Website Launch Checklist Series: Part 1 – SEO and Crawling

August 21, 2023 22 min read
website launch checklist - seo and crawling

SEO and Crawling: Ensuring a Smooth Digital Debut

Diving into the world of SEO and Crawling, it’s essential to understand their significance. Think of SEO as a communication bridge between your website and search engines. Establishing this bridge effectively can earn you the favor of giants like Google and Bing. However, fail in this dialogue or ignore it, and they might just side with your competitors, pushing you to the background. That’s not an outcome we’re aiming for, right?

Those digital crawlers, on the other hand, function like diligent translators. Their task? To interpret your website’s content, ensuring search engines comprehend its value. This way, when someone’s out there searching for what you offer, your site stands a solid chance to be on their radar.

From the nitty-gritty of SSL certificates to the art of image optimization, we’re about to delve deep into ensuring your digital debut is smooth and effective. Let’s make sure your website communicates fluently and claims its rightful spot in the digital limelight!

SSL Certificates – More Than Just a Secure Padlock

Ever browsed a website and seen that warning message about it not being secure? It’s a surefire way to lose visitors and credibility. An SSL certificate is your solution to avoid being that website. It not only secures the data exchange between your site and its visitors but also boosts your search engine rankings. Google and Bing both not just love sites with SSL – they require it. If your website is not served under https – be ready to say goodbye to any organic traffic. But how do you get started with it? In this section, we’ll explore the steps to set up an SSL certificate, ensuring your site has that crucial padlock and the trust of both search engines and visitors.

But how do you get started with SSL? Here’s what you’ll need to do:

Paid SSL certificates

  1. Choosing Your SSL Certificate Provider: Whether you go with popular ones like Let’s Encrypt, premium providers offering extended validation, or utilize open-source solutions like OpenSSL, make an informed decision based on your needs.
  2. Installation Process: Depending on your provider and hosting service, you’ll have to navigate this step. For those using OpenSSL, it involves generating a Certificate Signing Request (CSR) and then a certificate. Many hosting platforms offer easy guides or even one-click installations for others.
  3. Shifting to HTTPS: This is crucial. Modify your website configuration to ensure every page and resource defaults to “https://”, not “http://”. This kind of 301 redirect is crucial.
  4. Test Your SSL Configuration: Tools like SSL Labs can be a lifesaver here. It’s essential to ensure that your SSL is not just active but optimized.
  5. Maintenance: Yes, SSLs have an expiration date. So, whether you’ve set up auto-renewal or marked your calendar, always be on top of this.

OpenSSL: The Free Alternative

While many tend to lean towards paid SSL certificates, it’s worth noting that there are competent free alternatives available. OpenSSL is a great example. It’s a widely recognized and trusted open-source toolkit that allows you to create your own SSL certificates without any cost.

But here’s the cherry on top: If you’ve selected a good hosting provider, they might just make your life a lot easier. Many of today’s reputable hosting services automatically generate and apply SSL certificates for the websites they host, often utilizing OpenSSL in the background to ensure you’re protected.

force https free

This not only saves you the effort and time of manual installation but also the potential costs if you were considering a paid option. So, before you jump into buying an SSL certificate, check with your hosting provider. You might already be covered.

Whatever you choose, don’t forget to make a 301 redirect from your http version to https. It will look something like this:

301 redirect http to https example template

Image Optimization – Worth More Than a Thousand Words

A picture might be worth a thousand words, but on the web, an unoptimized image can cost you a lot more than you think. Remember when you visit a website and find yourself waiting for images to load? Or when you’re on mobile data, and a single webpage chews through your allowance because of heavy pictures? Frustrating, isn’t it?

The thing is, while high-quality images play a crucial role in enhancing user experience, they can also be a significant drag on your site’s performance if not optimized correctly. But don’t sweat it. In this section, we’re diving deep into the world of image optimization. We’ll uncover the right formats to use, the balance between size and quality, the SEO benefits of well-labeled images, and so much more. With these insights, you’ll ensure that your website offers a visual treat without compromising on speed or searchability. Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive in!

The Significance of Image Optimization

When it comes to building an engaging website, images play a pivotal role. They breathe life into your content, break up long chunks of text, and make your site aesthetically pleasing. But, as with everything, there’s a catch.

Large, unoptimized images can considerably slow down your website. Imagine someone’s first impression of your site being a slowly loading page or, even worse, leaving before the page fully loads out of impatience. Such experiences can lead to a higher bounce rate and potentially lost opportunities.

