SEO For New Websites - The 7 Core Steps To Rank
The 7 SEO steps that are crucial before launch for any new website.
Did you just launch your website, or are you about to launch? Need a checklist on the SEO for your new website? We got you covered.
But first things first, why should you focus on SEO this early in your marketing journey?
Well, keep in mind you're creating your website content not just for an audience of humans but also for an audience of 'engines'. As you probably know, the SE in SEO stands for Search Engine. And it's Google and other engines that call the shots! These uppity engines determine how high you rank in users' search results.
To grease these engines, you must engineer your website in a certain way. Hint: what Google and other engines crave is structure. There's a recipe for structuring the content on your websites. Let's dive in.
Is SEO Important for a New Website?
The importance of Search Engine Optimization can hardly be overstated. In the ever-growing haystack that we call the internet, the precious needle that is your website will get hopelessly lost UNLESS you guide search engines in the right direction. Without a proper SEO strategy, you are effectively invisible.
How Long Does SEO Take to Rank a New Website?
According to many sources, such as a poll by Ahrefs, it can take 3 to 6 months for your SEO-optimized content to start going up in the rankings.
We like to say that SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. You're in it for the long term. And patience is rewarded: good SEO content can bring in visitors and clients for years and years.
Should You Do SEO Before or After the Launch of a New Website?
It's never too late to work on the SEO of your website, but it's definitely never too early.
By thinking about the structure of your website before even writing a single letter, you can save time and effort later. It will be hard to change the foundational elements of your website once it's up and running because it will have an influence on other parts of the website.
By making sure your SEO foundation is perfect from the beginning you will also avoid having to convince your web dev team to prioritize your little tweaks to the back-end.
Trust me, a web developer is busy enough, and having to talk them through your SEO adjustments is just a headache.
Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
How Do I Know if My New Website Has Good SEO?
In general, you'll know that you have good SEO, if you receive organic traffic. You can see this in Google Analytics for example. But for new domains, the amount of organic traffic might be 0 at the beginning.
So, to get a good understanding of your SEO, before or after launching your new website, you can run some audits.
There are several SEO and website audits you can do to find out how your new website is performing:
- Lighthouse (Page speed and technical elements)
- SEMRush SEO Audit (Technical & On Page SEO)
- Ahrefs SEO Audit
- Screamfrog (Website structure)
- And many more
Some tools are free to use, some are paid tools. At Operation Nation, we use a combination of these tools to provide a comprehensive assessment of your website's SEO performance.
If you want to get a detailed analysis and advice, consider asking us for our professional SEO services and SEO audits.
How Important is SEO for a Startup?
Lots of startups focus on building their product or service first. And rightfully so! It would make zero sense to focus on traffic if you don't have an offer first 😉
But, at a certain moment, they will be ready to go to market and at that point, they want all the attention in the world.
So they spend money on Ads.
They completely forget that there is a more affordable source of traffic: organic search!
But since organic traffic takes longer to gain traction, it's not uncommon for SEO to become an afterthought for many startups, once they see how much they invested in Ad spend...
So, to answer the question, how important is SEO for startups? We believe SEO should be a priority from day 1.
By starting with a well-optimized website, a startup lays a strong foundation. Supplementing this with periodic blog articles about their work, mission, journey, and future plans ensures they begin communicating their identity and purpose to search engines from the outset.
Maybe they won't be visible for every possible keyword, but that's ok, they're not ready to sell yet. But once they are, they will have no problem growing their organic traffic from a little to a lot!
So, yes, SEO is very important for startups. You can't start too early.
Not sure where to start? Let us assist you in these early stages of SEO. Book a free consultation with Josien:
Does Having Multiple Websites Hurt SEO?
It doesn't. As long as you make sure the websites don't compete with each other for keywords and don't 'cannibalize' each other with duplicate content. Delineate the scope and goal of your websites, and make sure they don't overlap.
How Do I Register My Website with Google for SEO?
If you're not sure if your site has been crawled and indexed by Google's bots, you can just... Google it. Type site:mywebsite.com. If Google hasn't found it yet, go register it yourself at Google Search Console and start inspecting every URL you want to get indexed.
Getting a Search Console account will also give you benefits such as search analytics and indexing insights.
SEO Checklist for New Website
Ok, we break down our checklist into 7 steps, and each step consists of a few smaller steps or elements. You can easily see them all in our table of contents and jump to each one separately if that's more efficient for you.
If not, scroll through the list and check every element on your new website. You'll be ready to launch in no time!
1. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is tweaking and greasing the engine of your website. You want it to run smoothly, load fast, and have no errors anywhere.
It is not concerned with what you write but with how you make it accessible to everyone without friction.
These are the most important technical SEO elements you should look at first:
A sitemap is a file that tells search engines about pages that are available for crawling on your website.
