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January 31, 2014

SEO Considerations for New or Improved Websites

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Photo Credit: Augur Marketing via flickr

Entrepreneurs are rightly concerned about SEO rankings.

Search is still the No. 1 way users find a website, and astronomically so. As such, it’s an important consideration when embarking on a new business venture to think about re-launching an existing site, purchased from a marketplace like Flippa, or to create a new business from scratch.

If you’re simply worried about SEO, the truth is, each scenario has its challenges and benefits. There is no unequivocal rule of thumb that one is better than the other. To determine what’s best for you, examine the list of requirements for each undertaking, and make an informed decision about how to proceed. Below are the most critical considerations for launching a new web business, or revamping an existing site with an overhaul.

SEO Requirements for Brand New Sites

Launching a squeaky clean new website has a serious draw. Imagine the joy of a clean slate, the chance to do everything right out of the gate.

Yet the pressure is immense to get it all done successfully on Day 1. There is so much to consider, it’s easy to drop the ball on any one given focus. To make sure your SEO efforts are aces right from the start, follow these tips:

1)   URL Structure — Be 100 percent sure you’re compliant with your URL structure; this is one part of your site that is a nightmare to change in the future. Obviously, your website name is crucial; be descriptive, avoid special characters, and the more keywords you use the better. Furthermore, avoid creating site sections like blog.website.com — instead, keep your core content within a normal domain structure; blogs should always be at website.com/blog. The same goes for key navigation segments.

2)   Set-Up Your Webmaster Tools — Don’t wait until long after launch to create a webmaster account with Bing and Google. Have this in place straight away, and alert them when you site is live.

 3)   Keywords, Keywords, Keywords The very moment you’ve decided on a company name, URL, and brand strategy, kick your keyword research into high gear. Then apply these phrases throughout your site in organic and natural places within the text. Yes, images are always important to a website’s aesthetics and appeal; words, however, are still king in SEO, so make sure your copy tells the story of your company with highly targeted keyword phrases.

4)   Double Check Title Tags and Descriptions — These should also be laden with your core keywords, and be fully optimized at launch.

5)   Get Marketing Materials Ready Pre-Launch Have all your social media profiles good to go, as well as the first couple of marketing campaigns locked and loaded. Start sounding the alarm about your business the moment you feel it’s stable and ready to receive the attention it deserves. Do not wait to handle marketing efforts once you’ve launched the site; you may miss some golden opportunities to start strong.

6)   Test Site Performance Metrics Be extremely meticulous in the first few weeks about monitoring performance. This includes ensuring your robots.txt sitemap is complete and functional, redirects are performing correctly, all URLs are legitimate (no 404s), you have zero indexing errors, and that all your core pages have appropriate load times.

7)   Benchmark Your Rankings — Once you launch, create an immediate benchmark for your key rankings, and don’t forget to include your company name as well. This will give you a baseline to study SERPs going forward. Set goals early on as well, and methods to create these successes, as a means to be proactive about forward movement.

SEO Considerations for a Website Re-Launch

If you choose to rebrand a site instead, many of the steps above remain the same. There are additional items to include as well — use the list below as your foundation.

1)   Create a Pre Re-Launch Baseline Just like Step 7 above for new sites, before you make any changes to the existing site, measure all appropriate metrics so your starting foundation is crystal clear. As you determine your new keywords, see how the site ranks for those before you make your changes; this will make it much easier to see how you’re improving things during the re-launch.

2)   Map all Old Pages to the New Ones Assuming you’re changing the site structure, make sure to move all desired content correctly, or you can do some serious damage. Create a flowchart that maps old URLs to new ones, and follow it religiously. Even if you decide to delete some pages, these should redirect to a page on the new site.

3)   Make 301 Redirects Throughout Your Site The 301 “permanently moved” redirect is your friend when it comes to moved pages. This is the only reference that will not hurt your SEO rankings.

4)   Update all Marketing Campaigns You’ll want to update all social media profiles and marketing materials with your new branding images and language, if appropriate. If you’ve developed a new logo, make a list of all places you’ll need to update this, and do so as soon as you re-launch. Don’t confuse consumers with dual branding, or let old marketing campaigns linger.

5)   QA Thoroughly Once you re-launch your site, it’s crucial that you test all components completely, in all major browsers, devices, and operating systems. Don’t assume your site works as it did before — test things like redirects and core functionality to make sure visitors aren’t encountering any errors.

Whether you choose to start from scratch or to improve upon an existing brand, there are many tasks to cover to ensure great SEO rankings from the start. Remember that if you re-launch a site, it’s completely normal to experience a significant dip in SERPs for the first few weeks; this should improve greatly in a month or so if you’ve covered all your bases.

What other essentials SEO tasks are involved in a new or improved site launch? Let us know your top tips below.


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Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile

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