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The Ultimate SEO Checklist : Preparing for Site Launch

So, you’ve designed your site, installed it on your server and loaded all of your content. All ready to launch? Not quite. You probably have a meta description and a title tag, or perhaps you’ve even installed a WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO. Is that all there is? Not quite. If you plan on launching several sites, it is good to create a pre-launch SEO checklist. Honestly, the SEO should begin as soon as you start building the site and picking the domain name. You want to make sure your site hasn’t been blacklisted, or else all of your hard work will be for nothing! Luckily, I’ve created a pretty detailed list to start out your own personal SEO checklist that will help you to get your site ready and listed on the front page!

Blacklist
As I mentioned, one of the first things to do is check whether your domain and IP have been blacklisted. You can check the blacklist at Stop Forum SpamBlack List Alert, or What Is My IP. If it has, you might be able to get your host to reassign a new IP.

Create Sitemap
Creation of a sitemap, whether you do it manually, with an online tool or with a WordPress Plugin, should be done near the end of your launch. This will ensure you include all pages that are on the site. Creation of a sitemap will help to guide the robots and spiders that will crawl your site once you submit it to the search engines.

If you are using WordPress, install Yoast SEO
Yoast is the easiest SEO plugin to use for WordPress. You can set up the way that it manages all pages and posts, so everything goes together automatically. Many of the tools that are included can help reduce the amount of time it takes to run through this checklist, like setting up a sitemap, canonicalization, permalinks, meta tags and the robots.txt file.

Setting Up Canonical Links
Google has a great tutorial on setting up Canonical links. You’ll want to be sure to set up canonical links to prevent issues with duplicate content across your site.

Set Up Natural Permalinks
This is easily done in WordPress under the Settings>Permalinks menu. Selecting the Post Name option will help you set up your pages and posts to a more natural and SEO-friendly structure.

WWW Redirect
First, you’ll want to pick your preferred domain, either www.yourdomain.com
 or yourdomain.com. If you select the non-www domain, then redirect the www domain using the .htaccess file on the server.

IP Redirect
Much like the www vs non-www redirect, you’ll need to redirect the IP address as well. This will send everyone who tries to access your site directly to the domain instead. It will also prevent Google from indexing your site as http:///blogpost.html.

Create a Robots.txt file
If you have WordPress, you can do this from the Yoast plugin. If you aren’t using Yoast or WordPress, it is simple to create and add your robots.txt file.

Check Meta Tags
Check the page titles for length and to make sure you don’t have duplicate title tags across several pages. You’ll want to keep title tags under 70 characters for Google and 67 characters for Bing. You’ll also want to do the same check for description for length (Under 160 characters) and duplication. Be sure you have your keywords in the description and title tags as well.

H1, H2 and H3 Tags
Limit the H1 tags to one per page and try to naturally incorporate your keywords in H1, H2 and H3 tags. You’ll want to try to incorporate all of these tags on each page, if naturally possible.

Keyword/Text Density
Check your keyword and text density. The keyword density is basically how many times the keyword shows up in the text. A good keyword density is anywhere from 4 to 5 percent. The text density measures the code to text ratio. A good text to code ratio is anywhere from 25 to 70 percent.

Alt Tags
Be sure that all of your images have alt tags. Try to incorporate keywords when it is nautral and relevant to do so.

Favicon
Including a favicon on your site makes it seem polished and professional. This adds to the “trust factor” that your website has with the user. You can either do this manually or use WordPress plugins to add the favicon.

404 Pages
Check to be sure you have set up a 404 error page and/or creating 301 redirects to any pages that are no longer relevant. Luckily, WordPress and other CMS platforms already handle 404 pages pretty well out of the box.

Declare Language
Be sure to declare the language you’ve used in the site in your head. This will help to reduce load time and fix validation issues.

Metadata
Be sure to add schemaopen graph/og data, and any microformat data that you can do naturally. This will help to create a semantic structure that Google likes. You can even check your schemaOG tags and microformats with some online tools.

Malware
Be sure to run a malware scan prior to launch. Even though your site hasn’t been up for very long, malware might have been installed by third party plugins or a theme downloaded from an unsecure or malicious website. There are WordPress plugins that can do this or you can find a site online that can run the scan. Unfortunately, a lot of the sites, much like online virus scanners, are trying to sell you something. My advice would be to only use trusted themes and plugins.

Security
If you are using WordPress, install a security plugin to protect your site. I use Better WP Security and find that it protects my sites very well. Nothing will ruin your day more than having to restore a site from backup after someone hacked into it. You want your site to be popular in Google and Bing and this popularity comes with more hacking attempts.

Server Signature
Check to make sure that your server signature is turned off, for security reasons. Here is a great article on why it is important to turn off your server signature and how to do it.

Accessibility
Although it isn't necessary, you’ll want to make sure that people with disabilities and people using screen readers will be able to access your site. Information about accessibility are detailed in Section 508 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. A site like powermapper.com scans your site for these.

Browser Checking
Be sure to check your site using various browsers (Chrome, Firefox, IE8-10, Safari, Opera) and be sure to check them at different sizes (1366, 1240, 1060). Also check how your site looks via mobile in both Android and iOS. There are some fantastic online tools that can do this for you, such as Screenfly or Screen Queries.

Check page speed
One of the last things I do is to check my site with Google Page Speed. You’ll usually have issues with browser caching, optimized images, minifying / zipping files, and scaled images, unless you’ve incorporated these into your site during the build process. My personal goal is to have a speed over 90. Working on each issue individually until you've achieved a site speed over 90 will help on a number of levels. Not only does Google like pages that load quickly, but you’ll also reduce your bounce rate. Impatient users who arrive at your site and see that it is not loading right away may just click the back button and go to the next site on Google’s search result page.

Validation
The absolute last thing I check, prior to launch, is the validation on the site using a tool like W3C Validator. You want to do this last because adding, removing and changing the rest of the things I listed above could possibly effect validation. Once you have a list of the site errors, go through them one-by-one in order to create a valid site. Having a valid site makes Google robots and crawlers happy and reduces page speed load time so that we don’t have to rely on browser error-fixing.

As you can see, there is a lot to go over once you think you have finished your site. These are just the first step in launching the site.
SEO Checklist : Preparing for Site Launch