elcomCMS SEO Checklist – New Site Go-Live

elcomCMS9 SEO Checklist

We’ve been working with elcomCMS for many years now, and helped with a number of site go-lives. In this post I wanted to go through a simple checklist of items to include in your own elcomCMS site go-live process.

elcomCMS is a pretty feature rich product, so in the interests of keeping this post as simple as possible, there’s a number of items that I’ve not covered eg canonical URLs, Google parameter insertion, download tracking, Code blocks for setting Google analytics custom variable, article meta robots tags – leave a comment if there’s any in particular you’d like covered.

Although this is intended for a go-live process, it doesn’t hurt to review on your own site and ensure the following are in place, even if it’s been live for a little while now.

New site versus Site Refresh

If you’re going live with a completely new site (ie the domain is newly registered), then the process is a little simpler (eg you don’t need to get redirects in place), but quite often the sites I’m been involved with have been Site Refresh projects where the domain has been around for a while already, and the project is about replacing it with a new site design – and usually a change of CMS (eg changing from another CMS to elcomCMS).

With that in mind I’m going to include the steps as if they apply to an existing site being refreshed.

Here’s the general steps:

  1. ensure on-page SEO items are set
  2. prepare and implement 301 redirects
  3. create the XML sitemap
  4. set folder meta robots settings
  5. configure Google analytics
  6. ensure robots.txt isn’t blocking the site
  7. configure Google Webmaster Tools and submit the XML sitemap

And now the details:

1. On-Page SEO items

In the lead up to go-live you should be ensuring that the basic on-page SEO items are set. These include article attributes such as page Titles, META descriptions, URLs, canonical URLs, as well as article content such as headings, lists and general content items.

I won’t go into detail on all of these since they are generally pretty well known. However I will point out a few key things.

Article Attributes

Page Title and user friendly URL are set at the top of the Article attributes screen. Meta Description is set lower down from the Metadata -> Meta tags section:

Set the article Title and META Description

Canonical URLs can also be set at the article level, along with Meta robot tags. You can safely ignore the Meta keywords tag these days – it is not required anymore and doesn’t impact SEO.

2. Redirects

This is a crucial step for a site refresh. It is very important that all of the old site URLs are redirected to their new site equivalent URLs (here’s a case study of what can happen if you don’t put 301 redirects in place).

There’s a few ways to do this, and depending on the size of the site one may be preferred.

For small sites, using the redirect settings within each article is probably easiest. Simply enter the old URLs that should directed to this new article from here:

elcomCMS 301 redirects

For larger sites, building a redirect mapping file is probably easiest since it can be easily constructed from a spreadsheet, and is also very easy to update and add to. Because elcomCMS is a Microsoft .NET based product you’ll generally be working with IIS. I’ve covered how to build and load the rewritemap.config redirect files here, so check that out for further details.

3. XML Sitemaps

Creating an XML sitemap is a good way to guide Google as to what is important on the site and should be indexed.

Use the XML sitemap section to include all relevant content folders, but exclude or leave out any admin folders (eg site_layout) and membership folders (eg pages that will be only viewable by logged in members). Create the XML sitemap and set it to be updated regularly whenever code is updated.

elcomCMS XML Sitemaps settings

4. Folder settings

Usually sites have a Site_Layout folder that includes lots of behind the scenes assets (eg footers, banners, embedded articles). As a general rule it is best to keep these pages out of the Google index (since it is unlikely a person would want to search for and view any of these items.

To exclude them from Google, the noindex and noarchive meta tags should be set. Note: it is ok to allow following of links in these items (ie usually leave the nofollow unticked), but it will depend on the particular assets.

elcomCMS Folder Settings Meta tags

5. Google Analytics

Google Analytics (or other analytics package) is important to get in place just prior to go-live.

It can be placed in a number of spots, but the recommended practice is to insert it into one of the global master pages:

elcomCMS Master pages for setting Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools settings

It is possible to insert it using the Code Insertion box in Global Admin, however please note that this code is not inserted into all modules (eg the ecommerce module doesn’t include this into pages).  

elcomCMS Code Insertion

6. Robots.txt

Usually when developing the site, it is in a staging environment and has been blocked from Google (googlebot crawler) using the robots.txt file.

One the site goes live it is import to unblock the site from Google. This managed via the Admin -> robots.txt settings:

elcomCMS robots.txt settings

If a site is block (eg during development on a staging site) the robots.txt will have a blanket disallow line like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

It is important this is removed once the site goes live and changed to something like the above screenshot, which only blocks the login page and the FTP folder.

Summary

On a live site, this is GOOD:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /login.aspx

On a live site, this is BAD:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

7. Google Webmaster Tools

Once live it is important to update the Google Webmaster Tools account for the site (or create an account if one doesn’t already exist).

Add the XML sitemap (created earlier in step 3) to the Google Webmaster tools account:

It usually only takes a day or two for Google to crawl the sitemap and start indexing the pages. It is normal for only a subset of the pages to be indexed by Google – so don’t be worried if only 60% of the pages in the sitemap are indexed.

Google Webmaster Tools XMLS sitemaps

 

If you are especially keen you can also set up Bing Webmaster Tools and submit to there as well.

Advanced Stuff

Mobile Considerations

If the site is a responsive site then there won’t be any further changes to the above required.

However, if the site is adaptive and rendering different versions for different devices then there may be some additional implementation required, including:

  • adding redirects from old site mobile pages to new site mobile URLs
  • adding the Google analytics script into mobile master pages as well as desktop ones
  • adding multiple Google Webmaster Tools profiles (and adding the XML sitemap into each)

Google Analytics custom setup

Getting Google Analytics in place with the default settings is generally fine for 90% of the reporting you’ll be doing.

However, for the full insight into sites, I’m generally doing a fair bit of custom setup these days including specific conversion goals, custom segments, custom reports and custom variables where required. For simplicity I’ve not covered them here, but if there are specific custom reporting requirements noted by the client, it is important to implement these are close as possible to the go-live.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions please leave a comment or feel free to contact me directly.

17 SEO Myths
Craig Bailey

Craig is the Founder and Technical Director at XEN Systems. He’s been involved in IT, web development and digital marketing for more than 25 years.

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