I wrote this checklist in 2018 for another site and most of it is still relevant. Some of the tools have been updated so the screenshots will look a bit different. Since I’ve received questions recently about SEO, this seems like a good time to reshare it.
According to Net Market Share, Google is still the search engine leader with 75% of searches made on Google.com so following their best SEO practices is a good strategy. This includes optimizing for factors such as mobile friendly pages with a fast page load time and using plug-ins to setup a WordPress site for success.
Everyone in the digital space has a role to play in SEO, including webmasters. In this post, we’ll cover what you need to know pre and post launch for a new website or migration.
Preparing for Launch or Migration
- Set your domain name to auto-renew. Yes, that sounds obvious, but people have lost their domain name when they missed the renewal date.
- Install Google Analytics. It’s free and also helps your content marketers with their role in SEO.
- Install a plug-in to help with your technical SEO, which includes title tags, meta descriptions, structured data, and sitemaps. Follow best practices on tags.
- Set up Search Console.
- Help Google understand the content of a page with structured data and test your page with the structured data tool.
- Use a site audit tool, such as Screaming Frog to audit SEO for your site.
- Check mobile friendliness. 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load.
- Review common mistakes webmasters make when designing for mobile.
- Tell search engines which URL to use. Moz describes this (canonicalization) as a way to prevent problems caused by identical or “duplicate” content appearing on multiple URLs.
- Use https: Way back in 2015, Google’s Gary Illyes said that when pages are otherwise equal, the search engine will favor https, indicating a secure domain. In addition to the SEO benefit, it keeps your site secure and is required for AMP.
- Identify images with ALT tags. Search engines cannot see images without the corresponding descriptive text.
- Create friendly URLs. Wouldn’t you agree the https://pagely.com/blog/yoast-seo-alternatives/ is much more friendly than https://pagely.com/blog/random-words-or-characters-that-are-not-descriptive?
- Install a working search engine on your site to set up a search box that will display on the Google search results page such as the one below.
- With a site migration, take time to map out pages in advance to lessen the number of 404 pages.
- Have a critical eye towards usability. Do team members want videos to autoplay on the site? If so, make a case for not doing this. If it prevents people from browsing the page until the video is done, it is a bad experience.
- Use contact forms instead of plaintext email on the site to cut down on potential spam.
After site launch
- See how many pages Google has indexed by typing site:yourwebsite.com into the search box.
- As changes are made to the site, such as with new content, ask Google to recrawl your URLs.
- Watch for crawl errors in your Search Console.
- Update your sitemap by removing non canonical URLs and 400-level pages before resubmitting. Also submit your sitemap if the site navigation has changed.
- Use markup to improve search results.
- Keep an eye on your page speed. It may be be great at launch but if too much is added to the site over time – such as large images – it could impact the speed and overall SEO.
- Check for broken links with a tool such as Screaming Frog and redirect broken links to an existing page.
- Check for 404 errors whether in Screaming Frog or Search Console.
- Check mobile friendliness – again! Yes, we said that earlier for your pre-site launch but this is only a bigger deal moving forward with Google’s mobile-first indexing and plays a part in SEO.
- Check that good backlinks were not lost with a site migration or new design. Ahrefs is one tool that helps you discover lost backlinks.
- Monitor Google algorithm changes with a tool such as Signals , Mozcast or Barracuda to stay alert to changes that may impact your site.
- Be prepared for the possibility of panicked team members asking about a decline in site traffic. Poor content or low quality backlinks can impact SEO and staying on top of algorithms can help you understand the cause of a decline.
- Use a monitoring tool for site performance and uptime. You can create custom alerts in Google Analytics to be notified when traffic = 0. Unless your website is very new and zero site visitors is possible in the beginning, a traffic = 0 alert is indicative that your site may be down.
Site design is a big part of SEO and using this checklist will help your site launch or migration go smoothly. Keep this checklist handy post-launch so you can catch potential SEO problems quickly and ensure your site is well optimized. Google’s SEO Starter Guide is also a good reference for your entire team.