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SEO checklist when launching a new website

SEO has featured quite heavily for me this week and as a result I have uncovered a number of common errors that my clients were unaware about. This is because they are linked to the site foundations and not the more publicised use of backlinks, social media and new content.

Of course, all of the above is extremely important and I would advocate including them in any internet marketing strategy. However, I thought you might find it beneficial to have a handy checklist of the other areas that you need to consider.

In essence, SEO performance covers five key areas as follows:

  • Common SEO issues

  • Speed Optimisations

  • Server and Security

  • Mobile Usability

  • Social Media

For this article, I am going to focus on the top three as they are the areas that can often get overlooked.

Common SEO Issues

Meta Tags

When deciding upon the content for your Meta Tags (Title, Description and Keywords) you should take into account the following:

Title - this should be no longer than 70 characters long and should accurately and succinctly outline the business you are in whilst utillising your most common keywords.

Description - this should be no longer than 156 characters and should embellish on the title to provide an accurate summary of your site content, again using those all-important keywords.

Keywords - these provide additional information for search engines to index and can emphasise a particular word or phrase used in the main body of your text.

H1 and H2 Headings

Many sites do not include either H1 or H2 headings which are HTML tags that can help emphasise important topics, sub-topics and keywords within a given page. Think of them in the same way as you would a contents page in a reference book.

Underscores in Links

Google treats hyphens as separators between words in a URL so it is always better to use them instead of underscores.

Image Alt

If an image cannot be displayed for any reason, then having an alt attribute is a way of providing alternative information. It is also good SEO practice to use keywords and human-readable captions in the alt attributes because search engines cannot really see images.

Inline CSS

Check with your web developer that they have moved all inline CSS rules into an external file in order to make your pages 'lighter' and decrease the code to text ratio. If not, this may have an adverse effect on the site loading times and user experience.

Speed Optimisations Page Cache Caches reduce server-load and speed up the page display. They also reduce the bandwidth requirement by up to 80%. Caching most visibly benefits high traffic pages that access a database but whose content does not change on every page view. Site Loading Speed Experts tend to agree that the average site loading time is around 5 seconds and so this is the expectation of users. If your site is slow to load then not only does this affect the user experience, it also has a detrimental effect on your SEO. Aside from looking at the Inline CSS (as outlined previously), you can also ask your web developer to ensure that all external JS and CSS files have been minified. This essentially is a process for removing all unnecessary characters from the source code without changing the functionality. Removing these characters and compacting the files can save many bytes of data and in doing so, speed up downloading and execution time. Server and Security Libwww-perl Access Test By blocking access from User-agent libwww-perl you can eliminate some of the simpler Botnet script attacks that automatically look for vulnerabilities in your software. This needs to be carried out in the .htaccess file. Server Signature Test From a security point of view and to reduce the risk of hackers exploiting vulnerabilities within your operating system, it is good practice to turn off your server signature. IP Canonicalisation Canonicalisation is the term used to describe how a site can use slightly different URLs for the same page. If this happens, search engines may be unsure as to which URL is the correct one to index. To prevent this from happening, it is important to ensure that your sites IP redirects to your site’s domain name. I hope you found this article of interest and that it helps you with your wider SEO efforts. My next project involves promoting and hosting a Facebook party so no doubt; this will be the topic of my next blog article! Thanks for reading.

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