When it comes to launching a new website, it’s important that developers and SEOs work in partnership. If your website isn’t built to be SEO-ready, it can cause a whole load of website launch problems that you’ll only end up having to fix sometime later – so save your time (and sanity) and get them sorted before launch.
There are two sides to SEO: technical and content. The technical side refers to anything relating to the actual build of the site, its architecture, the way it’s laid out, coded and linked; content refers to the copy you publish and how it’s optimised for search.
You need to focus on both elements of SEO during a new build if you want to maintain your existing positions or quickly rank if it’s a brand launch site. People take so much time getting the content right they forget to think about the technical elements and a few months after launch find themselves asking why they’ve lost all of their ranks since they launched the new site.
We’ve put together our website launch SEO checklist to cover the absolute basics that you should consider for technical SEO when launching a new website. SEO can be daunting and risky if you get it wrong. If you’re not comfortable doing this, or feel you need a second opinion on your work, we highly recommend asking for the help of an SEO specialist. An SEO specialist will audit your site and guide you through passing a technical audit before your site is launched (or even do it all for you).
Be aware, most web developers are not SEO specialists and most SEO specialists are not web developers so don’t take it as a given that your web developer will have considered SEO or even have the experience and skills you need to get it right. If you’re serious about your SEO look for a marketing agency that has both a web development and SEO specialities in-house.
Doing your own SEO can be rewarding (and nerve-wracking) so if you’ve already got some basics this list will get your new site off to a good start.
Technical Website Launch SEO Checklist
- Create a sitemap. Your sitemap helps Google to find its way around your website and should include every page that you need Google to crawl. Your sitemap should live in your robots.txt file.
- Create a robots.txt file. In addition to a link to your sitemap, your robots.txt file tells search engines which areas of the website to crawl. For example, if you have an ecommerce website, you might tell Google not to crawl ‘Cart’ or ‘My Orders’ pages. Even if you’d like every page on your website to be crawled and indexed for search, it’s best practice to have a robots.txt file that communicates this.
- Get access to and integrate with Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Tag Manager and Google My Business. You will need access to these platforms to inform or make optimisations along the way, and you’ll want to start collecting data straight away from launch.
- Check page speed. Google Page Speed Insights will give you an idea of how your website is loading and whether changes need to be made to improve performance. It’ll tell you what all the recommended changes are.
- Ensure compatibility with multiple browsers. If you’re only accessible on Google Chrome, that’s kind of a problem.
- Get a free SEO audit before you launch. If your website build is technically sound (in terms of coding, layout and architecture) and everything is working, anything else you need to fix will come up in an in-depth SEO audit. You’ll be able to simulate Google’s crawl and identify for yourself what Google is going to see and pick up on and what it can access. This is how you’re going to spot any broken links, duplicate content, missing metadata and so on.
Content Website Launch SEO Checklist
- Add metadata to every page. Every page should have its own unique, optimised page title and meta description.
- Add alt tags to your images when you upload them. Every image needs a unique alt tag which describes, in brief, what the image is. This is particularly important if visual search is important to your business, and you’ll want to be thinking about different search verticals.
- Keyword optimised content. If you’ve conducted keyword research, you should have a list of search terms and semantic keywords to incorporate in your copy (and hopefully some blog ideas). Your keywords should be in your H1s, H2s, H3s, page copy and metadata.
- Optimise your images. Chances are, when you upload images into your CMS, they’re going to have titles like ‘IMG_6354.jpg’. Make sure each image you upload has an appropriate title in addition to a descriptive alt tag.
- Internal linking. When you write or upload content (particularly blogs, more so than page content) be sure to include links to other resources, pages or information around your website to guide users around and increase authority. Be sure to use optimised anchor text for your link.
- Create a content acquisition strategy for your new site. Research keywords around topics that are of interest to your target markets. Don’t think too rigidly or try to be too salesy and focus on providing value, offering tips or advice, or answering common queries. The acquisition comes in when you get your content ranking in SERPs – each blog topic should be based on search volume and relevancy.
- Gain backlinks. Backlinks are an important ranking factor, and help Google to gain an understanding of the authority and reliability of your website. You can use directories to gain backlinks, or use your content to provide value to other publications.
If you’re interested in finding out more about launching an SEO-ready website or turning your current site into an acquisition machine, give us a buzz.