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Launching a website can be an organization’s web team’s big project for a good amount of time.
Project plans are put into place. Decisions are made on what content management system to use. Roles are defined. Milestones are laid out. People start implementing. Launching a website does feel like a project because there is a theoretical and actual end point to it. That’s often the launch of the website. Once it’s live the website re-launch or launch project is done.
And unlike content marketing, social media or email marketing projects, which can go on forever and ever, website launch project have that finish line – the website launch. Some organizations send out news releases and emails and social media posts announcing the finish line of this digital marketing centerpiece. It was a lot of work and a lot of effort was put into and it feels like something worth announcing. We reached the goal.
But here’s the problem with that: launching a website is actually not the finish line in digital marketing or even website strategy. It’s just the starting line.
Because the goal is not to actually have a new and better looking website but the goal is to have a website that helps us achieve our business goals and help our customer base. It’s the homebase of our digital marketing so to speak. And digital marketing doesn’t stop – if you want it to work.
And the way to have a website help our long-term digital marketing goals often includes the following:
- Continuous A/B testing
- Continuous content development to drive search engine optimization and share content audiences actually want to consume. (Related: White hat SEO)
- Content governance and updates
- Updates based on user behavior changes
I always love hearing from organizations that constantly fiddle with things on their site to test to see what’s working and what could be working better and to adjust for l new user behaviors.
That’s how digital marketing works. Things change and sometimes they change quickly. So we need to be able to adjust quickly and somewhat on the fly.
And the only way to stay on top of those things is to have a plan for when the website has launched.
So the plan for once the website has launched needs to be in place. And it’s not Phase 2 of a website launch but it’s actually another phase of the over-arching digital marketing plan.
Of course, there also needs to be a plan for while the website is being developed or updated. Social media is not shutting down and neither should email marketing and even blogging. The time off for activity on all the different relevant digital marketing channels should be kept to a minimum.
So how do you integrate a website launch that’s fairly extensive with an overall marketing plan? Here’s the shell of a timeline without going into all the nitty-gritty details on what’s included in launching a website specifically.
Phase 1: Continue doing what you’re doing. Digital marketing moves too fast to allow downtime.
Phase 2: Evaluate what’s working and what’s not working. Do more of what’s working and less of what’s not working. Make a plan, adjust the current plan or validate what you already have.
Phase 3: Evaluate what content management system you actually need. I’m not going to go into that too deep here because that could be a series of blog posts quite honestly. But many of the systems out there have their advantages and disadvantage and many of them work and can help you accomplish your goals. Some are expensive financially and some are cheaper but might take more of your time to implement. Either way hardly anything is free. You pay one way or another.
Phase 4: Evaluate budget and also in-house expertise. And while some things are commodities, strategy expertise is not one of those things. To a degree you do get what you pay for.
Phase 5: Pick partners as necessary for all the different phases.
Phase 6a): Have one team focus on building, updating and re-launching the website. (There are obviously many steps involved in this phase – and others).
Phase 6b): Have another team continue with the current digital marketing strategies to ensure there’s no gap in digital marketing accomplishments.
Keep in mind that both teams have to continue to talk to each other to ensure everybody’s on the same page.
Phase 7: Launch site and kick up digital marketing into an even higher gear now that the new shiny and well-functional website is up.
Phase 8: Keep going and adjust on the fly based on what works and what doesn’t work.
So while building a website is somewhat of a linear project, digital marketing is not as linear as some people would like it to be. Some things can run at the same time and others do build off each other. The key is to not stop and keep adjusting what’s working and what’s not working.