It helps our bot friends understand the structure of your website.
This is important for new websites: you want to get off to a good start and make sure no page is left unindexed.
Robots.txt is a simple text file that guides search engine crawlers on which pages to crawl or ignore on your website.
For SEO, it's better to only point Google to the pages that matter. For example, your testing environment. You don't want your sandbox to be found in the Google search results!
Page speed is the time it takes for a web page to load when a user clicks on it.
Faster-loading pages are not only user-friendly but also favored by search engines, meaning they are ranked higher. The last thing you want is for a potential new customer to leave because of a slow-loading page!
Site & URL structure
This is about the layout and taxonomy of your website and the format of your URL.
A clean and logical structure makes it easier for search engine crawlers to 'understand' the topic of your site (it also improves user experience).
Getting this right from the start makes your website easier to scale and helps avoid future SEO issues as you add more content.
This is the web address where visitors can find your site. What's in a name? Brand recognition is vital. It's important that new companies give a lot of thought to this.
A thoughtfully chosen domain name can offer initial credibility and easier brand recognition. Rebranding in the future is expensive (ask Zuck, ask Elon).
Choice of CMS & theme and plugins
Your Content Management System (CMS), theme, and plugins are the building blocks of your website. Choosing wisely can help with site speed, mobile optimization (see below), and other SEO factors. Getting off to a good start can save a lot of work down the line.
We highly favor Sanity, our own ONE Builder framework is built upon the Sanity CMS. It's incredibly fast in terms of loading speed and very easy to work (we can help you with that).
This is the responsiveness of your website for mobile devices a.k.a. how your website adapts to different screen sizes.
Google favors mobile-friendly websites, boosting your search engine rankings if you have this in order. According to Statista, 60% of users access the internet primarily through their mobile devices. This is why Operation Nation builds websites with a mobile-first approach, being mobile-friendly is a must.
Lighthouse is a tool by Google for assessing the performance and quality of web pages.
A high Lighthouse score indicates a well-optimized website, which search engines favor.
At Operation Nation, we specialize in building high-performing websites and we even guarantee that any website we will build will be above 90% in Google Lighthouse.
Metadata is not visible to your visitors. View metadata as a foundational layer of information, including title tags, meta descriptions, and headers within your site’s HTML.
Well-optimized metadata can improve click-through rates. As a new website aiming for high visibility, optimizing metadata is a low-effort, high-impact task that can yield quick results.
Not sure how, when, or where to start with technical SEO? Let us assist you in these early stages of SEO. Book a free consultation with Josien:
2. Set Up Analytics & Tracking
You can’t measure what you don’t track. And you can’t grow what you don’t measure. So if your website is going to be a serious acquisition channel for your business, which it should be, then you must have analytics and tracking configured on your website.
It would be like being an artist performing in front of an audience that you can't hear or see.
It's no exaggeration that it's an absolute must to install Google Analytics.
Google Analytics 4
Google Analytics, or GA4 in its current iteration, is a free analytics tool that gives you an in-depth look at your website and/or app performance. You can view the number of visitors per page in a certain date range, where your traffic is coming from (ads, social, conversions, etc.), and the demographics of these visitors.
Google Search Console
Google Search Console is the second most important tool we recommend. It helps you monitor and troubleshoot how your website shows up in Google Search results. You can use it as a tool for suggestions to improve your search presence.
LookerStudio is Google's complementary tool to visualize your website's data in charts and tables. This might be a bit more complicated to set up, considering you can connect multiple tools through API's.
But, once this is set up, you have one real-time overview that you never have to change again. We highly recommend getting this done by a professional. It's a one-time setup and you'll love it forever.
3. Audience & Keyword Research
Next on our checklist for new websites: audience and keyword research.
Audience AKA Your Ideal Client
The term audience needs some clarification. Your audience doesn't clap at the end of the 'show', but ideally, they do take a step after it is over: they buy one of your products or services.
Also, they don't come for entertainment, but to have a problem solved. So think about your audience in these terms: they go online to have a problem solved. You make sure they can find you and turn them into paying customers.
It's important to know who your ideal client is. Who are you writing for? How do you help them? What is the problem they have? What language do they speak?
The more details you have on this avatar, the better.
Doing keyword research is like navigating a forest with fruit trees. You want to find the areas with ripe and low-hanging fruit. It's a waste of time climbing a large tree only to pluck unripe apples.
Similarly, you don't want to optimize your web page for keywords that nobody is looking for.
Also, you might want to avoid writing for extremely sought-after keywords that would pit you against well-funded and well-established company websites.
There's a middle ground: keywords with high search volume, but relatively low 'difficulty'. The difficulty here means the competition. A low difficulty means low competition.
