Launching a website is an exciting process, but can often also be extremely stressful. A properly designed and executed website requires a lot of time and effort to get off the ground, and the work doesn’t stop there. All websites require ongoing updates and optimisations to keep them functioning properly and generating success for your business .
Testing and optimising your website as much as possible pre-launch will give you peace of mind that everything is working to the best of its ability. Imagine if your contact submission form wasn’t working properly and it prevented leads from coming through – not ideal.
A properly built website will also help Google’s indexing process. After all, the more information you can provide with metadata and keyword-rich content, the better Google will be able to understand what your business is about and more likely it is to rank higher for relevant search queries.
Websites have many moving parts and different aspects to consider, which means there’s lots that can go wrong. To help you cover all bases, we’ve compiled a list of 10 essential things to check before launching any new website:
- Keyword research
- Mobile friendliness & user experience
- Google Analytics
- Error-free content
- Consistent branding
- Keyword-rich header tags
- FAQ, Contact & About pages
1. Conduct keyword research
Keywords shape your marketing strategy and the content that’s included on your website. Keyword research is the process of discovering which keywords relevant to your business are actually searched for on Google, how popular they are, and how hard it is to rank for them.
By including relevant keywords that receive a high search volume in your website content and metadata, Google will be able to understand what your website is about and rank it for relevant search queries that will, of course, direct high-intent traffic to your site. Google is smart, but you have to help it out. Implementing a keyword strategy is essential for optimising your on-page SEO as it will inform which content you need more of, and Google LOVES content!
You might be wondering… “Why don’t people just include a bunch of keywords in a paragraph at the bottom of their webpages?” The answer is, Google’s smart and doesn’t like it – it’ll actually rank your website lower. Cheeky strategies like this are known as ‘black hat SEO.’
Back in the day, some SEO-ers would cheat the system with black hat tactics like keyword stuffing, where they would change the text colour to blend in with the background of the website to “stuff” more keywords onto the page. Now, Google rewards websites with high quality content that incorporates keywords in a way which provides value to the reader and fulfills their search query. Remember, Google’s got a stake in your website too – they want to show users quality websites that align with their search intent to make Google their search engine of choice. Keyword-stuffed websites don’t provide a great user experience and therefore do not rank highly. You’ve got to be keyword-savvy.
So, what tools can help you do keyword research? Google Trends is a free resource which can be used to find popular search queries in specific regions, but there are also paid tools like Semrush and Ahrefs, which can provide more accurate and comprehensive data. We recommend employing a digital marketing agency who already has subscriptions to these tools to help with the process.
Metadata provides data about other data. It’s super important to include on your website because it helps search engine crawlers read and understand it. Metadata on websites comes in a variety of forms, but mainly focuses on meta-titles, meta-descriptions and viewports.
A meta title is a snippet of HTML that describes the webpage and shows up as a clickable headline in search results. It’s best to keep them concise – around 60-70 characters – for website crawlers, user experience and shareability. The most important thing is that your meta title accurately describes the content of the page so crawlers know what your page is about and users know what to expect upon clicking. If you don’t write your own meta titles, Google will do it for you by drawing on your page title, H1 or H2, but these may not always describe your page well.
To help search engine crawlers understand what your website is about, meta titles should include relevant keywords informed by your keyword research, and your business name on category and menu pages. Structure is important, because in some situations the end may be cut off (such as in browser tabs). Put the keyword at the start and make each meta title unique. The overall goal is to get your website ranking for these keywords on Google to increase your visibility and, therefore, traffic.
A meta description is like a meta title, but a little longer and with a little more detail. They appear under the meta title in search results.
They should be long enough that search engine crawlers and users understand what your page is about without having to read a paragraph – ideally around 160 characters. We recommend including some more keywords that capture the broader value of the page’s content, and ending with a call to action like ‘Click here to shop now.’
Check out this meta title and description preview tool by Moz to keep your metas looking sharp.
Viewports are a snippet of HTML code included in the page header that defines how your webpage appears on smaller mobile screens. If it isn’t included, your visitors may end up having to zoom and scroll left or right to get the content to fit on their screen rather than the page scaling automatically. Pretty poor user experience, right?
3. Mobile friendly & UX
Because Google wants to be everyone’s favourite search engine, it takes a lot of factors into account to rank websites and recommend the most relevant, high-quality ones for search queries. Mobile friendliness and user experience are important ones.
Over 50% of website traffic comes from mobile users, so your website cannot just be designed for desktop. Most web platforms will allow you to easily toggle back and forth between displays, but be cautious when rearranging content on one as it often affects the other. As well as including viewports in your page headers, your website should have responsive or adaptive design – we recommend using adaptive as you can optimise the design to align with best practice for each screen size (after all, we don’t want to accidentally hide that call to action button below the fold!).
