Alright, so you’ve got your CMS (website software) installed and set up, and you’re looking at your new front page.
Here’s my suggestions for the first ten things to do to get your website “off the ground” as it were. It’s recommended that they be done in some kind of order, as you will get the best results with one after having done the others before it.
1. Edit your front page
This should go without saying. Change the default content to something a little personal talking about you and your new site. State what it’s about, but don’t go overboard with the keywords or ads. A new site is a new site, but a new site rife with “keywords” and ads will scream “stay away!”
Don’t worry about themes at this point, unless you have something specific in mind. The search engines won’t care what kind of theme you use and they’ll re-index as things change. There will be plenty of time for theming later.
2. Get an XML Sitemap plugin
XML sitemaps are sitemaps specifically designed for search engines to use to crawl your site quickly and effectively. They contain a list of every page regardless of whether or not it’s linked from another page, and the page’s last update. Even better, most XML Sitemap plugins will automatically “ping” (or notify) the search engines when you create a new page or update a page. A must have for fast indexing.
3. Get your webmaster accounts
Google, Yahoo, and Bing offer webmaster tools for site owners to submit, verify, and specify XML sitemaps for their sites. Once you complete this step, search engines will usually begin crawling your site within a day.
Make sure to complete the verification steps at each site.
4. Get a good stats system
Server logs aren’t a good indicator of site traffic unless you’re getting less than a handful of hits each day. Even then, once you start getting some traffic, you’re going to want to see specifically what pages are popular and with what visitors. Even inbound searches will show you what you’re doing right so you can keep focusing on the important stuff.
I recommend Clicky. The stats are real-time and it’s free for one site.
5. Get some inbound links
Chances are you have at least one friend with a website. Ask them to put up a link to yours. This is good for two things, traffic and search engine ranking.
Visitors to the other site may see a link to yours and click on it, and search engines will see the link from the other site to yours and “follow” it to yours, helping your search ranking.
Of course, it helps if the sites are on the same topic as yours.
6. Make it your own
Start playing with the theme, layout, and color options. Make it your space and your style. Darker themes are more suitable for personal sites, lighter themes for more professional. Use colorful backgrounds that show off your skills if you are an artist (painted or drawn art, music, etc. If you create something, show some style).
7. Start adding real content
Nothing is going to turn away visitors faster than the words “Coming Soon” or “Under Construction.” Post something up, if only a few paragraphs. Talk about yourself, the reason and aim for your site, and what you’re working on. Link to your user profile on some social networking sites, put up pictures. Above all, make sure it’s original content! Users know when you steal from other websites, and it will immediately discredit you.
8. Make yourself available
Add a contact form, your email address, a Skype or Google Voice button if you have them. If a viewer wants to get in touch with you, they should be able to. If you’re a business, your address and/or telephone number are also a must.
9. Add interaction
Add a comment box or guestbook. Let visitors comment (even if it’s negative). You may learn something. Respond to the comments to show you are involved and that you care.
10. Update often!
A web site is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. Look at your site regularly and add new content, update out-of-date content, and play around with the layout. Out-of-date content is a turn-off for most web visitors. No one wants to spend time reading a post that is obsolete or out-of-date. Keep it fresh and keep it coming.
Have experience launching a website or any advice to share? Did you try these tips? Did they work for you? Have something to add? Please share it in the comments!