A Comprehensive SEO Checklist for a Website Launch

You’re here because it’s time to launch a new or redesigned website, and you want to get it right. Part of that means optimizing your site to be found by search engines. The goal of this SEO checklist is to cover the search optimization essentials to ensure a worry-free website launch (from an SEO point of view).

Why Use A SEO Checklist?

SEO is now a mainstream and mandatory online marketing practice that helps search engines locate and understand what your website has to offer. Without proper search engine optimization (SEO), your new, beautifully designed website may never actually be found.

This article provides an easy-to-follow checklist that can help you with the SEO portion of a site launch.

Step 1: Audit the Content

This section is the most detailed because content is what people read and what search engines crawl.

Ensuring content is in tiptop form is critical. Whether you’re crafting a brand-new site or are working on a redesign, there has to be content. Content includes everything from static webpages and blog posts to videos, images and podcasts; essentially anything that can be “consumed” by a searcher is content.

Meta and Heading Data

Before launching any site, review all content for unique meta and heading data. Search engines rely heavily on metadata and headings to understand a piece of content. This data allows search engines to gain context about a particular page and helps ensure search engines return results that answer a searcher’s query.

The title tags are the first line of any search results and represents the “title” or name of the page. The meta description is the short paragraph under the title tag, which explains what information is contained on a page. These two components are arguably the two most important components of metadata. However, all metadata and heading data is crawl-able by search engines and includes:

  • Title tags
  • Meta descriptions
  • Headings (H1s – H6s)
  • Image file names
  • Image alt tags

To start this process, gather all content in one location. For existing websites undergoing a redesign, use a website crawler like Screaming Frog to capture the information. For new sites, use site structure templates to gather this same information.

Once all information is gathered, review and make any adjustments before loading into your CMS of choice.

Note: Character lengths are extremely important when it comes to meta titles and meta descriptions. Search engines will often truncate these particular meta fields on the search results page (SERP), so be sure to keep all meta titles at/under 70 characters and all Meta descriptions to at/under 160.

Spell Check, Proof Read

We all know the importance error-free content. While machine intelligence is great, it cannot replace a human proofreader, especially when it comes to context. However, there are good online tools like Grammarly and Typosaurus that can be helpful for a final spell and grammar check.

Count the Words on a Page

Writing with the reader in mind is the best answer to the question, “how many words should be on a blog post, home page or any other kind of page?” As a rule of thumb 500 words is the current baseline for content pages.

A more effective approach, however, to the generic 500-word count, is starting with the question, “what do I want a person to do or learn on the page?” Once you have that answer, then write to achieve that goal. Ensure content is robust by addressing as many dimensions of a topic as possible. This helps satisfy the searcher’s curiosity and will allow the reader to see the site as an authority on the subject matter.

Link Content Contextually to Gain Authority

Developing a strong linking strategy is critical to site navigation, user experiences and how search engines understand and value information on your site. In a nutshell, a smart linking strategy is too valuable to ignore.

As search engines continue to evolve, so will the need for smart linking strategies and SEO best practices.

Check for Duplicate Content

Google penalizes sites if they are using duplicate content from other sites or even within a site. Google emphasizes and rewards unique, fresh and high-quality content that is valued by the searcher. Avoid the Google penalties and use services like Copyscape and Siteliner to check for duplicate content.

Create “Should Have” Pages (404, Thank You Page, Disclaimer, Privacy Policy)

While each website has a unique purpose, they each should have some basic pages to help the user experience. Pages like a 404 page help let the searcher know the information they are seeking cannot be found on the site. A smart 404 page will offer a list of related topics and a search bar. Examples of “should have” pages are:

  • 404 Page
  • Thank You Page
  • Disclaimer Page
  • Privacy
  • Policy Page

Step 2: Review the Technical SEO

Before a site is ready to launch, there are a few technical SEO items that need to be in place. To help increase knowledge on some of the more technical SEO tasks, here’s a quick overview of each item needed for launch.

Determine URL Structure

There are lots of points of view on what makes the best URL structure. Simply put, the best URL structure is one that is user-friendly as well as search engine friendly. This means keeping it short and simple; the current baseline for URL length is 115. The URL is a great place to give insight into the contents of a page. A few things to keep in mind when determining a URL structure is:

  • Decide the protocol http vs. https
  • Decide the domain www vs. non-www
  • Any edited URL will require a 301 Redirect

Create 301 Redirects

A 301 Redirect is the process used to inform search engines that a page or URL is being permanently relocated to another page or URL. This process ensures searchers will not receive the “page not found” message and that any page authority gained will not be lost.

Ensure the Website Is Crawl-able

Site crawlers are at the heart of any search engine. Crawlers, spiders and bots are terms used interchangeably to describe a crawler. The job of the crawler is to “read” or scan each page of a site and follow links on a particular page to other pages with the goal to learn how all the information on a site is connected.

Crawling is a part of a two-step process that helps search engines obtain the information that determines the results on a search page.

For the purposes of SEO, there are three places to check to see if your site is crawl-able:

  1. The Robots.txt file is the place where a crawler will start. This file gives the crawlers instructions on what sections of a site are authorized for crawling. To see what is allowed vs. disallowed on any site go to: https://yourdomain.com/robots.txt
  2. Site maps are used to show a crawler how information is architecturally related. For Google, review Google Search Console to see what site maps have been submitted to Google.
  3. CMS like WordPress will often have a setting that asks if this site should be indexed/crawl-able. Review your CMS settings.

Add Schema Code

Schema markup code was created to help crawlers become more insightful and provide more relevant results to searchers. This code helps crawlers understand the meaning behind all the words. Schema code can be applied to a variety of content. Here are a few:

  • Articles
  • Local businesses
  • Restaurants
  • TV episodes and ratings
  • Book reviews
  • Movies
  • Software applications
  • Events
  • Product

To learn more about schema markup code visit their site, schema.org

Step 3: Set Up Local and Social Presence

Today, local search has pretty much replaced the days of the yellow pages. Local online search is far more robust than one listing in the phone book. Now, thousands of directories exist and span both broad stream and niche markets. Google uses local information to feed local search requests on the SERPs as well as for Google maps.

It is imperative that your business is set up properly if you want it to be found in local searches. Customer reviews are also important in the local SEO space. Today, customer reviews are an integral part of the consumer consideration set when determining a purchase.

Equally as important as local SEO is Social Media SEO. Creating and optimizing profiles that are built to attract your target audience rather than using corporate messaging are key to helping track awareness and increase engagement and overall traffic. Optimizing your social media through an SEO lens is critical to reaching your target audience with your site content.

Step 4: Functionality

The day of site launch be sure to walk through the entire site. Here are a few key checkpoints to keep in mind:

  • Click everything!
  • Test navigation & breadcrumbs
  • Test all forms
  • Check for broken links
  • Set up & review Google Analytics to ensure data is pulling correctly
  • Set up & review Google Search Console for errors
  • Update, test & submit site maps
  • Check Robots.txt file
  • Check speed load time
  • Check for open graph & social code

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SEO is a major component of any site launch and is needed for online success. Working through the four steps outlined in this article will help ensure a site is visible to search engines and engaging among consumers.

For a printable version of this SEO checklist, click below

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