The design and development of a new website is only part of the project. Before it goes live the website must meet all the requirements to ensure it is both search engine and social media friendly, meet all the documented guidelines, and basically be set up to provide the customer with all the information and stats they need to monitor their website's performance.
The following are 5 of the most important checks we carry out on all new websites to ensure they meet the recommended requirements suggested by companies such as Google and Facebook.
1. Has Google Search Console been setup?
One of the great free services available is Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). It allows website owners to check the status of their website within Google, how visible it is, and if there are any problems.
We'll probably produce another article in the near future detailing the features of Google Search Console, but ultimately it will monitor the website regularly ensuring it is up and running, no errors are occuring, the sitemap is up to date, and much more.
2. Has a sitemap been generated?
A sitemap is basically a text file that lists all the pages of your website which informs search engines such as Google how the website content is organised. Search engine robots can then use this file to crawl the content for each page. The Google Search Console mentioned above is where sitemaps are submitted and monitored.
As our websites are database driven, we have facilities to dynamically create sitemaps as and when required. We can even schedule the creation to run at daily, weekly, or monthly intervals.
3. Are meta titles and descriptions unique?
Every page of your website has a title (which is shown on your browser tabs and in search results) plus a hidden description (called the meta description) which gives a brief synopsis of the page. Both of these are very important to the way that your page appears in search engines such as Google.
To improve Google rankings and general search engine optimisation, it is recommended that all meta title tags and descriptions are unique. Title tags usually contain the text that is visible on search engine results, and are important for containing keywords which people may search for.
See the result below to show how the title tag and description are displayed in a Google search result:
The title tag is probably the most important tag on a website page, as the content is not only highly valued when matching search terms entered by a user, but also to entice the user to visit the website. Similarly the description is also very important. Uniqueness simply ensures a wider scope of search terms and phrases which could be matched to a users input.
4. Has Open Graph data been added where appropriate?
When adding a website link on a social media website such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, details of the website popup, usually showing a picture, title and description. See the example below of a Facebook post containing a link to our website.
However, in some cases the data chosen by the social media website to appear on your link may not be the preferred title, image or description. You do have the option to edit the details, but remember would anyone sharing a link to your website do the same?
For every appropriate page in your website, we would ensure it contains suitable Open Graph data so that when anyone shares a page, news article or product from your website, a suitable image, description and title will be displayed. For example, using the best image and description when someone shares your product on Facebook.
5. Does the website pass the W3C validator?
Even though from the frontend a website looks great, behind the scenes will more than likely be a large amount of text called HTML which the browser interprets to display the said website. Depending upon the type of web developer, the HTML text may be well structured, simple, complicated or just downright messy. In all cases though, the HTML needs to be validated.
Validating the HTML text is considered to be good practice, a sign of professionalism, and more importantly ensures that text can easily be interpreted whether that is by a human, a search engine robot, or a web browser.