Beyond user experience, search engines factor in page load speed as a ranking signal. A sluggish website, bogged down by oversized images, could mean a lower ranking on search engine result pages. Essentially, your beautiful images might be working against you if they’re not optimized!

But, the news isn’t all doom and gloom. Properly optimized images can:

  • Enhance User Experience: Quick-loading images ensure that visitors can smoothly navigate your site without frustrating waits.
  • Boost SEO: As mentioned, speed is a ranking factor. Optimized images contribute to faster page loads, which search engines love.
  • Save Bandwidth and Storage: Smaller image file sizes mean you’ll use less of your hosting storage and bandwidth. This not only saves you potential costs but ensures your site can handle more concurrent users.
  • Improve Mobile Experience: Many users access sites via mobile devices, often on limited data plans. Optimized images load faster and consume less data, making browsing more seamless and affordable for mobile users.

Recognizing the significance of image optimization is the first step. Next, we’ll dive into the nitty-gritty of how to get those images in tip-top shape for both your audience and search engines.

Selecting the Right Image Format


Overview: JPEG is a lossy format, meaning it compresses images by reducing their quality. However, this reduction is often imperceptible to the human eye, especially at higher quality settings.

Best for: Photographs, complex images with gradients, or images with a lot of colors.

Standard: Aim for a balance between quality and file size. Typically, a 60-80% quality setting provides a good compromise.


Overview: PNG is a lossless format, offering high-quality images. It supports transparency, which is especially useful for logos, icons, or images with a transparent background.

Best for: Images requiring transparency, like logos and graphics. Also ideal for images with sharp edges and high contrast.

Standard: Use PNG-8 for simpler images (it uses fewer colors) and PNG-24 for complex images with more colors.


Overview: WebP is a modern image format that provides superior lossless and lossy compression. It can drastically reduce image file sizes without significant quality loss.

Best for: A replacement for both JPEG and PNG in supported browsers. Especially valuable for websites with a lot of images.

Standard: Consider implementing WebP as an alternative source for browsers that support it, while having JPEG or PNG as a fallback. I personally use WebP as the default format for almost all types of images (except for maybe logos and icons) because Google loves them. 

SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics)

Overview: SVG is an XML-based vector image format. It remains sharp and clear at any size, which is great for logos and icons.

Best for: Logos, icons, and any graphics that might need to scale across different devices or screen sizes.

Standard: Ensure SVGs are optimized and don’t contain unnecessary code. Use tools like SVGOMG to help with this.

Actionable Steps

  • Assess the primary use of your image. Is it a photograph or a logo? Does it require transparency?
  • Choose the format that best aligns with the image’s purpose.
  • Compress the image using the standards mentioned above. Utilize online tools or software to help with compression if needed.
  • Regularly review image formats. As the web evolves, newer formats may emerge that offer better compression and quality.

By being mindful of your image formats and adhering to these standards, you’ll ensure your visuals remain crisp and load quickly, providing an optimal experience for your users.

Resizing Images for Web

Resizing images for the web is more than just making them fit on the screen; it’s about finding the perfect balance between dimensions and quality, all while ensuring your site remains swift and responsive. Using oversized images can unnecessarily increase page load times, potentially turning away impatient visitors.

Understanding Image Dimensions

Display Size: The actual space an image occupies on a webpage. You might have a header image that stretches the full width of a screen or a thumbnail in a blog summary.

File Size: Dictated by the image’s dimensions (width x height) and its resolution (typically, DPI or dots per inch for print and PPI or pixels per inch for digital).

Actionable Steps for Resizing:

Identify Purpose: Determine the purpose of your image. Is it a full-width banner, a thumbnail, an icon, or something else? This will give you an idea of the starting dimensions.

Choose Dimensions Wisely:

  • For full-width sliders or banners, a width of around 1900-2000 pixels is generally suitable for most screens.
  • For blog post images, a width of 800-1200 pixels is typical.
  • Thumbnails or product images might range between 300-500 pixels in width.

Maintain Aspect Ratio: Always ensure you maintain the image’s aspect ratio to prevent distortion. Tools like Photoshop or online editors usually have a “constrain proportions” option.

Review and Test: After resizing, preview the image on your website. Does it look clear? Does it load quickly? Make adjustments as needed.

Batch Processing: If you have a large number of images to resize, consider using tools or software that allow batch processing to save time.

Images Processing and Minification Tools to Consider

Adobe Photoshop: A professional tool that offers advanced resizing options.

