Launching a brand-new website at a new domain puts you in an interesting position – almost in the sense of the ancient Chinese curse, “may you live in interesting times.” Your site is a blank slate, which means it carries no penalties. But it also gets no bonuses and no standing in the search engines until you do something with it.
Google, Bing, and the other search engines will send spiders to your website to try to figure out what it's all about. While they can get some sense from your site's content, “they aren't able to effectively measure the authority of your site based on these words alone,” noted Sujan Patel, writing for Search Engine Journal. Over time, you'll build up your site's authority by creating more content, building links and getting the word out on social networking and other websites. But what can you do right now, before you press the “launch” button?
Start by making sure the on-page factors of your website are as strong as they can be. Google won't believe a website has actually EARNED all the links that lead to it if it shows thin content to its visitors; the Panda filter and its updates took care of that. It's not just about the content itself, however.
How much thought did you put into your domain name? Patel notes that you should consider three elements: branding potential, the likelihood that people will link to your site, and ease of ranking your domain. This is important, especially when your site is new, and you don't have an established brand yet. It's your identity online, so don't make a snap decision.
Put a lot of thought into your site's internal navigation structure as well. You want to make it easy for your visitors to get to wherever they need to go on your site. You also want the search engines to easily reach all of the pages they need to crawl. This means making sure you can get to every page on your site from every other page in only three clicks. Keep your structure simple, and you'll also find that it's easier to maintain. As an added benefit, this kind of structure “ensures that any authority that is assigned to your pages over time will be distributed evenly,” according to Patel.
There's another way you can make sure your new website is a hit with visitors and search engines: include breadcrumb navigation on all of your pages. Users love this; it means they always know where they are. And Google appreciates sites that provide a good user experience.
Now I mentioned earlier that you need to make sure your content is not thin. You also need to make sure it's optimized. That means including important keywords in your title tags, headlines, URL permalinks (especially important for blogs) and body copy. You don't want to stuff your keywords, because that will degrade your site's user experience; you simply want to include them in prominent places so that your visitors, both human and electronic, know on what your site focuses.
Before you get links, you need to make sure the site you've built will be seen as link-worthy by visitors and the search engines. Following the steps above will give your site a solid foundation for future growth. Good luck!
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