If you’re just putting your new website live without making any checks then something is bound to go wrong, I’ve picked 20 of the top checks I think you should make before and after your new website is live! Keep track of these with our new SEO checklist here
1. Mobile Friendliness
52.2% of internet traffic comes from mobile devices [source] in 2018, this is only going to grow year on year now that smartphones are getting cheaper and mobile browsing speeds are getting faster (5G). Making sure your website works across different mobile devices is important for making it easier to use and making search engines happy!
Run a test on your site using the mobile friendly test by Google, this will evaluate whether your website is easy to use on mobile or not. If not, it’ll fail and make recommendations to fix. This is a good way of testing if you have a dev site that’s accessible online and for once your sites live and content is being changed.
Another fool-proof way of testing is by actually using the site yourself, whether you’re emulating mobile devices or not, you’ll be able to user test the site and make sure everything is working as it should.
2. Check Robots.txt
The amount of times I’ve seen a website contain this in their robots.txt is crazy. They have someone build their website then wonder why it’s not getting traffic and still isn’t showing in Google a few weeks later. This will be your culprit...
Make sure you check your check your robots.txt is set-up correctly and not like above. You can check this by going to /robots.txt on your website e.g. www.yourdomain.co.uk/sitemap.xml
3. Check domain redirects
Making sure everything is redirected correctly once your site’s live is important, otherwise you can end up with several versions of your site. Think about it, if you access your website at https://www.example.com but haven't set-up any redirects then you’ll also be able to access these URLs as duplicate content.
This is the same for trailing slashes and .html or .php at the end of your URLS. For example example.com/services and example.com/services.html are the same page but Google will see them as two pages with duplicate content, not ideal.
4.Check page speed
Nobody likes a slow and resource heavy website, especially on mobile. As your website load time increases from one second to seven seconds, the probability of a mobile visitor leaving increases 113%. Reducing load times can be difficult, but there are also simple ways to improve it. Whether you invest in a better server, compress your images or just minify your web files. Use Google's Pagespeed Insights to check your page speed once it’s live for recommendations, some easier than others.
If you’re using WordPress there are tonnes of plugins that can help, but be careful. Installing too many plugins will have an adverse effect on your load times and can cause issues. I also use Cloudflare CDN which is highly debated whether it’s bad for SEO or not, but it’s worked for every site I’ve used it for!
5. Check Schema
Before you put your site live create the correct Schema for your business. Schema gives information to search engines in an easy to understand format which can help influence the information displayed in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page). For national businesses use organisation schema and for smaller local businesses use local business schema to start.
Which schema you use will change depending on your website, there’s specific schema for articles, breadcrumbs, hotels, campsites, events, reviews, products, recipes and many many more. There’s plugins which will generate basic schema but for more advanced Schema you’ll have to create the Json yourself.
Test your schema - Structured Data Testing Tool
6. Check OG Tags & Twitter Cards
Similar to Schema but for social media, kind of. OG Tags & Twitter Cards specify the information that’ll be shown on social media when someone shares one of your URLs. It’s great to get these nailed ready for when your site is love, as this is usually a time when a lot of people are sharing the site on social, be it Facebook, Twitter, or Linkedin.
7. Google Analytics/Tag Manager Code
Ensure Google Analytics is added on to your site ready for when it goes live. If you’re using Google Tag Manager then make sure this is set-up with the Google Analytics tag & trigger and ready for publishing. Adding to this, make sure that it’s actually configured correctly and not just ignored. Data full of spam, bots and your own traffic is worthless when using it - so get all of the relevant filters and different views set-up. Also, track everything that’s an action on your site, whether that’s form submissions, downloads, clicks or purchases.
If you have no idea how to do this then get in touch for some advice.
8. Google and Bing Search Consoles
Get both of these set-up and submit your sitemaps. This will make the process of your site being indexed a lot faster, it also means you can track clicks, impressions, queries, indexing errors and lots more.
Firstly, make sure you’re actually using an SSL certificate. If you own a website where people will be entering personal and sensitive information you should pay for one so it works across all possible devices. If not, then you can get by with a free version as long as your hosting provider supports it. This is pretty easy to do with services like Let's Encrypt. Then just make sure your SSL certificate is working correctly with all the relevant redirects.
It's 2019, you cannot skip this.
10. Check for mixed content issues
Mixed content errors will negate the benefits of having an SSL certificate. These errors happen when images, scripts, videos etc are loaded of an insecure HTTP connection. You can check for these errors in Chrome DevTools by checking the console log, or just run your site through an online test like Why No Padlock.
A favicon is the symbol that represents your website in web browsers. It doesn’t have any effect on your rankings but can impact your click through rate and helps show your brand identity. You can use a mini logo for this, just like the Google example below.
12. Check for broken links
Often a site will go live and will have a few links still pointing to the development URL, make sure you run through the site and check each link. You can do this using various tools and websites but one of my favourites is Xenu Link Sleuth. It’s dead simple and easy to use.
13. Test website forms
Simple one really. Just test all of the forms on your site to make sure they’re all sending and receiving email has been set-up correctly. Also, a good chance to set-up a Captcha if you haven’t already.
14. ALT Text in place
Not a massive issue, and not really much to with SEO in my opinion. ALT tags are meant for accessible use, they help describe an image to users using screen readers that can’t see the image. So it’s still good practice to add ALT tags to the important images on your site
16. Custom 404 page exists
A custom 404 page will mean users aren’t just shown a generic error page that looks nothing like the website and means they lose where they were. Instead, try offering them some suggested pages, a search function and more.
18. All page titles are unique
As the name tells you, a title tag is the title of a page. Make sure all of your titles are unique and relevant for the page they’re on. These are often the first thing users see when they’re searching in search engines. The most effective page titles are about 30-65 characters long, including spaces.
19. Check sitemap.xml
A sitemap is used to list all of the URLs on your website, you can give each page a priority and tell search engines when they were last updated. This is used for search engines to crawl and index your site more effectively. There are lots of tools to help you build a sitemap.
20. Linking to social accounts
Link your most important social profiles in the header or footer of your site. The ones you link to will depend on your business. A hotel might link to Instagram, Facebook & TripAdvisor, whereas a Photographer might link to 500px, Instagram and Flickr. Doing this also helps search engines associate your website with your social profiles.
21. Cross browser testing
Finally, test test test!! Use different browsers, different devices and different networks to make sure everything on your website looks as it should and functions as intended. There’s nothing worse than launching your website only to find iPhone users can’t make bookings or that your forms don’t work in Internet Explorer…(yes, few people still use it!)