitter and Facebook post copy for each of your posts. Once your site is live, having those tweets and posts ready to copy and paste will make sharing a breeze.
The final step is to go live! When your launch date arrives, it’s time to make sure all your posts are published and disable your coming soon page. Head over to social media and share your excitement because you’ve just accomplished something worth celebrating. Also, send out an email to your email list letting them know that your site is now live. They signed up, so I’m sure they want to check out your site and help you celebrate.
Now that your site is live, the work doesn’t end. Going forward will involve marketing, networking, and an ever growing to-do list (here’s how to tackle that). And don’t fret if your list isn’t growing or you’re not getting enough site traffic. These things take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your site. Just keep showing up and be the awesome person that you are and you’ll get there.