Instead of reinventing the wheel, it's often wise to get inspiration from successful competitors.
Google the keyword you are targeting. Who is in the top 10 results with a blog article? What is that article's structure like? How many images, words, videos, quotes, etc. are being used? What sources do they refer to? How can you create something better?
This is just one example of SEO competitor research.
What type of products do your competitors sell? What is your ideal client in terms of interests and demographics? What are their needs? You could do surveys or client interviews to get a better feel for your market.
As always in SEO, there are also analytics dashboards like SEMRush that can give you clues. Use all the market research data as feedback to refine your SEO and content strategy.
Our Favorite Tools
While you could try doing keyword research by twiddling with Google's autocomplete function (LOL), the following tools are actually useful to get on the right track with your SEO.
SEMRush, Ahrefs or MOZ
The following SEO tools have, of course, different pricing tiers and some offer a free trial.
Ahrefs is widely known for its gigantic data index of backlinks. SEMrush is an SEO, content, and social media marketing tool. MOZ has a similar toolbox and is known for its great educational resources.
ScreamingFrog is a website crawler, which means it indexes your site in a way that a search engine would. It can help you identify common SEO issues such as broken links or missing meta descriptions. Very useful for periodic audits. It can also help you visualize your site structure.
Sitebulb is like ScreamingFrog in that it is an auditing tool that helps you identify common SEO problems. What the tool has going for it is a visually engaging interface and a focus on presenting data in a way that is digestible by beginners too.
Google Trends tells you what the trending keywords are. What are people searching for in specific regions? And: how is a certain keyword phrase performed over time? How is one keyword performing compared to another? All can be answered with this free tool!
4. Content Clustering & Calendar
Search engines like Google crave structure. They want to make sense of what you have to offer and present that to their audience. A random, unstructured list of posts isn't of much help.
That's where content clusters come in!
How to Cluster Keywords and Topics
Let's say you have a website about Eastern Asian cuisine.
Don't just string your blog posts together, jumping from Tikka Masala to Pad Thai without providing structure.
Instead, you help the reader - and the search engine - by clustering Indian cuisine posts in one category and on one page, and you cluster your Thai cuisine posts in another. And maybe even make a sub-category page containing vegan recipes, or famous dishes like Tikka Masala, each a category: all accessible through the Indian Cuisine category.
That's how you make sure that your visitors (bot or not) can quickly navigate to find what they need.
Landing Pages vs. Supporting Blog Pages
A landing page is narrow-minded in a good way: It has the single purpose of making the reader do something: for example, buy your homemade Tikka Masala sauce.
From a landing page, you can't navigate to other parts of the site. This is different from a blog post. A blog post has the purpose of informing, entertaining, or gaining the trust of the reader. It is embedded in the site structure and plays a role in drawing in SEO traffic.
To make sure that your landing page gets the attention it deserves so you sell more of your product, we recommend writing supporting blog articles about your product. From these blog articles, you should link to your landing page (internal linking).
To stay within the Tikka Masala example: create a couple of blog articles like "What are the key ingredients to a classic Tikka Masala sauce" and "Where does Tikka Masala originate from".
With articles like that linking to your landing page, you make it easier for search bots to understand your structure and faster for them to crawl and index your new website.
Creating a Content Calendar
Instead of flooding your visitors and search engines with a bunch of posts all on the same day, you want to spread them out at regular intervals.
Again, structure and regularity are what search engines (and people) like.
This is especially important for new websites, which start with a blank slate. Regularity will create familiarity.
Create a content calendar in your tool of choice. This can be Notion, ClickUp, Trello, you name it. We have templates ready to go for these platforms, just hit us up and ask! We're happy to share them with you.
Let us assist you with creating these content clusters for your new website. Book a free consultation with Josien:
5. Quality Content
Both people and bots like if you produce content that is not copy-pasted from random sources. Instead, they value well-thought-out and original contributions from a demonstrably experienced content creator who references trustworthy sources.
Below we listed the most important elements when it comes to high-quality content. There are many more things you can do to keep an eye on your quality, but these are the three elements you should know about first when you're dealing with a new website:
E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
The more EEAT "you show" for this relatively new metric of Google, the better. It's a metric that isn't assessed by bots but by human readers, and especially important for topics that touch finances, health, and safety (so-called 'your-money-or-your-life topics').
Helpful Content Update
Google's algorithm updates, including the Helpful Content Update, aim to improve the quality of search results by promoting websites and pages that offer informative and relevant information.
To succeed in the era of the Helpful Content Update, websites need to focus on creating high-quality, user-centered content that addresses the needs and queries of their target audience. This typically involves:
- Keyword Research: Identifying the keywords and phrases that potential users are searching for in relation to your industry or niche.
