Building a website is easier than ever, thanks to WordPress and many other website builders available. But your WordPress website is more than stunning design and engaging content. You also need to ensure its SEO readiness. After all, an impressive site is no use if no one finds and visits it.
Yes, you can troubleshoot SEO issues that may arise later on after your launch day. But remember, winning the rankings game is more difficult if you don’t do things right the first time. It’s better to take care of matters now, no matter how small, than resolve more troublesome errors in the future. So, here’s a launch checklist to help you inspect the essential elements of your website before it goes live!
1. Create a Good Domain Name
Your domain name works like your site’s street address. It is also what sets you apart from all others on the web. Aside from giving your WordPress website an identity, it defines your brand. It makes people recognise and remember you.
In terms of SEO, memorable domain names are crucial to search rankings. That’s because if users type in your domain name often, search engine algorithms take notice. In turn, your site can earn authority points and outrank your competitors.
- Go for a short or brandable domain name. Make it easy to type, pronounce and recall.
- Avoid adding hyphens, numbers, non-standard characters and unusual words or spellings.
- Avoid using a name similar to an established business name. You may not rank well for your own brand name in Google later.
- Choose the appropriate domain name extension. The “.com or .com.au (provided that your business operates in Australia)” extension is the safest.
- If you can’t come up with a name, try using a domain name generator to make it easier to find your preferred domain.
2. Choose a Reliable Web Host
Making a WordPress website is one thing. Getting it live on the Internet so people can see and access it is another. This important task is for your web hosting provider. And so, you need to study your service options well and perhaps be ready to invest in the best hosting solution.
With reliable web hosting, your site visitors get to enjoy a fast and responsive site. Increased bounce rate is the least of your worries. More importantly, you get to avoid those dreadful downtimes that can hurt your SEO performance and conversion rates.
- Go for a web host with a high uptime guarantee, at least 99.5%, to keep your site accessible.
- Match your requirements (e.g., bandwidth, server location, security and upgrade or downsizing options) with the service package of your chosen provider.
- Read reviews about the hosting company. Assess how reliable their customer support can be.
- Compare service prices and choose the one that’s cost-effective and has no hidden charges.
3. Download and Use an SEO Plugin
Content is king, as they say. But pair it with an SEO plugin, and you’re all set to dominate the search engines. This tool can help you optimise your content for users and search engines alike before you hit the publish button.
We know that competition for search rankings is cutthroat. There are thousands (even millions) of websites delivering the same product or service as yours. So, you need all the help for your new WordPress website to stand out. And an SEO plugin can do that for you. With higher organic search visibility, you get better click-through rates (CTRs) in the SERPs and more site visitors in return.
- If you’re building a website with WordPress, you can install the Yoast SEO plugin , AIOSEO Pack, or RankMath.
- Use the plugin’s focus keyword feature. Complement it with a keyword-generating tool to find high-volume search terms.
- Either plugin will give you an actionable list to correct any SEO issue detected from your content. Use this list when optimising existing content or creating a new one.
- Discover how the SEO plugin works when optimising your title, headers, images and others.
4. Configure Your Permalink Structure
User-friendly URLs are essential to SEO. These assist search engines to crawl your site. Your visitors, on the other hand, get to understand your web pages right away. They also enhance your CTR and, eventually, your ranking position.
Your WordPress website, however, may not have the ideal permalink or URL structure by default. Original settings may include numbers and characters to your permalinks, which are irrelevant to your page or content. So, before your launch, make sure to update your settings.
- Click on Settings from the WordPress dashboard, then select Permalinks. From the list, choose Post Name, then click on Save Changes. This setting lets WordPress automatically generate ideal URLs for every new piece of content.
- You can also manually edit your URL structure. Make sure to keep it short, readable and relevant.
- If you need to update existing permalinks, use the right plugin to help you redirect.
5. Add Metadata to All Pages and Posts
Search engines use metadata to determine how relevant your content is to a user’s search intent. While its elements are manifold, two are crucial: the title tags and the meta descriptions. These two appear on the SERPs and work as your advertising copy.
Google, for example, will display your meta keywords in bold to attract your target audience and make them click your site. Your chosen content management system like WordPress can automatically handle this for you. However, you can also customise it to boost SEO.
- From your WordPress site, click on the page or post for metadata addition or editing. The settings will slightly vary, depending on your installed SEO plugin. However, the system is the same. Scroll down to look for the snippet editor section to add your meta description, keywords and so on. The snippet preview should show you how your title and description will look like on the SERPs.
- Ideally, keep your SEO titles up to 60 characters. Make sure the titles are accurate, descriptive and keyword-rich.
- Limit your meta descriptions from 50 to 155 characters. Check them for spelling and grammatical correctness. Keep them on point, too, to attract organic traffic.
6. Structure Articles with Proper Headers
Heading tags in WordPress are not for text styling purposes. We use them to communicate with search engine crawlers and explain what each block of content is all about. For readers (and skimmers), proper headings break your articles into sections, making them more readable, digestible and engaging.