As well as mobile-friendliness, there are innumerable ways to improve your website’s user experience. Google loves when users can get to what they’re looking for within three clicks and provides plenty of free resources on their Google Design hub. Here are some easy ways to achieve this:
- Have clear call to action buttons in visible locations
- Ensure your website is fast to load
- Have a strategic layout, with logical navigation
- Keep the layout of your pages consistent
- Use readable fonts and colours
- Link to your social media accounts with recognisable hyperlinked icons
- Have a distinct contact button in the top right corner of your menu
- Include a contact form on your contact page
- Include your contact information in the footer
- Use on-brand imagery
- Don’t be afraid to use white space
4. Ensure Google Analytics is set up
Google Analytics is your holy grail for understanding user behaviour and improving your website. Essentially it collects all types of data, such as:
- Real-time – the exact number of users on your site at the present time.
- Average session duration – how long people spend on your website
- Bounce rate – the percentage of people on your site who leave rather than clicking through to another page
- Pages per session – the number of pages users visit during their session
- Behaviour flow – visualises the path of which web pages users click through
- Audience demographics – your users’ interests, geographical locations, what device they visited your site on and much more
- Conversions – compares your goal conversions with real conversion value and rate
- Cart Abandonment Rate – the percentage of users who put products in their cart but don’t check out
- Integration with Google Ads – view detailed analytics for your search campaigns.
You can compare this month’s data with previous months’ data to figure out what’s working, see positive and negative trends, generate customised data reports and so much more. The options are endless.
Imagine you’re getting great traffic and plenty of users are adding your products to their cart, but you have a 80% cart abandonment rate. Keep in mind the industry average cart abandonment rate is just under 70%. You check your behaviour flow and find the bounce rate for your checkout page is high. What is this data trying to tell you?
Have a look at your checkout page. Maybe your shipping is too expensive, your process is too tedious, or you don’t offer multiple payment options or discount codes. Place yourself in the shoes of your customers – what can you do better? Without Google Analytics these insights are hard to get, so use them to your advantage!
5. Triple check text is error free!!!!
There’s nothing more embarrassing than a speling eror.
Using correct grammar, spelling and language that aligns with your business is a simple way to support your business’s credibility and Google ranking. Errors decrease the quality of your website’s user experience which will affect how much Google likes your website and wants to recommend it to others.
Sometimes you can look at something for so long your eyes start automatically correcting mistakes and things fall through the cracks (especially when it comes to those tricky apostrophe rules!). We recommend getting a fresh set of eyes to look over your website before publishing.
Use this quick checklist to make sure your website content is error free:
- Has generic filler content been removed?
- Do all of the buttons have names?
- Does the copyright date in the footer have the correct date?
- Is the contact information correct?
- Is the metadata error free?
- Are the H1 tags error free?
- Is the body text and main content easy and enjoyable to read?
- Have you used Australian or American spelling? Align with your target audience using this quick spelling guide.
- Are your apostrophes used correctly? Check out this apostrophe guide if you aren’t sure.
6. Ensure branding is consistent
Imagine you follow an Italian restaurant you really want to visit on Instagram, but when you visit their website the logo, font and colours don’t match what you’ve seen. You’d be confused!
Consistency is key! Keeping your branding consistent across your website, social media accounts and digital marketing is essential to prevent your audience from losing trust in your business. A simple way to maintain this throughout time or across multiple employees is by creating a folder, or a style guide, where your brand assets are saved. This may include your:
- Favicon (the little icon that appears next to your website URL)
- Colour scheme
- Shapes or icons
- Tag line
- Mission, vision and value statements
- Preferred style of writing or tone of voice
7. Write keyword-rich H1 heading tags
H1 heading tags should be the title of your webpage and are visible to all website traffic. They need to please users as well as search engine bots because it’s one of the primary ways Google determines what your website is about. Remember, Google is smart but you have to help it out sometimes.
You may have noticed heading tags start at H1 and go all the way to H6. H1 is the most highly ranked tag, so it should always be your title, and H2s should be important subtitles and so on. Think of it as the hierarchy of importance.
Making sure your H1s and H2s include high-ranking and relevant keywords helps your ranking in searches relevant to you because Google has a clear idea of what your website is about. However, it’s important to make sure your header tags still look and sound natural to users. There’s a fine line between H1s that impact your user experience but help search engine bots, and great ones that work for both parties. It’s also important to keep in mind that if you change your H1 tag, it will change the text on your website.
For example, at Springboard we want to rank for keywords like ‘affordable digital marketing,’ ‘affordable SEO, ‘affordable social media marketing’ etc. So, for our SEO services page, our H1 is ‘Affordable SEO Services’ followed by H2s ‘Who is Springboard Digital’ and ‘What is SEO?’ These tags include relevant keywords that logically guide both search engine bots and users through the page.
To quickly learn the header tags for any website without having to decipher code, download the SEO META in 1 Click Chrome extension.
