"If you build it they will come." The line worked for Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams but relying on that phrase off the set can prove to be disastrous when it comes to launching a new website.
Ok, so you built a new website. Congratulations! But who would have thought that this is "just the beginning?" Creating a new website is an excellent first step to increase traffic on your site, but it cannot do its magic all alone. So what are some of the top things we should take a look at to help your new site?
1. Check your Robots.txt File
During the development of a site the Robots.txt file is set to block search engine robots from coming in and crawling the development site. Many times after the site goes live, this setting is overlooked and remains blocking robots launches.
How can I tell if my Robots.txt file is blocking crawlers? To see your robots.txt file go to (www.yoursitename.com/robots.txt). There are several ways to customize your robots.txt file. The example below shows just how simple it is to either allow or prevent the indexing of your site.
The example below EXCLUDES all robots from the entire site.
The "User-agent: *" the * means that this applies to all robots. The forward slash after the "Disallow: /" tells the robots that they should not visit/crawl any pages on the site.
The example below allow all robots COMPLETE access.
2. Make sure redirects are in place and implemented
A redirect is a way to send both users and search engines to a different URL from the one they originally requested. 301 redirects are permanent redirects passing between 90-99% of link juice (ranking power) to the redirected page. For example: If you have an "Industries Served" page and the URL was (www.example.com/industries but now it is www.example.com/industries-served), a 301 redirect needs to be in place to redirect the old URL path to the new URL. When the site goes live, be sure to verify that the redirects are working.
3. URL Canonicalization
Canonicalization refers to the process of resolving one URL (page) when several other URLs (pages) may display the same content. A user may see www.example.com and example.com as the same page, however search engines see these as unique pages. When more than one URL displays the same content it is a viewed as duplicate content (often viewed on e-commerce sites), something Google and Bing actively try to keep out of their index and can cause penalization issues.
4. Create an XML sitemap
XML sitemaps are designed for search engines to identify and discover pages on a website. Priority levels can be set for each page which informs the importance of each page. It is imperative to keep your sitemap up-to-date ensuring the current content is being submitted to the search engines.
How can I create an XML sitemap? Screaming Frog is a simple and easy to use tool for this, just follow these four steps:
- Type in your website url and press start.
- After the report is processed, filter by HTML.
- Under Advanced Export, click on XML Sitemap and save as "sitemap."
- You can now adjust the priority level of your pages (research beforehand how to prioritize). Not all pages carry the same importance.
5. Install Google Analytics Tracking Code
Google offers this free analytics service to track and analyze visitor traffic, goal completions, and so much more. If you have a previous site with the GA code installed, make sure that the code is transferred to all the pages on the new site and be sure to update any previous goal urls.
6. Submit Your Site To Search Engines
This can be a tedious and time-consuming process, but necessary. There are a number of search engine submission tools that can assist in helping you get the job done such as Get Listed.
7. Promote Visibility
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the best way of communicating to search engines and getting them to know you and what you have to offer. What is SEO? SEO is using multiple best practice tactics to ensure that your website can be found in search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. for keywords and phrases relevant to what your business offers.
So, if you plan on launching a new website and expect that "they will come", just remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!