Once, when I was working for an Website agency, we got a new customer, primarily because the SEO efforts were failing with the previous site.
Being the only person who claimed to know anything about SEO remotely, the owner started discussing with me about making sure the site would perform well.
I studied the old site, and frankly, was quite surprised by some basic things that were not completed for SEO.
When developers hand a website to a client, we should find a way to provide their new site with some basic search engine optimization.
One way to make this happen is to create a checklist of things that are a part of your pre-launch process.
Some SEO Basics to include
There are several SEO Basics you need to consider when launching a website for a client. The following are a few which are crucial to your project.
Help Google Help You
While Google is not the only search engine on the planet, it is the largest and most robust and, therefore, the value of being optimized for Google is king.
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The things that you can do with Google can be replicated for Bing, the other primary search engine. The vast majority of search engines use either Google or Bing to power their results.
Despite what some people think, Google is very friendly with webmasters. They have lots of targeted info for webmasters on how to make their website indexed and appropriately displayed in their search engine.
There are two Google products you should provide for a client’s website.
The first product is to sign up for Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). Have you ever wondered why certain pages on your website aren’t showing in Google? Google will tell you in the search console and give you an opportunity to make adjustments.
All you need to take advantage of the Google Search Console is a Google account which most developers already have.
In using the Google Search Console, a couple of the main things you should consider is adding your website’s sitemap (in the sitemap form – XML) and a Robots.txt file. The Robots.txt file lets Google know what their robots can and cannot access.
The sitemap is necessary and signing up with the Google Search Console and adding your sitemap will have your new website indexed in a matter of a few hours as opposed to a few weeks or whenever Google finds your site.
The second Google product you should take advantage of is Google Analytics. I am always surprised when I talk to a business owner that does not know what kind of traffic they have because Google Analytics has not been installed.
I am even more surprised when a developer or designer was paid to build the site. To me, this is a no-brainer.
It may not be your job to show them how to use Google Analytics or to train them, but it is the best thing to do for the customer.
What’s that description?
Page Titles and Descriptions may be the most important off-site SEO tasks you can optimize.
When it comes to the Google Bots, or Google Robots, the Title and Description tells them the subject of the page. The Google Bots will read the title and description and then scan your content to make sure that they match up. It’s logic really; they are making sure you are what you say you are.
Think of the Title and Meta Description as the cover page of your report. These are the first and among the most important things that the Google bots will check.
Just like the tags and descriptions, your Meta Title and Meta Description tells Google the subject of the website.
It is paramount that, as the developer, we fill in the title and description tags as the most basic service of SEO for our clients. I often come across a website, many times brand new website, that has the title of the home page as “Home.” What this tells me is that the developer did nothing to the title tag and probably did the same for the description.
Many of our Content Management Systems such as WordPress have default settings for many of these components. When someone chooses to do a static Homepage in WordPress, the default Title will be the name of the page, which, in this case, is Home. These defaults can be changed easily with a simple plugin or, as many themes do, a theme setting.
Get all social for once – Social Metadata
As a developer, we understand that technology changes at lightning speed. Such is the case with the social area. Many of us spend time on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin. The result of this change is the need to install Social Metadata.
The open graph tags have helped integrate this process. Developers can take advantage of the tags and do checks to make sure that posts and websites like good and are optimized for the various platforms.
Facebook, for example, has what is known a the Developer Debug tool. The tool scrapes each page to check for the appropriate open graph tags for Facebook and reveals how each element is displayed.
Twitter makes use of Twitter cards. The use of Twitter Cards using Open Graph Tags makes a tweet from a post on the site stand out.
Pinterest is another social media taking advantage of Open Graph tags which they call Rich Pins.
The website’s marketing company should be taking advantage of Open Graphs, but it is the developer who implements them. Make it a part of your basic SEO.
Sitemaps – c’mon people!
I mentioned adding the Sitemap in your Google Search Console above. If you are building a WordPress website, sitemaps for the search engines are no big deal.
Really? Come on people!
It is as simple as adding a plugin, tweaking the options, and letting it do its thing. Or, if you are using an SEO plugin like the one by Yoast or All-in-One SEO Pack, you will find Sitemap settings available.
Bing has its own Webmaster Tools that allows you to submit a sitemap, just like Google.
Image Alt Text/Tags
Image Alt Text is not just about good SEO, but it is good for Accessibility. Visually impaired users use a different kind of browser that reads to them what is seen on the web page. This is why Image Alt Text is important. These browsers will tell users what that text for the image says.
Mobile Responsive, this is not even an option. Really?
Mobile responsiveness is a major component of modern SEO. Google has begun favoring websites that are “mobile ready” and has provided a tool to double check a website’s readiness.
Maybe you remember in early 2015 when “Mobilegeddon” took place? How many of you were able to convince owners to get a website redesign that is mobile responsive?
You can already see a difference in search results on a mobile device versus a desktop, but some experts believe it will only continue.
But, why would you not build your client a mobile responsive website in 2016?
Life in the fast lane – website speed
Websites should be fast. There are two main reasons.
First, people make decisions within just a few seconds of arriving at a website, and if your site takes 5 seconds or more to load, you could lose a potential customer. Therefore, the first reason is user experience.
The second reason it should be fast is that Google values this in its algorithm.
There are several tools you can take advantage of to test the speed and learn how and where to optimize your website.
Additionally, a great host can help your site be lightning fast.
Wrapping it all up
You may not be an SEO consultant. You may not even provide those services, but a little up-front work can go a long way to helping your client get what he or she should get when launching their new site.
There are a lot of elements involved in SEO including keyword research, Off-site SEO, On-Site Seo and Content Marketing. As a WordPress developer, you can help with much of the Off-site SEO. This will save valuable time for a customer when he or she decides to use SEO services.
Deciding what to include in your pre-launch checklist in the area of SEO will be a fantastic value-add for your client.
What kind of pre-launch checklist do you have for projects?
Do you include a checklist for SEO? Or, is your SEO included in your pre-launch checklist?
What level of SEO do you provide for clients in a website project?