Launching a website? Bravr CEO Shahin Fard looks at some key factors that should be on every pre-launch checklist.

Whether you are launching a new website or redesigning an existing one, it can be a daunting and pulse raising task. Undertaking the appropriate pre-launch checks is the best way of ensuring a smooth launch.

With that in mind, I have compiled an exhaustive pre-launch checklist, starting with SEO.

Please bear in mind that this checklist is primarily aimed at:

  • More technical users
  • Those who operate using a LAMP environment. Principles still apply for Microsoft users, however the explanations may not apply to your environment.

 

Website crawl

Importance: Critical
We recommend crawling the website using a tool such as Screaming Frog. This will give you a lot of information about your website such as URL’s, Titles, Meta data, redirects, broken links etc.

Any broken links should be addressed before pushing the website live, using redirects to a parent page or homepage.

SEO friendly URLs

Importance: High
Historically, this was an important pre-requisite SEO check. However, today’s CMS systems produce search engine-friendly URLs. This means SEO’s are slightly more relaxed when one or two parameters creep into URLs strings.

We still recommend URLs are clean and descriptive, not too long and close to the site root.

Canonical (www)

Importance High
Whichever decision you make, with or without the www in your domain name, it’s important that the other version redirects using the 301 Permanent redirect protocol.

In test environments you may only have an IP address. If this is the case, you may need to add two entries to your hosts file to point to the development IP.

Canonical (tags)

Importance Medium
Ensure your URL’s are using correct Canonical tags for pages to set what the preferred URL is for your content.
More info: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066?hl=en

HREF Lang

Importance Medium
If you have a multi-lingual website, ensure you have used the HREF lang tags. This is especially important when using more than one domain in English speaking countries. It avoids being penalised for Duplicate Content
More info: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/189077?hl=en

Robots.txt

Importance Medium
While this is not a pre-requisites for launching a website, it is best practice to prevent spiders from accessing your backend admin system. Most CMS systems come with a robots.txt by default.

Xml Sitemap

Importance: High
Generating an XML sitemap is important both for new sites and redesigns where the URL structure has changed.

It is worth paying the XML configuration a little attention. There is no point generating entries for redundant pages, or setting everything to daily. It is a pointless waste of crawler resources and bandwidth.

We find that Excel is good for comparing the XML sitemap against the website crawl. It’s a sanity check for XML sitemap generation to ensure all pages are being generated.

Tip: Use “Show duplicate values” in Excel and Autofilter to show non-listed pages.

Redirects (redesign only)

Importance: Critical
When launching a new website, it’s important that the existing URL structure is being redirected to a new one.

We take the following steps:

1. Crawl the OLD website and extract the full list of all URL’s
2. Use Excel concatenate to pair the new URL (IP/staging domain) with the OLD extracted URL
3. Export the list as a text file and run through a website crawler or our tool: Check My URLs

The next is to check external inbound links:

1. Grab a list of all external inbound links from GWT, Majestic, Moz etc
2. Use Excel concatenate to pair the new URL (IP/staging domain) with URL the inbound link is pointing to.
3. Export the list as a text file and run through a website crawler or our tool: Check My URLs

Tip: Check for double/triple redirects. Avoid more than two redirects from source URL to final destination URL as search engines will give up. Pay special attention to URLs without end slashes as often these are redirected twice.

Titles and Meta Data

Importance: High
Ensure (within reason) all your pages have unique Titles and Meta description data. The larger the site, the more challenging this is.

Semantics and Headings

Importance: Medium
Ensure your pages are properly marked up using a single H1, and multiple H2, H3, H4 providing they are relevant to the page’s target keyword. <h4>Whitepapers</h4> isn’t particularly useful and can be rendered just as easily using a CSS Class.

Next Steps

While the above guide covers the SEO elements that must be checked before a website launches, there are a multitude of other factors that must be reviewed to ensure that your website does not encounter any usability, accessibility or technical issues post-launch. Over the coming weeks, I will be adding to this guide to create an exhaustive pre-launch checklist.

Our commitment to performing pre-launch checks is why so many clients turn to Bravr for the design and development of robust and high-performing websites.

Contact us to discover how Bravr can improve your web presence.