8. Ensure you have important pages, such as FAQ, Contact & About
These important navigational pages improve your user experience and help you build out keyword-rich content that aids your organic search. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Your Frequently-Asked-Questions page is the first place users will go to learn more about something they aren’t sure about. 75% of online customers expect help in the first five minutes, so having a detailed one may decrease the number of emails you receive on generic topics like sizing, shipping and returns. To make sure your most common questions are answered on the page, comb back through your customer service emails. It’s best practice to link it in your footer for easy access on all pages of your site.
As well as helping your customers, FAQ pages help your organic ranking. Now over 48% of consumers search using voice search, so Google rewards websites that use a question and answer format. It will increase your chances of being a featured snippet in search results, helps you include relevant keywords and encourages users to click through your website with clever internal links to other pages, such as Returns & Shipping or Size Chart.
What’s not to love – it helps your customers and it helps you.
A Contact page is crucial to the success of your business. 83% of customers feel more loyal to brands that respond and resolve their questions or complaints, so your customers should be able to easily find your best contact information in one place.
As mentioned earlier, triple-check your contact information is correct! We’ve known businesses to accidentally misspell their phone number and notice a drop off in leads as a direct consequence. If it’s too hard to contact you, customers will go somewhere else. Include various forms of contact, such as your address or PO Box, phone number and email address.
If you don’t want to publish your contact information, we recommend incorporating a form that includes all the information you require from your customer – their name, email address and enquiry.
Link to your contact page on all of your website pages with call to action buttons, and include a button on the top right hand side of your menu bar.
73% of people care about the company, not just the product, when making a purchase. When customers resonate with your brand’s history, purpose and unique selling proposition they will establish a stronger connection with you and are more likely to convert. Your About page should be unique to your business, honest and interesting; it should talk TO your customers, not AT them.
Here are some tips for high-converting About pages:
- Answer the basics – Who are you? What do you do? Why are you doing what you’re doing? How do you do it? When did you start? Where are you located?
- Make it about your customer – How will your products or services give value to their life?
- Be relatable and honest – Tell a story. Be engaging. Show rather than tell.
- Include images – Show off your team!
- Include your values, mission and vision statements
9. Double check all plugins are working properly
A plugin is an additional piece of software on your website that provides a unique functionality. They are renowned for slowing your website down if you use too many, so be sparing and ensure they’re beneficial to you and your customers.
Some common plugins offer:
- Contact form builders
- Landing page builders
- SEO optimisers
- Remote automatic file backup and storage
- Web application firewalls and security
- Cache identifiers and file compressors
- Push notification and pop-up messaging technology
If your customer-facing plugins don’t work, this will impact your website’s user experience, and if your backend ones don’t work they may slow your site speed down with no worthy benefit. Check out this great blog post to learn how to troubleshoot WordPress plugins.
10. Create a blog & ensure you have a schedule to maintain it
Blogs are a crucial component of every business’s on-page SEO strategy. They help drive traffic to your website, provide ample opportunity for link building, build your credibility and can be repurposed on your social media channels. Let’s take a closer look.
Drive traffic to your website
Every blog post is a new indexed page on your website, which means you have one more opportunity to show up in organic search results. We recommend doing keyword research to discover popular search queries that can inform your topics and keywords to target – by writing your content for real users you’re more likely to show up in their searches. If you’re lost for topic ideas, try Hubspot’s Blog Topic Generator or free blog posts templates, and Answer the Public.
Titles in the form of a question often perform better because they reflect how people search things in Google. For example, the title ‘How to clean your deck on a budget’ may be more relevant than ‘Cheap deck cleaning tips.’ ‘Top 5’ or ‘top 10’ titles also perform well, because users know they’ll get your top tips or recommendations. People want helpful information and quick fixes, so make sure your post is as long and informative as possible. Use high-ranking keywords from your keyword research.
The more content you have on your website, the more opportunity you have to build internal and backlinks. These help your click through rate (CTR) and average session duration. Internal links are links between pages on your website. You can improve this by linking to service pages on blogs and linking to blogs from service pages. Every blog post should link to other posts and your contact page.
Backlinks are links from other websites to your own. Other websites are more likely to link to your website if you have excellent content, so ensure your blog posts are genuinely informative and high-quality. In Google’s eyes, websites with links from other credible websites are also credible, so working on your backlink strategy can boost your organic ranking.
It’s easy to get excited about your blog when you’re launching your website, and even easier to forget about it a couple months down the track. Build your blog out slowly and consistently – start with one post a month and post more frequently once you’ve got the hang of things.
Plan your blog posts out ahead of time. What’s the topic, who’s writing it and when does it need to be done? Factor in time required to edit and format it on your website. Incorporate this schedule into your existing content calendar, or create a simple spreadsheet to stay accountable.
The important work isn’t over once your website has launched!
Maintaining your SEO efforts over time is important for improving your organic rankings and staying relevant. This is super time-consuming and technical, so you may feel more comfortable getting a digital marketing expert on board.