Launching a New Website: Your SEO Checklist – Whiteboard Friday
Hovering your finger over the big red “launch” button for your new website? Hold off for just a second (or 660 of them, rather). There may be SEO considerations you haven’t accounted for yet, from a keyword-to-URL content map to sweeping for crawl errors to setting up proper tracking. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand covers five big boxes you need to check off before finally setting that site live.
Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to talk about launching a new website and the SEO process that you’ve got to go through. Now, it’s not actually that long and cumbersome. But there are a few things that I put into broad categories, where if you do these as you’re launching a new site or before you launch that new site, your chances of having success with SEO long term and especially in those first few months is going to go way up.
1. Keyword to URL map for your content
So let’s get started with number one here. What I’m suggesting that you do is, as you look across the site that you’ve built, go and do some keyword research. There are a lot of Whiteboard Fridays and blog posts that we’ve written here at Moz about great ways to do keyword research. But do that keyword research and create a list that essentially maps all of the keywords you are initially targeting to all of the URLs, the pages that you have on your new website.
So it should look something like this. It’s got the URL, so RandsAnimals.com, targeting the keyword “amazing animals,” and here’s the page title and here’s the meta description. Then, I’ve got RandsAnimals.com/lemurs, which is my page about lemurs, and that’s targeting “lemurs” and “lemur habits.” There’s the title.
You want to go through these and make sure that if you have an important keyword that you have not yet targeted, you do so, and likewise, that if you’ve got a URL, a page on your website that you have not yet intentionally targeted a keyword with, you make sure to do that as well. This can be a great way to go through a small site in the early stages and make sure that you’ve got some terms and phrases that you’re actually targeting. This will be also helpful when you do your rank tracking and your on-page optimization later on.
2. Accessibility, crawl, and UX
So what I want you to do here is to ask yourself:
I. “Are the pages and the content on my website accessible to search engines?”
There are some great ways to check these. You can use something like Screaming Frog or Google Search Console. You could use Moz Pro, or OnPage.org, to basically run a scan of your site and make sure that crawlers can get to all the pages, that you don’t have duplicate content, that you don’t have thin content or pages that are perceived to have no content at all, you don’t have broken links, you don’t have broken pages, all that kind of good stuff.
II. “Is the content accessible to all audiences, devices, and browsers?”
Next, we’re going to ask not about search engines and their crawlers, but about the audience, the human beings and whether your content is accessible to all the audiences, devices, and browsers that it could be. So this could mean things like screen readers for blind users, mobile devices, desktop devices, laptops, browsers of all different kinds. You’re going to want to use a tool like a browser checker to make sure that Chrome, Firefox, and… What’s Internet Explorer called now? Oh, man. They changed it. Microsoft Edge. Make sure that it works in all of them.
I like that I think that there’s a peanut gallery who’s going to yell it out. Like you’re watching this at lunch and you’re thinking, “Rand, if I yell it to you now, it won’t be recorded.” I know. I know.
III. “Do those pages load fast from everywhere?”
So I could use a tool like Google Speed Test. I can also do some proxy checking to make sure that from all sorts of regions, especially if I’m doing international targeting or if I know that I’m going to be targeting rural regions that my pages load fast from everywhere.
IV. “Is the design, UI, visuals, and experience enjoyable and easy for all users?”
You can do that with some in-house usability testing. You could do it informally with friends and family and existing customers if you have them. Or you could use something like Five Second Test or UsabilityHub to run some more formal testing online. Sometimes this can reveal things in your navigation or your content that’s just stopping people from having the experience that you want — that’s very easy to fix.
3. Setup of important services and tracking
So there’s a bunch of stuff that you just need to set up around a website. Those include:
- Web analytics – Google Analytics is free and very, very popular. But you could also use something like Piwik, or if you’re bigger, Omniture. You’re going to want to do a crawl. OnPage or Moz Pro, or some of these other ones will check to make sure that your analytics are actually loaded on all of your pages.