Your site naturally gets SEO rewards for this as search engines prefer giving scannable content with an organised structure to their users. It is then a must for website owners and writers to know how to use these tags effectively.
- Use only one H1 tag per page, then assign H2 to H6 tags accordingly, with H6 being the least important.
- Insert your focus keyword in your headings when possible. Check your SEO plugin analysis for this.
7. Insert Internal Links
Distributing page authority within your new WordPress website is a practice you should observe from now on. You can do this by adding internal links to your content. Link building is an essential ranking factor that demonstrates that your site is relevant, informative and read-worthy.
These links encourage visitors to visit your other pages or articles and make them stay longer on your website. They also allow easy navigation and create a clean site architecture. And you can add these links manually or through plugins.
- For manual linking, type in your content as usual. Then select the word or phrase you want to use as your anchor text. Click on the link icon using your WordPress Classic or Gutenberg editor, then paste the URL. You can also type keywords on the link field to search relevant published articles within your site.
- When you have already published hundreds of articles, manual linking becomes challenging. Plugins can help you in this case through automatic internal linking. Popular options include Link Whisper and Rank Math.
- When adding links, insert them naturally, choose blog posts over top-level pages and keep the number of links reasonable.
- Use a link-checking tool to spot and fix broken links within your content.
8. Fix Broken Links
Being redirected to a 404 page can result in a domino effect. It will start with unhappy visitors, lead to increased bounce rates, then eventually end with low rankings and conversion rates. We don’t want any of that. And while dead hyperlinks are not likely on a newly launched website, it’s good practice to spot and fix them right away.
- Download a reliable plugin to help you check and fix broken links. Some options to consider are Broken Link Checker and Google Analytics.
- Consider setting up email alerts so you can address broken links early.
- Set up a custom 404 page in case a visitor mistypes a URL. Make sure the custom page can correctly redirect users back to your site.
- Make it a habit to preview your article to ensure every link works.
9. Optimise Your Images
High-quality images make your WordPress website shine! They enhance your textual content and boost user experience. However, the opposite can happen if you do not optimise your images before launching. Heavy images can result in slow loading times and frustrated visitors.
Even with your cache plugin activated, you still need to be conscious of your image sizes. Moreover, you need to fill in the alt text description field to let search crawlers index your images. Your images are likely to show up in the search results, too.
- Choose the ideal image file format. Use JPEG for multicolour photographs. PNG is best for graphics and drawings with fewer than 16 colours.
- Use compression tools or plugins to reduce image sizes.
- From the WordPress media library, select the image for alt text addition or editing, then look for the alt text field. Make sure to keep your alt text short, specific, descriptive and keyword-rich.
10. Check Your XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a formatted file of all your web pages on your WordPress website. While submitting one does not directly affect your rankings, it allows faster crawl-ability. Without it, Google and other search engines cannot understand your website structure right away, which also means a low SERP spot.
SEO plugins typically create a sitemap for you. However, you still need to check that it is working as it should. If you’ve installed the Yoast SEO plugin, here’s how you should do it.
- Click on SEO from the side menu, then select General and go to Features.
- Look for the XML sitemaps option and toggle the button to turn it on.
- After which, go to Google Search Console to add and submit your sitemap.
11. Test and Submit a Robots.txt File
To help search engine crawlers further, you need to create and submit a robots.txt file. In a way, its function is similar to a sitemap. However, this one focuses on instructing web robots how to crawl pages on your website.
As you add more and more pages or articles, search engines need more time to crawl your site. Search engines, however, can only work on a limited number of pages, depending on their crawl budget. Without a robots.txt file, Google, for example, will crawl even your low-quality pages instead of your site’s more significant updates. The delay then affects your ranking.
- Edit your robots.txt file by accessing Tools from the Yoast SEO plugin, then go to Editor.
- Make sure to allow all quality content to be indexed and add your sitemap below your robots.txt file.
- Check out Google’s guidelines on how to format it.
12. Speed Up Your Website
When a user visits your website, your visitor’s browser, WordPress database and web server interact to display pages or content requested. Of course, this exchange takes time. And we all know that site visitors are not exactly the patient type.
With core web vitals being a crucial ranking factor for 2021, you need solutions to ensure fast website speed and a flawless user experience. Caching plugins are your solution. With these tools, your visitors get to view a cached copy of your web pages that load in a flash. It’s like sending a static version of your dynamic content.
- Use a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights to assess your load time.
- Do some benchmarking to identify which cache plugin matches your site requirements.
- WordPress plugins that are worth considering include WP Rocket, WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache. You only need one cache plugin, though. Installing more won’t improve your loading time.
While we all want a successful website launch, it’s not uncommon to miss an element or two. Hopefully, it’s nothing major. But even if it is, it’s not the end of the world. You can always regroup and fix. Also, SEO is ever-changing, so you’re bound to make constant updates post-launch.
Ready to launch? Check out this list on how to optimise your website so you can stay on top of the search page.