GIMP: A free alternative to Photoshop with robust image editing capabilities.

TinyPNG/TinyJPG: Online tools that resize and compress PNG and JPG files. A simple online tool to resize images without losing quality.

If you are in a hurry and don’t want to think about bulk processing right now, but want to convert and process few images for your blog right now, I would recommend to use Photoshop to convert it to WebP format, change size to the needed ones (1200px is usually more than enough for most images) and minify it with TinyPNG (plugin for CMS or through the web interface)

tiny png minify tool image speed improvement

Final Note: Always keep the originals. When resizing or making any changes to an image, it’s a good practice to save a copy rather than overwriting the original. This way, you have the original image to fall back on if needed.

By ensuring your images are appropriately sized for the web, you’ll not only improve page load times but also provide a seamless experience for your visitors, no matter what device or screen size they’re using.

Image Compression: Lossy vs. Lossless

At its core, image compression is about reducing the file size of an image. This reduction helps decrease the time it takes for a webpage to load, providing a better user experience. There are two main methods of compression: lossy and lossless.

Lossy Compression

What is it? This method compresses images by removing some of the image’s data. As a result, the image size is significantly reduced, but some of the original quality is lost.

When to use? Best for photographs or images where slight quality reduction is acceptable for the sake of smaller file size.

Common Formats: JPEG is the most popular lossy format.

Action Step: If using a tool like Adobe Photoshop, when saving as JPEG, you’ll often be prompted to select a quality level. A setting between 60-80 typically offers a good balance between quality and file size.

Lossless Compression:

What is it? This method retains the image’s original quality by compressing without discarding any data. The file size reduction is lesser than lossy, but the quality remains intact.

When to use? Best for images that require every detail to be preserved, like logos or technical drawings.

Common Formats: PNG and GIF are popular lossless formats. Though PNG can also be used in a slightly lossy mode for even better compression.

Action Step: Tools like TinyPNG can help compress PNG images, often without noticeable quality loss. Another option is using software like GIMP, which provides options for lossless compression when exporting.

Key Takeaways:

  • Choose Wisely: Decide on the compression method based on the image’s purpose. For general photographs on blogs, lossy might be acceptable, but for your brand logo, you might want to stick with lossless.
  • Tools at Hand: Utilize online tools or software like Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, or TinyPNG to compress images efficiently.
  • Monitor Quality: Always review compressed images to ensure they maintain the desired quality level.

In essence, by mastering image compression, you’ll ensure your website remains speedy without compromising on visual appeal. It’s about striking the right balance!

ALT Text: Bridging the Gap between Images and Search Engines

While our eyes can easily process and appreciate the beauty of an image, search engines don’t quite “see” images the way we do. Instead, they rely on text-based cues to understand and index visual content. This is where ALT text comes into play.

alt text example field wordpress
Decoding ALT Text

ALT text, short for “alternative text”, is a brief description that you can assign to images on your website. This text helps search engines, like Google and Bing, comprehend the content of the image. Moreover, it’s vital for users with visual impairments, as screen readers use ALT text to describe images to them.

Crafting Effective ALT Text: Actionable Steps
  • Be Descriptive but Concise: Your ALT text should accurately represent the content of the image. If it’s a photo of a golden retriever playing in a park, a suitable ALT text might be “Golden retriever playing with a ball in the park.”
  • Avoid Keyword Stuffing: It might be tempting to jam-pack ALT text with keywords in hopes of boosting SEO, but this can backfire. Search engines can perceive it as spam. Instead, use relevant keywords naturally.
  • Use for Every Image: It’s easy to overlook, but every image, whether it’s a decorative border or a major product shot, should have ALT text. For purely decorative images, you can use an empty ALT attribute (alt=””).
  • Skip Redundancies: If an image is accompanied by a caption that describes it, ensure the ALT text isn’t just a repetition. Instead, provide a different perspective or detail.
  • Limit Length: Aim for ALT text that’s around 125 characters or less. This ensures that screen readers can convey the message without overloading the listener.

Key Takeaways:

Accessibility Matters: ALT text enhances the accessibility of your site, ensuring it’s user-friendly for everyone, including those with visual impairments.

Boost SEO: Properly optimized ALT text can enhance your image search rankings. Imagine someone finding your website just because they searched for a related image.

Stay Relevant: Ensure that ALT text remains relevant to the image and context of the page.

By paying attention to the small details like ALT text, you’re not only making your site more search-engine friendly but also ensuring it’s accessible to a wider range of users. It’s a small step with a significant impact!