- Uptime tracking – If you haven’t checked them out, Pingdom has some very cheap plans for very early-stage sites. Then, if you get bigger, they can get more expensive and more sophisticated.
- Retargeting and remarketing – Even if you don’t want to pay now and you’re not going to use any of the services, go ahead and put the retargeting pixels from at least Facebook and Google onto your website, on all of your pages, so that those audiences are accessible to you later on in the future.
- Set up some brand alerts – The cheapest option is Google Alerts, which is free, but it’s not very good at all. If you’re using Moz Pro, there’s Fresh Web Explorer alerts, which is great. Mention.net is also good, Talkwalker, Trackur. There’s a number of options there that are paid and a little bit better.
- Google Search Console – If you haven’t set that up already, you’re going to want to do that, as well as Bing Webmaster Tools. Both of those can reveal some errors to you. So if you have accessibility issues, that’s a good free way to go.
- Moz/Ahrefs/SEMRush/Searchmetrics/Raven/etc. – If you are doing SEO, chances are good that you’re going to want to set up some type of an SEO tool to track your rankings and do a regular crawl, show you competitive opportunities and missteps, potentially show you link-building opportunities, all that kind of stuff. I would urge you to check out one of probably these five. There are a few other ones. But these five are pretty popular — Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush, Searchmetrics, or Raven. Those are some of the best known ones certainly out there.
- Social and web profiles – Again, important to set those up before you launch your new site, so that no one goes and jumps on the name of your Facebook page, or your Pinterest page, or your Instagram profile page, or your YouTube page, or your SlideShare page. I know you might be saying, “But Rand, I don’t use SlideShare.” No, not today. But you might in the future, and trust me, you’re going to want to claim Rand’s Animals on YouTube and SlideShare. You’re going to want to claim whatever your website’s name is. I’ll go claim this one later. But you’ve got to set all those up, because you don’t want someone else taking them later. I would urge you to go down the full list of all the social media sites out there, all the web profiles out there, just to make sure that you’ve got your brand secured.
4. Schema, rich snippets, OpenGraph, etc
Optimization in general, more broadly. So this is where I’m essentially going through these URLs and I’m making sure, “Hey, okay. I know I’ve targeted these keywords and I already did sort of my page title meta description. But let me check if there are other opportunities.”
Are there content opportunities or image search opportunities? Do I have rich snippet opportunities? Like maybe, this is probably not the case, but I could have user review stars for my Rand’s Animals website. I don’t know if people particularly love this lemur GIF versus that lemur GIF. But those can be set up on your site, and you can see the description of how to do that on Google and Bing. They both have resources for that. The same is true for Twitter and Facebook, who offer cards so that you show up correctly in there. If you’re using OpenGraph, I believe that also will correctly work on LinkedIn and other services like that. So those are great options.
5. Launch amplification & link outreach plan
So one of the things that we know about SEO is that you need links and engagement and those types of signals in order to rank well. You’re going to want to have a successful launch day and launch week and even a launch month. That means, asking the question in advance:
I. “Who will help amplify your launch and why? Why are they going to do this?”
If you can identify, “These people, I know they personally want to help out,” or, “They are friends and family. I have business relationships with them. They’re customers of mine. They’re journalists who promised to cover this. They are bloggers who care a lot about this subject and need stuff to write about.” Whatever it is, if you can identify those people, create a list, and start doing that direct outreach, that is certainly something that you should do. I would plan in advance for that, and I would warn folks of when you were going to do that launch. That way, when launch day rolls around, you have some big, exciting news to announce. Two weeks after you launch to say, “Hey, I launched a new website a couple weeks ago,” you’re no longer news. You’re no longer quite as special, and therefore your chances of coverage go down pretty precipitously after the first few days.
II. “What existing relationships, profiles, and sites should I update to create buzz (and accuracy)?”
I would also ask what existing relationships and websites and profiles do you already have that you can and should…