When setting up a new website it is easy to get excited about the design and content of the website, while forgetting the most vital aspect – SEO.
While your website might look great, searchers are never going to find it if you don’t implement even some of the SEO basics.
To help you out I have compiled a list of SEO tasks you must do before a new or updated website goes live. By doing all of these, search engines will be able to index the new changes quicker, and more efficiently.
1. Descriptive URL’s
Once you have determined what you need on your website, every single page must have a clean and descriptive URL with hyphen’s separating each word. This allows people and search engines alike to see what the content is going to be on that page just by looking at the URL.
Here is an example of a well structured URL:
2. Title tags, meta description tags and heading tags
The key to creating good title tags is to ensure each is unique and includes the keywords you think people would use when doing a search via Google when trying to find your site.
For example, if you’re a dentist in Arlington, DC then the title tag of your home page would be something like this:
Professional Dentist in Arlington, DC – Your Company
Each page on your site has unique content so each title tag for these pages should be unique because it is one of the strongest signals Google uses to determine what your page should rank for.
The meta description for each page can be around 150 characters and it should serve as a mini advertisement for your company and the services/products you provide.
Each page should have its own heading title describing what that page is about.
3. Use text alternatives to Flash content.
If your site uses Flash to present content that you really want or need search engine crawlers to index, provide text alternatives that they can index. If you use Flash for your entire web site without providing text alternatives, don’t expect search engine crawlers to index your site.
4. Install Google analytics
Having Google Analytics installed on your site is a must because it allows you to track how visitors get to your site, and then what they do when they are there.
5. Sitemaps – XML and static
An XML sitemap helps to show Google all the pages on your website that need to be crawled and indexed. XML sitemap generator is an easy tool to help you quickly create your sitemap and upload it to your website. Don’t forget to submit this sitemap to Google through Google Webmaster Tools.
While not necessarily helpful for your SEO, a sitemap within your website is imperative for helping visitors easily navigate around your website. The best place to promote your sitemap is in the footer at the bottom of each page of your site, as shown in the example below of the footer on the ineedhits website.
6. Avoid Accessibility mistakes
Users and search engines both need to be able to reach all of the pages, all the content that you’ve created on your website in easy ways. Here are two simple things you need to do to help:
- If you have an existing website that is being updated, then it is extremely important to redirect the old pages to the new ones by using 301 redirects.
- Should visitors come across a error on your site, then they will be shown a 404 error page. This page should be customized to include your branding and a list of your top pages and links to useful content on your website. This will help the visitor find what they are looking for more easily.
7. Allow access to all Robots
Before the website goes live, you must allow robots to crawl your website through a robots.txt file. If you don’t then the search engines won’t be able to find and index your new website.
8. Secure your online brand
While your website will be your main SEO focus, you should also look at other online sources to boost your SEO efforts. By registering your businesses brand on social networks (Facebook, Twitter etc) this will help your website’s ranking in the search engines. It also has the benefit of online reputation management in that social sites will rank well for your brand name, allowing you to keep the search results for “your business name” under your control.
9. Internal and external linking
Internal linking will not only help your visitor navigate through your site more easily but it helps with your SEO as you can use keywords as anchor text to link to relevant pages. Link anchor text is a very important ranking factor on all the search engines so link to relevant sections of your website whenever possible.
Links from external sources is a highly regarded factor when determining your websites ranking in the search engines. But here’s a tip: don’t buy links from low quality sources, because Google doesn’t like this and they will penalize you for it.
A great place to start when looking for external link sources are business contacts and your customers. Look at all your email contacts, your LinkedIn contacts, the people that you know personally and professionally and ask them if they would mind putting a link to your site on their website.
Ensure your website loads and views correctly across all Internet browsers and in both Windows and Mac operating systems before launch.
11. Get into Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is a great resource as it provides information about how Google is crawling your site and whether there are any broken links or missing pages.
Hopefully, this checklist will help you get your site in a well established position in the search engines. Best of luck with your new website.
Are there any points I missed in the checklist? If so, feel free to share them below.