So you launched your new blog or website. Congratulations! After months of planning, designing, coding, and/or working with someone to do the aforementioned, the DNS has propagated and yoursite.com is officially live! New readers should start pouring in from Google at any moment…
*cue sound of chirping crickets*
Reality check… your work has just now begun! If you worked with a web designer who is familiarized with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), hopefully most of these steps have been completed. If you’re a DIY’er like me, here’s a checkist of important things to do post-website launch. Note: I work exclusively with the WordPress platform for all of my blogs and websites. For those of you on Blogger or Squarespace, etc… some of these steps may not apply or will require a different setup method.
- Install Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a powerful FREE tool that tracks statistics on people visiting your blog. You can learn significant information such as how many unique visitors and page views you receive over time, or which content on your site is best and worst. To setup Google Analytics, you will first need a Google account. Even if you don’t use gmail, as a blogger, you should have one to manage other Google products like YouTube and Google+.Once you have your Google account setup, visit http://google.com/analytics to setup a Google Analytics account. Follow the steps to setup the account properties and then install the tracking code on your website. This should be one of the, if not, first things you do when you launch your new site, because you don’t want to miss out on any valuable data or visits. If you’re confused about how to install your tracking code, don’t worry– just copy your tracking ID (UA-XXXXX-X) and we’ll add it to the site in the next step…
- Install SEO WordPress Plugin (Yoast, All-in-One SEO)
WordPress is known for being pretty SEO friendly right out of the box. Especially if your site is on a framework like Genesis or Thesis (will save those for another post). However, I highly recommend installing an SEO WordPress plugin for additional optimization options. There are hundreds of search engine related plugins, but the two most common are All in One SEO Pack and WordPress SEO by Yoast. These will both give you several options for SEO, which need their own blog post. But, having one of these plugins installed will help with other steps, such as installing Google Analytics.
- Setup Meta Titles and Descriptions
Metadata is basically data that summarizes data. The two important types of metadata for SEO and websites is the title and description of each page. Think of your meta title and description as someone’s first impression of your website. If they find you through a search engine, you have three lines of content to convince them to click through to your site. It also tells Google what the primary topic of your web page is, so they know that if someone is searching for what you’re writing about, your site will be shown in the results.
In the olden days, we used to have to go into the html of the website and manually enter code for the meta data on each page. Now, plugins like WordPress SEO and All-in-One SEO make it easy to setup the title tags and description. The most important page to setup meta data for is your home page. The plugins have automatic settings (that can be customized) for the other types of posts and pages, that for the most part, you can leave as the default. For the index/home page, you’ll need to manually enter the information:
For the meta title, include the name of your website/blog and 1-3 keyword combinations. For example, I want to rank for “Dallas Fashion Blogger”– so that is one of the keyword sets in my title. Use a separator like | or – between phrases. It should be no longer than 55-60 characters. For the description, explain what your site is about in 115 characters or less, trying to incorporate keywords that are both important to you, and used on your site. (Google doesn’t like when your meta information doesn’t match the content on your site)
- Install Google XML Sitemaps plugin
A sitemap is a file that lists and organizes the pages of your website so that search engines can properly crawl your site. It also includes info such as when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and the importance of the page relative to other URLs in the site. Google XML Sitemaps is a free WordPress plugin that automatically generates and updates a sitemap file for you. Install and activate the plugin, and you’re good to go. We’ll submit the sitemap to Google in a later step.
- Set up Google Webmaster Tools
Webmaster Tools is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results. You don’t have to sign up for Webmaster Tools for your site to be included in Google’s search results, but it will help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance. I use Webmaster Tools most often to check which search queries are directing people to my site. Will write more about that in another post.
You’ll need to verify ownership of your site in order to add it to your Webmaster Tools account. Since you will have already setup Google Analytics, the easiest choice will be to verify it through your analytics account (listed under Alternate Methods).
- Submit your Sitemap
After you’ve verified the site in Google Webmaster Tools, your next step will be to submit the sitemap that we generated with the WordPress plugin earlier. In the Webmaster Tools menu, click on “Crawl” and then “Sitemaps” which will bring up a page with a link to submit/test your sitemap. The sitemap file should be sitemap.xml if you used the aforementioned plugin.
Submitting your sitemap essentially lets Google know you are open for business, and invites them to send their spiders to crawl and index your site. They may index your site organically, but this step should speed up the process.
- Start Writing
When it comes to search engine optimization, content is key. Google changes its search algorithms constantly, but one thing that never changes is that it gives priority to websites and pages with good, original, and relevant content. Always make sure that the important key words for each post are included in the title, or at least the first few sentences. Categorize posts appropriately, and don’t go overboard with tags. Google gives SEO weight to tags based on how many posts on your site use the same tag… don’t tag a post unless it’s something you have already tagged another post with or will in the future. Don’t get so caught up in keywords that your writing starts to sound unnatural and you’re just throwing important keywords around randomly. Google does not like Black Hat SEO techniques, and wants genuine content that will answer the searcher’s question.
I know how much heart and soul goes into launching a new blog and hope that this checklist helps give your site the visibility it deserves. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or leave a comment below. I’m always happy to look over websites and make recommendations!