- Quality Content: Producing well-researched, informative, and engaging content that genuinely helps users find answers or solutions to their questions or problems.
- User Experience: Ensuring that your website is user-friendly, loads quickly, and is easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile devices.
- SEO Best Practices: Implementing on-page and technical SEO best practices to make it easier for search engines to understand and rank your content.
- Regular Updates: Keeping your content fresh and up-to-date to maintain its relevance.
- Backlinks: Earning high-quality backlinks from authoritative websites in your industry, can boost your site's credibility in the eyes of search engines.
In essence, the Helpful Content Update underscores the importance of creating content that genuinely benefits users and aligns with their search intent. By doing so, websites can improve their chances of ranking well in search engine results pages (SERPs) and attracting organic traffic.
So make sure your content is up-to-date and helpful to your reader! Add videos, quote people's tweets on X, insert images you took yourself, etc. Stay original, bring something new to the table, and be as inclusive as possible.
Original Images and Video
A search engine has no incentive to rank you high if you publish what has already been published somewhere else, earlier.
This not just applies to text but to images and video as well. So, if you include images and video - which is a good idea - make them high quality, original, and fit your brand. Like all images in this article ;-)
6. Link Building (Internal & External)
Structure, structure, and structure. Did we mention structure already?
The links to and from your articles are the structure that keeps your website standing. Without links, a list of articles is like loose sand.
Internal Link Building
By linking between your own pages and posts, you signify to your reader and to search engines which articles are closely related and which are more distantly related. This helps search engines understand your website so that they can help people better. This all is really great for SEO.
With internal links you point your readers to pages that you can reasonably assume they are interested in.
You can also favor certain pages/posts on your website: giving them more authority as it were (Google calls this authority PageRank). Again, this signals to search engines: pay extra attention to this page.
Why is this important for new websites? You can always change your internal link structure later, but that would be one hell of a job that nobody likes to do. Implement internal linking from the start and you'll never have the issue of orphaned pages.
External Link Building
Imagine that you are a web3 startup and Brian Armstrong (Coinbase) gives a shoutout in a tweet on X. This will of course boost your online traffic and most likely sales/conversions! The same principle goes for links between websites.
Websites that are considered authoritative that link to your website can be seen as recommendations. If Coinbase is linking to your website from one of their articles, Google might see this as a high-value recommendation and will index you faster (and higher!).
Websites from new startups have almost zero authority so to get ranked it's important to start working on your external link building ASAP.
Tools you could use to kickstart your external link building are:
This is a tool that brings experts (you) in contact with publishers. The bottom line is that you get a mention and/or backlink in exchange for your expert opinion quoted in a publisher's piece.
Quite like MentionMate, HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a platform that connects journalists and bloggers from popular websites with sources.
In their own words, Featured connects subject-matter experts with top publishers to increase their exposure and create quality, ready-to-publish Q&A content. This is a similar approach to MentionMate and HARO.
Databox is not specifically a link-building tool: it is a business analytics and KPI dashboard. But did you know that Databox also sends out emails to a selected group of sources with requests for quotes about marketing, sales and entrepreneurship?
A great way to get quoted and linked to from external websites!
Let's say you own a chain of nail studios. Or any business that provides physical goods or services to a local audience. You should have your website(s) listed in all the local directories you can find. Many local directories allow you to include a link back to your website. Consumers who use a local directory are hot leads, with relatively high conversion rates.
Private Blog Network (PBN) backlinks are links sent out from a network of privately owned websites to the client site.
A PBN is a paid service that tries to 'game' search engines. It tries to make Google believe that a lot of websites are linking to you, whereas this is fake, manufactured authority.
We advise you to NOT use PBNs, and, in general, not to pay for links.
7. Team Education
Lastly, it’s important to get your team involved. Make sure everyone understands the value of SEO before the launch of a new website.
If developers don’t understand why a robots.txt file is important, they might put it very low on their to-do list. So get everyone on board and excited about organic traffic. It's a team effort after all!
In a digital landscape where competition is fierce and attention spans are short, SEO for your new website isn't just a "nice to have"—it's an absolute necessity.
We've walked you through the seven core steps that will set your site on the path to Google glory. From the nitty-gritty of Technical SEO to the strategic planning of Content Clustering and a Content Calendar, you have the tools you need to start strong. Equipping yourself with quality analytics and educating your team amplifies your potential for success.
The key takeaway? SEO is a multi-faceted approach, and each element—from your sitemap to your backlink strategy—needs your attention.
So, whether you're a startup or an established brand launching a new website, arm yourself with the right strategies and watch your website rise in the ranks, capturing the traffic and conversions that will fuel your business growth.
Are you ready for a content production engine & winning SEO strategy that will increase traffic and convert more visitors?
Contact us by scheduling a call and see how we can help you 🙂