The ultimate SEO checklist for launching a new website

Are you about to launch a new website? Take your finger off the trigger, then take a deep breath and read our ultimate SEO checklist before launching the new website.

It can be extremely exciting to publish your new website; however, if the site is not up to scratch with Google’s standard rules, you will be putting it out into the open and potentially not hitting the ground running. In our time as a digital agency, we have witnessed many websites go live without SEO best practice and the results border on negligence.

To give you an example, the graph below shows the traffic coming through to a website over the last year. This website was launched without the approval stamp of an experienced SEO Agency. Can you guess which month this was launched?

Yep, you guessed right… the website was launched in September. The company has now come to us to ask for our professional help to remedy their SEO disaster. In order to prevent more situations like this, we have put together an SEO checklist for you to work through before pressing the launch button.

Is your content ready to be indexed?

If you want to bring in Organic traffic to your website, you will need to write content on every indexable page. In the SEO industry, the bare minimum word count on a page needs to be 250. However, we recommend targeting at least 500, this way Google has more content to crawl and rank in the search results.

On top of having at least 500 words per page, it is imperative that the content is unique across the website. If the content is duplicated in any way, Google will not see the value in the website because, in their eyes, each page is the same. We’ve produced our very own SEO content guideline which you can request in the link below:

If you have a large website, rather than checking every page for duplicate content, you can run the URL through this free content tool. It will read the content on all the pages, to then give you a percentage of content that is duplicated.

Have you created and checked your XML sitemap?

An XML Sitemap is used to tell Google and other crawlers which pages are of the highest priority to crawl and index. Every website must have at least one XML Sitemap, as per SEO best practice guidelines, so that Google is able to better understand the structure and layout of the website.

As your site will be fresh in Google’s index, it is extremely important to have a sitemap and submit it in Google Search Console (You will only be able to submit the sitemap once the site is live; however, this should be done on the same day).

To find out how to create an XML sitemap or how to submit the sitemap in Search Console, click here.

Are your redirects imported?

Importing redirects are only necessary if you currently have a live website. In your time of having a website, you may have built up a list of 301/302 redirects. This can happen when removing pages from your site, or restructuring URLs.

If you do have a list of redirected URLs, it is important that these are carried over to the new website. If they are not, it will create multiple 404 Not Found errors.

A 404 Not Found error refers to when a page no longer exists on a website. Best practice guidelines state that the URLs for these deleted pages are redirected to a relevant alternative page. When this isn’t done, a 404 Not Found error is created.

If these errors become high in volume, it can lead to Google looking negatively upon your website. As such, they should always be remedied to avoid this

We would also recommend that you use a crawling tool like Screaming Frog, to resolve any 404 errors that you are unaware of.

Setting up Google Analytics & Search Console

Google Analytics and Search Console are key for SEO growth. If you do not know what is happening with your new website, you will not know what needs to be fixed.

Understanding how users are interacting with your new site can be really valuable. For example; without having analytics installed on the website we referred to at the beginning of this guide. The company would not have been able to track the decrease in traffic.

Have you optimised for page speed?

Google released its Google Speed update in July 2018, whereby Page Load Speed has become one of the major ranking factors for Mobile rankings. As Google has already changed over from the old Google Index to the new Mobile-First Index, this means that Google Speed is a very important update.

If you want to know how to optimise your new website for speed and what is required to do this, click this previous SEO article here to find out more.

Have you made your mobile site the priority?

The use of mobiles is increasing rapidly, and you are probably reading this on your mobile right? Mobile is now almost pushing desktop off the map. In fact, Google cares so much about mobile users, the Mobile-First-Index update was released in March 2018.

In a nutshell, this means websites are now being indexed based upon their mobile site.

So, while building your new website, have you prioritised and not neglected your mobile site? This is a common problem that has been around as long as mobiles, as websites are typically built on a desktop, they are created to be viewed on a desktop. Also, don’t get us started on sites which have a separate mobile URL – this is SEO suicide now.

To help you understand what the dos and don’ts of building a mobile site, we have put together an easy to understand article all about Google’s Mobile-First-Index update, here.

Is your core SEO up to scratch?

Core SEO is a term that is not commonly known for people outside the SEO industry; however, it is a simple concept and borders on SEO common sense.

The core SEO includes the base optimisations that are in Googles best practice guidelines. Such as; page titles, heading 1’s and heading 2’s. Do not underestimate the importance of this whilst focusing all your efforts on the more complex SEO tactics.

Page titles and headings give the Google crawlers a really good understanding of what the page is about. This is a great opportunity to include your keywords as well as engaging users to click on your website in search results.

What to check as soon as you launch your new website.

If you feel that your site is ready to go live to the world after reading this guide. There is one last thing that you need to do while pressing the big red launch button.

Check your site is set to “index;follow”. If you have set your site to “noindex;nofollow” during the build, it is really important that you change the code. This way the pages you would like to be indexable are available within Google search results. Although this might sound like a no brainer, you’d be surprised how many sites we inherit which have still got this set to invisible in Google’s eyes and this can sometimes be either due diligence or a simple case of forgetting to flick this when migrating from your development server to live.

Making sure your website is built to follow Google’s standard can be a major undertaking, so if you need help or advice on how to do it, we are more than happy to discuss your options. So why not get in touch today and start down the path to a better website, more traffic, increased conversions and, most of all, a return on your investment?

Written byGareth Torrance

Hello there. I'm Gareth, the Search Engine Marketing Lead at Brave. With almost a decade of experience in PPC and SEO, I've seen everything from Pandas and Penguins to the horrible time that was Mobilegeddon. As a Google Ads Certified Google Specialist, I have lived through almost every major shift in the industry! And that makes me feel old.

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