So, you’ve had the designs signed off, the build is complete, your client is super happy and now you need to put the website live.
You could just upload the database, drop all the files in public_html and hand over to the client, or you could do that little bit extra to give the website the kick start that it needs, especially where SEO is concerned.
Submit the website to Google & Bing
If you have made changes to an existing website, or you are putting a brand new site live then you want search engines to be able to easily find and crawl your website, the best way to get this going is to submit your website.
Setup Google Analytics
It’s always useful to know how much traffic your website is getting, where it is coming from and what people are looking at when they get to your website.
One of the best ways of doing this is by adding Google Analytics to your site. You can sign up for a completely free account here.
Set up Webmaster Tools
According to Google “Google Webmaster Tools is a free program that will help the average user understand how Google sees the website, if there are any problems, and if the site is penalized. Highly recommended to any webmaster.”
Setting up Webmaster Tools is a great way to keep track of the health of your website. You can check for crawl errors (if search engines have had problems looking at your website), submit multiple pages, sitemaps and more. The best part is that it is completely free. Bing also have their own webmaster tools, which offers much of the same functionality.
Create and submit xml sitemaps
This is linked to the setting up of Webmaster Tools, and one great feature of both Google and Bing Webmaster tools is being able to submit xml sitemaps of all the pages that you would like to be crawled and indexed by search engines.
You can manually create sitemaps and upload them as an xml file into the root directory of your website using tools like the free xml sitemap generator or if you are using a content management system like WordPress there are a whole selection of plugins that will generate them for you. My personal favourite is Yeost WordPress SEO plugin.
You may wish to create and submit multiple sitemaps depending of the structure, size and nature of your website.
Create a robots.txt file
You may wish to exclude certain directories from being crawled and indexed by search engine spiders, and one of the best ways to do this is through creation of a robots.txt file.
A search engine robot will automatically look for this file before crawling any page of your site so it’s always a great idea to have one.
This article from Google about the robots.txt file is well worth a read as it explains a bit more on this with a few examples.
Write good, relevant title tags
Title tags are by far the most important factor for your website where SEO is concerned.
By title tags, I don’t mean the headings that you see on the page (although these are also important) I am talking about the text that sits between the <title></title> tags in the html of your website’s pages.
The title is also the bit that is displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPS). When writing page titles for your website make sure:
- They contain keywords that you would like your site to rank well in search engines for
- There are no duplicate page titles on your website (this could harm the SEO of your website)
- They are not really long and spammy looking, they should look and sound natural
Write meta descriptions
The meta description is the bit of text that sites under the title of your page in SERPS. Although meta descriptions will not have any impact on the ranking of your website they will have a big impact on whether someone will click a link to your website from a search engine results page.
The meta description, similarly to the title, should contain a few keywords, but should sound natural and not look spammy.
If you want to see how your site will look in Google before writing out titles and descriptions then use this great Google SERP emulator tool.
301 redirect old URLs to new URLs
If you are relaunching an old site then it is possible that some of the page URLs may change in the process. You want to make sure that any of the old URLs are successfully redirecting traffic over to the new pages on your site.
For example, the old URL of your page about bum bags may look something like:
however the url for the same page on your lovely relaunched website may look like:
If you don’t redirect the traffic from the old URL to the new your visitors will get an error and your website may take a bit of a battering where SEO is concerned.
The good news is that it is very simple to do. You need to create a .htaccess file (Apache only) and 301 redirect all the old URLs to their new home on the brand new website.
There is a very short but great great guide on how to do this over on CSS tricks.
You may wish to use something like the Screaming Frog SEO spider to get a list of all the existing URLs of your website before launching the new site. This will make mapping the redirects a much easier task.
Why a 301 redirect? What do you mean?
A 301 redirect means that something has permanently moved, the other popular redirect (302) means that something has temporarily moved and will be interpreted differently by search engines. If you are moving a page permanently to a new location use a 301.
If you are unsure how your site is redirecting traffic then you can always check what redirects you are using.
Make a 404 (not found) page
A 404 page is an error page that says that something can’t be found. A 404 is perfectly normal if a page has been deleted, and is no longer required, however if a page has moved then it should be 301 redirected by following the steps above.
Make sure that you have a nice custom 404 page in keeping with your style of your website, and you should also ensure that it contains links to other popular areas of the website.
I know that there are 100s more things that you could do but hopefully this is a good guide to get you started. Even if your website has been live for a while then hopefully this checklist will still be of use.