Finally, your new website is ready for its debut! You’ve read every page ten times, had friends check it to make sure it’s as beautiful on their screens as it is on yours, and have registered the perfect domain name.
But are you really ready for launch? You may be missing these ten critical tech tools, which could mean your website won’t get any visitors, or worse, gets broken. Scroll down to make sure your bases are covered.
SSL is a security feature that protects data being passed through the internet, and long ago (in internet time), your website only needed SSL if you were processing credit card payments. Back then, getting it set up was an onerous process, especially for solopreneurs. Once governments began enacting privacy laws requiring websites to protect personal data with SSL encryption, setting up secure connections became easier as more offerings for certificates and installation hit the market. If you do not have SSL on your site today, you risk losing visitors because of lower search engine ranking. You also risk visitors leaving your site if you have that “unsecure” reminder in the address bar, making them feel unsafe.
2. Content Delivery Network
A Content Delivery Network (or “CDN”) is a service that makes your website faster for visitors. Instead of every visitor getting your site info from your webhost, your site gets stored at multiple locations and your visitor sees the closest one. Think of it like shipping physical goods; if a company has their product in one warehouse in Kansas, it will take a long time for orders to get to Connecticut or California. But if the company rents a few smaller warehouses near big population centers, orders will arrive more quickly throughout the country. Increasing your speed will reduce your bounce rate (the people who leave your site right away), increase your page views, and increase your search engine ranking.
A cache (pronounced like “cash”) stores parts of your website to display it quickly rather than rebuilding it for each view. We use caching in our daily lives, like meal prep. You could find a recipe in a cookbook, close the book, grab the first ingredient, open the book again to find out how much you need, put the book away, measure the ingredient, open the book again to see the second ingredient, go back to the refrigerator to fetch it, etc. That’s how your website functions without caching. Instead, we keep the book open, gather all ingredients, measure them, then start following the instructions. The open book and measured ingredients are your cache, just like on your website. It makes it easier to assemble the recipe, just like a cache makes it easier to assemble your webpage.
4. Image optimization
Most of the data on your site is probably image storage, so optimizing images will make your website faster, and take up less space on the server. Using an image optimization tool will compress and resize the image files without losing any quality. You can expect your images to take up about half the space they did pre-optimization, which could also lower your costs for hosting and CDN. Be sure that you are not storing and using images you don’t need, like section dividers or text; both can be displayed with formatted text.
5. Security (Firewall and Anti-spam)
You don’t want to wake up one day and find out your site has been hijacked, and is now a cryptocurrency mining operation or selling knockoff designer shoes. Installing a security tool will prevent most attackers and malware threats, and save you the hours (and income) you would lose cleaning up after getting hacked. Your security tool will also protect against spam entries on any forms on your site. You can boost your security even more by using strong passwords, and not the same easy-to-guess password you use for other online accounts.
Your website is not bulletproof. Don’t lose it because you didn’t have a recent backup saved. You could make a mistake and accidentally install something that breaks your whole site. Your host could have a catastrophic server failure, or an attack. You could get hacked (even if you have the best security). Backup software is an easy set-it-and-forget-it tool that securely saves copies of your website (both the files and the database) giving you a big “undo” button when the inevitable happens and your site stops working. Over your website’s lifetime, you will need your backup at least once.
7. SEO/Open Graph
Open Graph are the “meta tags” behind the scenes that search and social media sites rely on to create the listing for your link. When your site shows up on search engines and social media, you want people to know what they’re going to see if they click through. An SEO/Open Graph tool will allow you to set the headline, excerpt and featured image displayed in search and on social media. This doesn’t impact your site performance or your SEO ranking, but it will improve your click-through rate and lower your bounce rate.
Website analytics gives you information about your website visitors, like what device they’re using, where they’re from, and which pages they visited. You can use this data to see how well your website is meeting your business goals, do more of what’s working, and less of what isn’t working. But you won’t see any of this information if you don’t have an analytics tool installed. It’s easy to get lost in the vast array of statistics, so stay focused on what matters to your website and business.
9. Third Party Mail
Instead of relying on your web server to send mail, set up a third party mail service to send crucial email from your website, like password resets. Getting email from your website is often overlooked until a critical issue arises. Linking your e-commerce or forms to your email marketing tool isn’t enough; there are still emails (like password resets) that won’t be sent through your email marketing service.
10. Google Search Console
Google Search Console is critical for your site to show up correctly on Google searches. You need to set up your Google Search Console account and link it to your website. Once your site is linked, you can submit your site map, check for errors in your search displays, and see your site’s search statistics. If you’re interested in improving your search ranking, this data is invaluable.