Serving Responsive Images

In an era where people access websites from a plethora of devices, from tiny smartwatches to colossal desktop monitors, the importance of serving responsive images cannot be overstated. Here’s what you need to know and how you can implement them:

Understanding Responsive Images

Responsive images are designed to serve the most appropriate image size based on the viewer’s device. This ensures faster loading times and an optimized visual experience regardless of the screen size.

How to Serve Responsive Images: Actionable Steps
  • Use the <picture> Element: The HTML5 <picture> element allows you to define multiple sources for an image, letting the browser pick the most suitable one based on device capabilities.

  <source media="(min-width: 800px)" srcset="large.jpg">

  <source media="(min-width: 500px)" srcset="medium.jpg">

  <img src="small.jpg" alt="Description here">

  • Utilize the srcset Attribute: For a simpler setup, the img element’s srcset attribute can define different image resolutions. The browser will then pick the best match.
<img srcset="small.jpg 500w, medium.jpg 1000w, large.jpg 2000w" src="small.jpg" alt="Description">
  • Test on Multiple Devices: Once you’ve set up your responsive images, view your site on various devices or use browser developer tools to simulate different screen sizes and resolutions.

Key Takeaways:

Enhance User Experience: Responsive images ensure users get the best visual experience tailored to their device.

Save Bandwidth: By serving the right-sized image, you avoid wasting bandwidth on excessively large files for smaller devices.

Lazy Loading: Boosting Initial Page Load Time

In the race for faster web experiences, every millisecond counts. Lazy loading is a technique that can shave off precious time from your site’s initial load, ensuring visitors see your content faster.

What is Images Lazy Loading:

Lazy loading defers the loading of off-screen images. Instead of loading every image when a page is accessed, only those in the immediate viewport are loaded. As users scroll down, other images begin to load, ensuring resources are used judiciously.

Implementing Lazy Loading: Actionable Steps
  • Native Lazy Loading: Modern browsers now support native lazy loading using the loading attribute:
<img src="image.jpg" alt="Description" loading="lazy">
  • Use a JavaScript Library: For broader compatibility, especially with older browsers, consider using a library like lazysizes or Lozad.js.
  • Test Thoroughly: After implementing, scroll through your pages to ensure images load smoothly as you navigate. Watch out for jarring loads or images that don’t appear.

Key Takeaways:

  • Faster Page Loads: Initial page load time can drastically improve, especially on image-heavy sites.
  • Reduced Server Requests: Lazy loading minimizes the initial number of server requests, conserving resources.
  • Enhanced User Experience: Users can start interacting with your site sooner, while the rest loads in the background as they navigate.

Setting the Stage for Search Engines

Understanding SEO requires a methodical approach. It’s much like constructing a building. The meta descriptions, title tags, and headers act as the foundation, while the sitemaps and robots.txt represent the intricate blueprint. They may sound technical, but they’re essential to ensure search engines can easily find and rank our content. Let’s get to the nuts and bolts of how they work and how to optimize them for your site.

Mastering the Basics of SEO

SEO is not just about stuffing keywords; it’s an art of making your website resonate with what your audience is seeking. When done right, SEO places you right where your potential visitors are looking. Let’s break down its essentials:

  • Meta Descriptions: This is your website’s elevator pitch. In about 160 characters, you have to summarize the content of a page in a way that appeals to both search engines and users. Always ensure it’s engaging and relevant to the content of the page.
  • Title Tags: Think of these as the name of a book. It’s the first thing search engines look at, and it’s what appears in the browser tab and search results. Keep it concise (50-60 characters) and ensure it accurately represents the page’s content.
  • Headers (H1, H2, H3…): Headers structure your content, making it easy for readers to follow and for search engines to understand the hierarchy of your information. Your H1 should be the main topic (like the title of a book), followed by subheadings (H2, H3) that break down the content further.

Remember, consistency is key. Make sure what you promise in these elements is what you deliver in your content. Misleading users or search engines can backfire, leading to a poor user experience and potential SEO penalties.

