In this episode, Chelsea and James talk about what happens on the run up to a website go live and all of the technical tasks that go in to making it work.
Website go-live process
Podcast Website go-live process
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about what happens on the run up to a website go live.
So, Jas, when working on a website, and it’s about to go live, talk me through what happens.
First of all, everyone gets very excited about this phrase go live. And I hear it a lot. They normally followed by big capital letters saying, Let’s go live. Like it’s some kind of major, you know, world sports event. In reality, it’s a very technical process. That depends quite a lot on what kind of websites it is. So there’s two situations that affect websites going live. One is, is it a brand new website? IE, it’s never that the client never had a website before? Or is it a replacement website. So this website is replacing one that’s happened that’s been there previously, because the process between the two are very, very different, really, after a point. So for both types of websites, before it gets this point where the client requests that it goes live, we need to make sure that the site has been tested, and the contents been checked. So during the process, when we build websites, it’s been on a test link for some while by this point, where the client can get at it, they they’ve seen it live on their screen working like a website, they’ve hopefully provided any missing content. It’s got no Latin text in there, which is a common one that we’ve come across before, where clients say, slash rescue life. And we’re like, it’s really not is it though, because it’s got some Latin example tax left over there that you want to replace that. And so there’s been quite a lot of circumstances where sometimes it’s a bit of a hasty go live. But in reality, you know, the content should be checked, it’s been tested on different mobile devices, the functionalities working, if it’s an e commerce website, we’ve done a test e commerce transaction to make sure that the money is going through and the email notifications are being received. That all that’s done. So that’s what that’s all great.
First stage of the sort of going live process is to move it to wherever its website hosting is going to be. So that we’ll be potentially working with a third party hosting company, who would have set up a hosting account for the client, we would then move the test version of the website to there in advance of the date where the client wants to switch over. And it might be that we’re hosting the website, in which case, we live already done that by that point. But quite often, we work with clients that have got their own hosting arrangements, and we need to put it onto their own server. So that’s kind of step one. And once it’s on its own server, we have to make sure it’s all loading properly. And again, it’s testing and all the functionality is working. So that’s just another bit of sort of quality control and validation that we have to do. And once that’s done now, depending on if it’s a new website, or an existing website, the process changes. So if it’s a brand new website, there’s sort of a lot fewer things to do, because there’s no existing history of the site within search engines to worry about. So the cut down version of it would be that whatever the client’s domain name is, so we WWW dot client name.com, that would be forwarded to the the IP address of the server that it’s going to be on, all the web addresses will be changed over in the site to run off, it’s live, one. And then by all for all intents and purposes, that’s the site live, because it’s showing up under its proper domain name. Now, if it’s a replacement website before that happens, one of the big areas that we’ve seen people fall down on before is that clients or agencies typically tend to forget about the SEO implications of swapping a website. So Google, for example, really doesn’t like people changing their website, too, significantly. So if you’ve got a website, it’s been Google for 10 years, and you’ve got a new website, nice, shiny, new brand new website that you think is amazing. But it’s so fundamentally different to your previous website, that when Google sees it, it’s gonna go, Oh, that’s not the site that I remember from before. In 90%, of cases, most websites will see a drop in their search rankings when they go live. And it always happens. It’s just the way that Google works. Now, you can mitigate a lot of the problem by putting in what’s called redirects. So typically, this happens when you’re changing a website platform. So for example, in E commerce world, we do a lot of work changing from the Magento platform to the WordPress WooCommerce platform. And in that situation, quite a lot of the web addresses for all the individual products and pages could be quite different between the two websites. So one of the things that we have to consider is to build in a set of redirects that say to Google, so this URL that you thought was here is actually now here. And this could be a massive list or a tiny list. Yeah, I think the biggest one I did recently was 7000 URLs. And that was a big ecommerce store that had a lot of index pages in Google. So that is a really key point to stop Google, from absolutely trashing the site’s SEO, when it swaps over is to get these in place well before and sort of move over happens, it still will move a bit because it’s a new website. But fundamentally, if that’s in place, it will really help with that. So once I’ve it’s done, the the next sort of big area to make sure we have in the website is that we’ve put into it any existing Google Analytics code, and make sure that any other tracking code used by any third party systems that the client sort of uses has been moved over from the other website to this one to continuity of tracking. And again, if it’s a brand new website, we just set it up as as a fresh account. So the client can then track their website, user data, and literally from the day that the site goes live. Once that’s done, and the next stage is to submit the website to Google, so whether it’s a new website or existing website, we still do the same process, which is basically that we’d tell Google, hey, Google has a new website, go and look at it.
And the purpose of a brand new website is to get it into its index. In the first instance, it could take anything from two days to six weeks. And if it’s a replacement website, we tell Google, it then comes back to crawl it on the kind of schedule that is used to call in that website. And again, this could be two weeks plus for it to do this. And it will then have a chance to then reindex that website based on the new site, rather than the old one. So that’s a really key point that we need to always make sure we do for clients. And once that’s done, and the clients sees the website live, and it’s all working, everyone’s happy. And the last thing that we do is we make sure that we put the site onto like a maintenance support plan. So that especially if it’s a WordPress website, we keep on top of all the ongoing software updates and plugin updates. And anything that this might happen with the website we look after, from a support point of view, especially for the first 30 days, we keep a close eye on it, to make sure that there’s no technical issues that would affect it being crawled or re crawled by Google. So yeah, so there’s there’s quite an involved process in terms of website goes lives. And it just depends on the complexity of the website as to how many of those stages need to be done or don’t need to be done. But it’s something that we go through with every single site. And we do probably 30 to 40 websites a year here. It’s a marketing, and we have to go through this process for every single one of them. And so when people say, can we go live tomorrow morning, then it’s, it’s often replied to whether Yeah, well, let’s think about that, and plan it in carefully.
So I think people just think now that once the website is functional, and the contents all in place, they can just snap their fingers and go live is pretty instant, but roughly how how long would you say it would take us to do all of that work?
Again, it depends on site. So for example, if we if there’s a site that’s got a particularly large number of indexed URLs, that process itself can take more than a day to create the matching URL lists. If it’s a site that’s a brand new one, then that’s significantly less, the very bare minimum time it would take is probably three hours of someone’s time that does it a lot. And the very maximum has been a number of days. So it’s anywhere in that kind of range, really. And it’s also why we don’t like to sort of try and do it on Friday or on a bank holiday weekend. Because if something goes wrong with that process, you will need time to be able to deal with that. So we always encourage clients to put websites live at the beginning of weeks, and also to give us good clear days notice when they want to do it so that we can organise that in a very efficient way.
And is there anything that clients will need to do during this go live process,
the most common engagement we have with clients is to get access to any existing analytics code that they’ve got. So if they’ve got an existing website that maybe had Google Analytics, and it’s one thing we ask them to do is to make us a user of their analytics so that we can get the code out of their out of that account to move it over. And part from that release, just making sure that the clients happy with it. Because you know, we don’t like to put websites live unless the clients fully signed off that they’re absolutely happy. Nothing’s going to change on air and all the functionality has been tested. So it’s useful to get the clients involvement with making sure that that functionality is working properly, especially with regards things like receiving emails from contact forms and E commerce transactions and making sure they’re they’re working as intended.
Thanks for that, Jay. So yeah if anyone’s got any questions about what we spoke about today just get in touch with us at Hello at so marketing.com