6 Step Pre-Launch Checklist
Keyword Content map
Before you go through your SEO checklist for your new site, make sure you map out the entire structure of your website in excel outlining the architecture of the website.
URL > Level of Depth > Keyword of Focus > Page Title > Meta Description
Can crawlers get to all pages. Screaming Frog is a great tool.
- Duplicate Content?
- Thin Content?
- Broken Links?
- Broken Pages?
Is content accessible to all browsers? Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari. Use a browser checker.
Do Pages load fast from everywhere? Google Speed Test.
Is the user experience (UX) enjoyable for everyone? Can ask family, friends, employees to conduct an informal usability test on the website. Five Second Test or UsabilityHub are great resources for formal testing.
2. Create a 301 redirect strategy
Create an index of top pages on the site.
Use analytics data to help develop a strategy for top content.
Determine if there will be new pages, where pages can be eliminated and what pages should be recreated.
Individually map old URLs to new URLs, organized by site architecture.
If a page is being eliminated, find the most relevant page for a 301 redirect.
This may be THE most important step in the entire redesign process in terms of retaining traffic and rankings.
3. Set Up Important Services and tracking
- Google Search Console
- Bing Webmaster Tools
- Google Analytics
- Raven / Moz / Hrefs / SEMRush
- Track your rankings, set up regular crawls, find competitive opportunities, potential link-building opportunities etc.
- Retargeting and Remarketing – Even if you don’t want to pay now and you’re not going to use any of the services, go ahead and put the retargeting pixels from at least Facebook and Google onto your website, on all of your pages, so that those audiences are accessible to you later on in the future.
- Brand Alerts – The cheapest option is Google Alerts, which is free, but it’s not very good at all. If you’re using Moz Pro, there’s Fresh Web Explorer alerts, which is great. Mention.net is also good.
4. Schema, Rich Snippets Opengraph etc.
After initial page optimization are there other content and image opportunities?
Rich Snippet opportunities?
Open Graph opportunities?
Resources available for Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bing.
5. Benchmark current metrics
Home Page Authority
Number of pages indexed in Google
Launch architecture audit
- Are pages properly 301 redirecting from 301 redirect strategy?
Try Gsitecrawler to check your server result codes.
- Are titles, meta descriptions and H1s correct and unique?
- Were Google and Bing Webmaster Tools installed properly?
- Was Google Analytics (or another analytics software) installed properly?
- Were passwords/noindex, nofollow and robots.txt disallow directives removed?
- Are the new drop-downs crawlable? How about the rest of the content on the site?
(While there are many tools to check crawlability, you can use the Fetch and Render feature in Google Search Console.)
Annotate the site launch in analytics software
This will be a helpful note in the future as a benchmark for increases/decreases in traffic and conversions – an easy reference should anyone ever question why the site is doing so well all of a sudden!
Submit your new XML sitemap in Webmaster Tools
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Number of pages indexed
The number of pages indexed will likely drop off post-launch. Once 301s are picked up, this number should climb back up. Be sure to check that there aren’t duplicate pages being indexed either.
Should pages indexed remain low, something could be wrong with the implementation of 301s or crawlability of the new site. If duplicate content issues crop up, develop a plan to remove the duplicate pages either through 301s or the canonical tag.
Home Page PageRank, Home Page Page Authority & Domain Authority
HP PageRank, HP Page Authority and Domain Authority should remain constant throughout.
You won’t notice a drop in these metrics right away, as it will depend on Google and Moz updates, but a drop could indicate an internal linking issue page to the home page. Highly unlikely, but still good to monitor just in case.
Google Search Console Errors
GWT errors will begin to climb and then diminish as you assess and take care of them. Be sure to clean up 404 errors and 301 redirect them to the most appropriate pages. 404s are inevitable during a redesign, as it’s near impossible to catch every page on your website when planning you 301 strategy.
You will also see rankings take an initial dip while the engines are picking up your 301s and assessing the new pages. Rankings could be down for 1-3 weeks, possibly more, so plan a redesign during your slow season or low traffic period.
Analytics data – Learn more about Parqa’s Web Analytics & Reporting Services ⇾
Organic traffic per week –
This will drop and then return, but could indicate that you’re missing out on the long tail if you don’t see numbers return to normal.
Organic traffic post-launch compared to pre-launch –
Similar to monitoring rankings, you want to know how much traffic you’re missing out on and make sure it returns.
Top content driving traffic post-launch compared to pre-launch –
If you see that there is content that drove traffic and is now bouncing, you may want to consider adding this content back to the site.
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Once the site launches, you should see traffic and rankings take an inevitable dip, as the above case study illustrates; however, within 2-4 weeks (depending on the crawl rate of your site), you should see everything return to normal. If traffic and rankings do not recover, walking backwards through the process should point you in the right direction and careful monitoring of the above metrics should help pinpoint where an issue may be.
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