Constructing and Submitting Your XML Sitemap

Your XML sitemap is like the blueprint of your website. It gives search engines a clear map of all the pages on your site, helping them understand your site’s structure and discover new pages more efficiently. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get this done:

  • Generate Your Sitemap: There are various tools and plugins available to help you generate an XML sitemap. For WordPress users, plugins like “Yoast SEO” and “All in One SEO Pack” can automatically create one for you.
  • Review the Sitemap: Before submitting, it’s essential to review your sitemap. Ensure it includes all the vital pages of your site, and exclude pages that don’t add value, like login pages or temporary landing pages.
  • Submit to Search Engines: Once your sitemap is ready, submit it to search engines. For Google, use the “Google Search Console” and for Bing, the “Bing Webmaster Tools”. By doing this, you’re essentially inviting search engines to crawl and index your site.
  • Regular Updates: Anytime you add new content or make significant changes to your site, update your sitemap. This ensures search engines are always in the loop about what’s happening on your website.

Remember, while having a sitemap doesn’t guarantee indexing of all pages, it certainly enhances the chances and aids search engines in navigating your website more efficiently.

Directing Search Engine Crawlers with Robots.txt

robots.txt example

Think of the robots.txt file as the traffic director for search engines visiting your website. It provides specific instructions on which areas of your site they should explore and which they should avoid. Here’s how to set up and use your robots.txt file effectively:

  • Locate or Create Your Robots.txt: First, check if your website already has a robots.txt file by visiting If it’s not there, you’ll need to create one.
  • Set User-agent: This specifies which web crawler you’re giving instructions to. For example, “User-agent: Googlebot” would be instructions specifically for Google’s crawler. If you want to address all crawlers, you’d use “User-agent: *”.
  • Allow or Disallow: These directives tell crawlers which URLs they can or can’t request from your site. For example:
    • Disallow: /private/ prevents any crawler from accessing the “private” directory of your site.
    • Allow: /private/public-file.html allows crawlers to access a specific file in an otherwise disallowed directory.
  • Add Sitemap Location: Though not mandatory, it’s a good practice to include the location of your XML sitemap in the robots.txt file. For instance: Sitemap:
  • Testing: Before making your robots.txt file live, you can test it using tools within Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. This ensures you’re not accidentally blocking important content.
  • Upload to Root Directory: Once finalized, ensure your robots.txt file is in the root directory of your site. This is crucial as search engines look for this file in this specific location.

Regularly review and update your robots.txt file, especially if you make significant changes to your site. A well-maintained robots.txt can help search engines understand and index your site more efficiently, while also protecting sensitive data.

SEO Website Launch Checklist Recap

After walking through the critical steps for a smooth website launch, it’s always helpful to have a consolidated checklist at your fingertips. Whether you’re doing a final review or just need a quick reference in the future, this list boils down the essentials. Let’s quickly recap what we’ve delved into, ensuring you’re fully prepared for that big digital debut!

  • The ABCs of SEO and Crawling
    • Recognize SEO as a bridge between your website and search engines.
    • Ensure clear communication with search engines like Google and Bing to avoid being overshadowed by competitors.
  • SSL Certificates – More Than Just a Secure Padlock
    • Determine the right type of SSL certificate for your site.
    • Explore free options like OpenSSL or utilize automated setup from hosting providers.
  • Image Optimization – Worth More Than a Thousand Words
    • Acknowledge the importance of optimizing images for web performance.
    • Determine the right format for your images, such as JPEG, PNG, or SVG.
    • Understand the standards for each image format.
    • Resize images appropriately for different devices and screen sizes.
    • Compress images to reduce file size without losing quality.
    • Choose between lossy and lossless compression techniques.
    • Implement descriptive ALT text to images for search engine optimization.
    • Serve images that adapt to various screen sizes.
    • Implement lazy loading to improve the initial load time of your web pages.
  • Crafting the SEO Foundations
    • Ensure proper meta tags, headings, and other essential SEO practices.
    • Create an XML sitemap to guide search engines through your site.
    • Submit the sitemap to major search engines like Google and Bing.
    • Use a robots.txt file to guide and direct search engine crawlers.
  • Guiding the Search Engines
    • Regularly monitor website crawl statistics to ensure proper indexing and performance.

That’s a wrap on part one of our in-depth, 8-part series on launching your website. We’ve begun our journey by laying the groundwork with some essential SEO and website fundamentals. But trust me, we’re just getting started.

In part two, we’ll dive into Website Performance Optimization, offering you even more actionable insights and tools to ensure your website’s success. With each part, we’re building on the knowledge, ensuring that by the end, you’ll have a holistic view of the entire website launch process.

Eager for more? Follow along as we continue to unravel the mysteries of a successful website launch. See you in the next installment!

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Artur Shepel
Hey there! You bring the vision, we bring the visibility. Ready to be seen?

P.S. Life's too short for bad vibes, bad friends, and bad marketing.
Artur Shepel