The most important time to do your on-site SEO work is before the website even goes live. The following is a checklist of things that need to be done 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.
14 Things to do before sending your website live
Click on one of the links below to go directly to the section. If you want to read it all – then continue on!
- Map out website structure
- Descriptive URL’s
- Page Title’s and Meta Descriptions
- Heading tags – H1, H3
- Install Google Analytics
- Set up goals
- Google Webmaster Tools
- XML sitemap
- Static sitemap
- Internal linking
- Custom 404 page
- 301 redirects
- Robots.txt file
- Google Places page
1. Map out website structure
Before getting stuck into the page titles, URL’s or even the content on your new website, you first need to work out an overall structure for the new website. What are the main pages, categories or sections of the website going to be?
If you already have a live website, you must work out how these old pages will fit under the new website and then 301 redirect them to the corresponding new versions.
2. Descriptive URL’s
Once you have determined what you need on your website, every single page must have a clean and descriptive URL with hypen’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.
Good URL: www.example.com.au/outdoor-blue-widgets
Bad URL: www.example.com.au/page?11235
3. Page titles and meta description
Each page must also have it’s own unique page title clearly describing what the contents on that page contain and a supporting meta description. The page title should be around 70 characters in length as that is how many search engines typically show in their results pages. The meta description can be around 150 characters as well.
Each page should be targeting a couple of similar keywords. Using the page mentioned previously about outdoor blue widgets, a page title could be:
How to use Blue Widgets for Outdoor Camping | Example.com.au
Possible meta description: Blue widgets can be extremely useful for outdoor camping in the winter months. These widgets make outdoor activities much safer and easier to undertake.
4. Heading tags H1, then H3
Each page should have its own heading title describing what that page or article is about. These pages should have the text broken up by using smaller headings (H3) and bullet points. This makes the pages easier to read, scan and overall more visually pleasing.
5. Install Google analytics
Installing Google analytics or another analytics package such as Mint or Clicky is a no-brainer. You must have this set up and ready to go so when your website goes live, you can track how visitors get to your site, and then what they do when they are there.
6. Set up goals
This is often neglected on a lot of websites but is extremely important to understand whether your visitors are converting into customers or subscribers.
It is very easy to set up goals and funnels in Google Analytics that measure successful visits that resulted in a purchase or new customer. You need to define what these goals are prior to launching the website and have custom “thank you” pages with unique URL’s set up to make it easier to measure.
7. Google webmaster tools
Verifying your website on Google Webmaster tools is a must. It gives you some great information about how Google is crawling your site and whether there are any broken links or missing pages. It also gives data on top search queries, click through rates, number of links to your site and also page load times.
8. XML sitemap
You can create an XML sitemap using this XML sitemap generator and uploading it to your website. If you are running a website using WordPress, the Google sitemap generator plugin makes this extremely easy.
You can then submit this sitemap to Google by using Google webmaster tools which helps to show all the pages on your website that need to be crawled and indexed.
9. Static sitemap
Having a static sitemap on the website linked from the footer is also a must. You can see the SEO Maverick sitemap has links to the key pages on this website which makes it easier to navigate through the different sections.