Download our Site Launch SEO Checklist PDF here!
The pre-launch phase is mostly for on-site SEO. This is the phase that is more likely to affect your search rankings. If your on-site SEO is all wrong, it is going to be very difficult to rank for the terms you want to in search engines.
- Check All Links to Confirm they are all working: Faulty links or 404 errors can result in a poor user experience when a user clicks a link that sends them to the wrong place, or a 404 page. We recommend using a tool such as Screaming Frog which will crawl your site for all links, and identify 404 errors. We also suggest a manual check of links to make sure they are all pointing at the right places.
- Ensure there is no test content on your site: Another one that seems so simple it hurts, yet sometimes test content will sneak its way on your site. Checking for this is often done best with an extra set of eyes to make sure all content on the site makes sense and isn’t gibberish that provides no value for humans or, more importantly for SEO, bots that crawl your site.
- Confirm that all images have ALT tags: Alt tags or alt text provide a description of an image to people who cannot view the images in their browser. Alt text is also useful for telling bots that crawl your site what the images are as well. If these images have alt text that is relevant to your keywords, it is likely to give your site an SEO boost. However if the images on the site don’t have alt text, they might look good and provide a better user experience but they provide zero SEO value to your page.
- Titles and Descriptions Optimized for all pages: Titles and descriptions are one of the biggest on-page factors for SEO. These can be slightly tricky from an SEO standpoint because they not only have to be effective enough for bots recognize them so they show up high in the search engine result. But titles also have to be compelling enough for someone to click on them when they see it on a search results page. In any case, make sure they are there otherwise search engines, such as Google, may choose whatever information on the page their algorithms decide is most relevant. This may seem like a good thing but can ultimately harm your optimization efforts. Titles and Descriptions should also be monitored and tweaked as time goes on to make sure they remain optimized.
- Ensure <h1> tags are used and optimized: <h1> tags are a huge factor for ranking a page on a search engine, but what is an <h1> tag? According to pearanalytics.com, “The header tag, or the <h1> tag in HTML, will usually be the title of a post, or other emphasized text on the page. It will usually be the largest text that stands out.” An <h1> has a lot to do with SEO because it is one of the main factors in telling a bot that is crawling your page what it’s about. While some WordPress plugins such as Genesis will actually put the document title as the <h1> in there for you, you should ensure that an <h1> tag appears on every page. <h1> tags should ideally only appear once on a page as well. Multiple <h1> tags can confuse a bot that crawls your page and cause you to get penalized in search results.
- Make sure “Thank You” pages are disallowed in Robots.txt: Thank You pages are an excellent tool for a site to track conversions. However there is really no reason for them to appear in a search for your site. It is best practice to disallow these pages to appear in a search as someone clicking that result will skew conversion recording data. They provide little to no SEO value to your site.
- Discourage search engines from indexing this site box unchecked: This should be one of the last tasks completed before launching a site. If this box is checked, it discourages all search engines from crawling your site at all, which is an SEO nightmare. In WordPress this box is located on the sidebar on the left in the Reading section under Settings. Simply make sure the box next to “Discourage Search Engines from indexing this site” doesn’t have a checkmark in it and you’re all set.
Most of the tasks in this part of the checklist involve setting up Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and other monitoring tools for your site. SEO is not a set it and forget it business. Algorithms are constantly shifting and competitors will also be gunning for the same keywords you are so it’s important to set this software up to monitor and analyze how your site and individual pages are doing.
- Confirm Analytics Connection to Your Site: Google Analytics is going to be one of the first things you’ll want to do for your recently launched site. Setting up Google Analytics is pretty simple for WordPress. Simply put the Analytics tracking code supplied by Google into the header code for your site, and confirm through Google that it’s set up and you’re good to go.
- Set up Google Webmaster Tools: Webmaster tools contain some of the most useful tools you’ll find as an SEO Specialist. Setting it up is super simple. Simply claim the site on search console by verifying the Google Analytics code on your site.
- Submit a Sitemap for Submission to Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools: This step will require making an XML sitemap for your site. XML sitemaps can be made quite simply by a sitemap generator. Simply download one of these plugins, put the link to your XML sitemap in your site’s robots.txt, and submit the sitemap URL to Search Console. Submitting to Bing Webmaster tools is just as simple. Just log into your Bing Webmaster tools account and submit the same sitemap you just submitted to Google.
- Submit your site for search engine submission: Probably the easiest task on this list. Simply go to this URL, insert your site’s URL into the bar, prove you’re not a robot to Google, and submit! While Google will likely get to this task eventually itself, it’s very simple and provides assurance that Google knows your site is on the web now.
- Make all URLs Static: When switching the site over from the development site to the final product, sometimes images, or links will still be pointing to the development site. Use a tool such as Screaming Frog again to crawl your site, and look at all internal and external links to make sure the URL they are pointing at is the static one.
- Block relevant IP addresses in Google Analytics: In the beginning of a site’s presence on the web there will often be a small amount of visitors. To make sure your Google Analytics results aren’t being skewed by you or your clients checking out the shiny new site, go to Google Analytics and Filter out the IP Address where you do most of your browsing, and if you can get it the IP address of the client. To do this, go to your site’s page in Google Analytics admin section. Click Filters under the View Section, add a filter, set the filter type to “exclude”, select source or destination to “traffic from the IP addresses”, select expression to “that are equal to”, and enter the IP addresses you wish to block, and click Save.
- Grant Account Managers, or other relevant co-workers access to both Search Console and Google Analytics: In the event someone else needs access to the valuable data collected by Search Console and Google Analytics, other people should be able to access it if you are unavailable. Grant at least another person access to these tools as a fail-safe in the event the main account owner is sick, or inaccessible for whatever reason.
- Set Target Area for Website in Search Console: This option can be found under Search Traffic: International Targeting: Country, and then clicking the box to target users in whatever country you’d like to target. This will prevent people who can’t possibly be a target client such as someone doing a search in China stumbling across your New York based contracting website.
Download our Site Launch SEO Checklist PDF here!
After completing all of these tasks, you will be on the right track to getting to the top of the search rankings. While it will take a lot more work than this, such as link building, and further optimizing your on-page efforts, by completing the tasks in this guide your new site will be ready for success. If you’re looking for a trusted Digital Marketing Agency to get your company higher in Search Engine Result Pages, increase engagement in your social media posts, or run a pay-per-click (PPC) campaign to increase your leads Efferent Media wants to help! Fill out our contact form, or give us a call at 631-867-0900.