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Back to Basics: SEO Site Launch Checklist

Building a website can be a messy affair. There are loads of things to consider, from design and copy to imagery and branding. Often, SEO is an afterthought. That’s why we want to take a step back from the parallex scrolling and snappy widgets and bring you back to basics, particularly in the realm of technical SEO for a new website. We've compiled a checklist of sorts to make sure you have a handle on the basic elements that should be incorporated into your design beforehand to make sure your SEO is up to scratch.

While a number of SEO elements can be looked at retrospectively when building a new website, the basics should always be considered at the design stage. There are three elements to technical SEO: structural, on-page and off-page. In this article we will look at two of these elements, as off-page elements are primarily things like a blog to house content.

There are current web design trends and technical developments that look fantastic, but if you’re looking to increase your organic revenue then SEO should be put before all the new spangled, web design wizardry. For example, parallax scrolling websites are on trend, look super snazzy and fresh but they do not historically rank well. While there are several technical workarounds, this type of website does not generally meet basic SEO requirements.

Structural SEO Elements

   1.    Site architecture and folder path structure

This is important to consider at design stage as it is something that will be difficult to fix post site launch. Once you make sure your website has a user-friendly intuitive lay-out and a logical folder path structure you’ll be ok. 

   2.     URL Structure

As a URL structure can affect your visibility it is worth considering this during developmental stage. Incorrect URL structure could mean a lot of 301 redirects and work post launch. To avoid this make sure your URLs are all lower case and separated by hyphens  and short, relevant with descriptive content

   3.    Site Speed

Make sure the functionality and design of your website is not compromising on your site speed. Google takes site speed into their algorithm so it is important to have your pages loading at an average of 3 seconds. There are various ways to reduce site speed and can be dependent on your website. You can test your current websites site speed at Google’s PageSpeed Insights.

Here are three examples to consider and implement prior to your site launch:

1)      Optimised Images – make sure image file sizes are not unnecessarily large

2)      Enable Caching – By implementing caching you will stop the re-loading of unnecessary items   such as images each time a user revisits your site

3)      Minifying Resources – this essentially means tidying up your HTML, CSS and JavaScript to make it faster to crawl.

   4.301 Permanent Redirects

When testing a website web developers often use 302 redirects as temporary redirects. 302 ‘temporary’ Redirects are often used when a web site is in beta prior to launch. These 302 redirects by default often remain in place. It is important to ensure your web developer makes sure all redirects are 301 ‘permanent’ redirects as they are favoured by Google and pass link-juice. Here’s a handy HTTP Status to guide to help you understand your 302s from your 301s.

   5.    Proper Use of http:// or https://

Google are pushing towards https:// and now use it as a ranking signal. If you are launching your website and want to use https:// make sure both versions are not live. If you have both the http:// and https:// version of a website live this will cause duplicate content and affect your rankings.  

   6.    Correct Use of www. and non-www.

As with http:// and https:// you need to decide on using one version. Having both the www. and non www. of a URL live will cause duplicate content. Ensuring only version is live prior to your website launch will save a lot of time and hassle.

On-Page Elements

If you've lived long in the world of SEO, you should know about most of these, but it’s easy to forget best practice in-between the newest Google updates and trying to detangle a site’s analytics.  Any SEO worth their salt will ensure the following on-page elements are in place prior to your site launch. It’s so much easier making changes and ensuring these elements are all done properly prior to your site launch.

Some of these elements auto-populate, which is why it’s extra important to make sure they’re optimised for the best results.

  • <h1> tag: By this point, you likely know this is the “headline” of your page. Ensure this has the main keyword for your page in it and that it’s not a duplicate of your title tag—if it’s the same, you've just missed an opportunity to attach another keyword to the page. Also make sure you only have one <h1> tag—that’s why you have <h2>, <h3> tags, etc. Which brings us to…
  • <h2> and <h3> tags: These will sometimes auto-populate, so just make sure these are correct—they should just be like “subcategory” pages.
  • Meta Content Unique title tag and meta descriptions: Google will pull these in automatically if you don’t designate them, sometimes with less-than-desirable results:

        bad meta description

You don’t want it to seem like you’re yelling, have gotten cut off or are otherwise schizophrenic in your messaging.  It’s always worth your time to keep your meta data up to date, as this is what most people will see before they decide to click.

  • Image alt tags: Google can’t read images very well (yet) so it’s up to you to make sure you put in a few words that tell the search engine crawlers what the image is about. As a thank-you, they might help you rank for those keywords.
  • Correct image height and descriptions: A gorgeous image can make a splash on a well-designed page. Make sure you include the image height and width in your <img> tag before you upload as this affects site speed if not included.
  • Unique content paragraphs: Make sure you’ve included room for content paragraphs on all pages. Although a slick design full of images may be what you’re looking for, a page without content is unlikely to compete in the Search Engine Result Pages.
  • Content rendered in image form: This is a big one. Sometimes designers or developers will create a page that is designed with images that contain words rather than creating readable text, not realising that search engine spiders can’t read that text. Make sure to keep an eye out for this as these words are likely the keywords and title tags you would naturally use for your page.  

text on image

While you can always edit elements like your meta data and image size, these simple checks can save you a huge headache after your site has launched. Make sure the basics of your SEO strategy are covered so you can reap the high SERP rankings later.