The 4 Stages of an SEO-Driven Website Launch
Building SEO into a website from the ground up — even before you launch — sets your website up for success right out of the gate. And yet, SEO is often an afterthought, even for large companies with big budgets. “We launch next week so let’s check the SEO” is certain death.
This Gartner data on percentage of marketing budget invested per channel baffles me. Below, you can see that most of the budget goes to things like the website, digital commerce and mobile marketing. But all the way down the line is SEO — as if it has nothing to do with any of those top priorities.
So let’s look closer at how you can incorporate SEO throughout the whole design process and launch your website with higher success.
The 4 Stages of a Website Launch with SEO
When launching a website, there are four stages to consider, each with its own tasks and milestones. In each of the following phases, the person in charge of SEO should cooperate with other teams (design, development, UX, strategy and others):
Stage 1: Strategy and Planning
The strategy and planning stage of a web launch is fundamental for its success. This is when you lay the foundation.
In terms of SEO, the most important steps in this stage are keyword research and content architecture. Before the web design team gets to work on concepts, the person in charge of SEO needs to provide the keyword and architecture strategy. That’s because this SEO guidance will help shape how designers and developers build the site.
Keyword research is one of the most important steps in an SEO project. As a website publisher, you need to understand who your target audience is and what search queries they use to find your products and services. Then, this information serves as the foundation for your website in terms of how you architect it and the content you create for it. More on that next.
Once keyword research is done, the person in charge of SEO can begin to theme the website. This involves mapping out the website structure based on the top keywords that are important to a website. A site map mockup will show what pages to create, including the top navigation and the subnavigation.
This is what we refer to here at Bruce Clay Inc. as SEO siloing. SEO siloing can make or break a website’s perceived expertise by Google, its rankings and even the user experience.
- SEO Siloing: What Why How
- 5 Times When SEO Siloing Can Make or Break Your Search Engine Rankings
- SEO Siloing: How to Build a Website Silo Architecture
Stage 2: Develop and Build
The build stage is usually the longest stage of a website project. During this stage, the designers and developers build the site. But from an SEO perspective, there are two key tasks: creating content and working with developers on the technical side.
Each silo or navigational category needs to be filled with quality content. That means creating quality content that is built with an understanding of Google’s quality standards. It also means creating webpages driven by real-time SEO data based on the top-ranked competitors for those target keywords.
You’ll want to get this data before you create the pages. That way the content meets or exceeds what your competitors are doing on the first page of the search results.
And anyone can get this data through the right tools, one of which is our WordPress SEO plugin. You can read more about that below.
- WordPress SEO Plugins: Why Real-Time and Customized Data Matters
- Want Customized SEO Advice per Keyword? There’s a Plugin for That!
- How a WordPress SEO Plugin Can Help You Optimize Your Content with Keywords
- E-A-T and SEO: You Can’t Have One Without the Other
But that’s just one example of what can go wrong and what needs to be optimized during the build for SEO. As Google tunes its algorithms to reward sites that provide a good user experience, performance issues also become concerns for SEO.
Stage 3: Prelaunch and Launch
Before you launch the site and during launch, the person in charge of SEO needs to be involved in overseeing some critical things. This stage should be fairly smooth if the previous stages were conducted well. But you still need to ensure everything is in order.
Crawlability and Accessibility
The website should be crawled using an SEO tool to see if there are any errors. You can use a site crawler like Screaming Frog or our tools in the SEOToolSet® for this. As part of this task, you’ll want to see that the number of pages that are created and crawled is the same. If there is a difference, the next step is to find out what is causing the issue and fix it.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console
It’s important to have basic SEO analytics set up before launch. It will help you watch the website and get access to valuable data from the moment the site is published. Without this data, it is impossible to improve website performance through data-driven decisions.
At this stage, things like the XML sitemap, HTML sitemap and robots.txt file should be properly set up. But you’ll want to test them. In some cases, web developers or others can forget to remove the Disallow: / directive from the robots.txt file (used to keep pages from being indexed during build and testing phases).
- What Is an XML Sitemap and How Do I Make One?
- SEO Guide: How to Create a Sitemap
- SEO Guide: How to Submit a Website to Search Engines
SEO to-dos in the launch stage involve a lot of monitoring. In particular, you’re watching for errors and indexation.
Using SEO tools including Google Search Console, check and fix any technical errors that might pop up. Common issues include 404 errors that stop users from accessing a webpage or other problems.
Depending on the size of the website, it might take a few days or weeks for search engines to index a site fully. If it seems that there are some areas that are not indexed, investigate and fix the issues. Is there adequate internal linking to ensure maximum indexation?
Stage 4: Post Launch
The work does not stop once the website is successfully launched. SEO is an ongoing process — there are always things to test and optimize.
Add new content to the site regularly. Build more supporting content for your silo structure, and interlink pages appropriately.
Also update the existing content to keep it fresh.
Maintain your link profile. You want to ensure you have high-quality, relevant links over other types.
- SEO Is Done When Google Stops Changing Things and All Your Competition Dies
- The 13-Step Web Content Audit to Boost Visibility in the Search Results
- 50 Ways to Get Quality, “White Hat” Backlinks
- What Is a Whole-SERP Strategy?
Once the site goes live, check the performance of the homepage and other important pages you want to rank regularly. Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights or Lighthouse help with this. You can earn a ranking boost for providing a measurably good page experience.
- How Fast Should My Webpage Be and Why Should I Care?
- What CMOs Need to Know about Google’s Page Experience Update
SEO is critical to building a website that is not only functional, but also able to compete in the search results. If you’re part of a website launch team, remember these principles:
- Involve SEO in the web launch from the beginning.
- Ensure that SEO strategy and planning are a part of each step.
- Make sure the website is built in an SEO-friendly way.
- Continue with a strategic SEO plan after launch.
We’ve helped many clients through web migrations and new site launches. If you’d like guidance to ensure your strategy succeeds, contact us today for a free quote and consultation.