SEO strategy Checklist
Every time you have a release, do you have a test (automated or manual) that you perform to make sure that everything is good to go from an SEO perspective? This is what we call a deployment SEO strategy. Odds are you might not have one, but you should.
You need a deployment strategy for two reasons: first, accidents happen. Second, not everyone knows SEO. This posts highlights problems to look for when when you're testing a deployment and tips on how to create a deployment SEO strategy that works for you.
Between consulting and my in-house experience, I have seen my fair share of accidents and mistakes.
Some of these accidents were my fault or responsibility, and some I happened to find along the way. The recurring issues I have seen include:
- Nofollows being added to all internal links
- Meta robots noindex added to pages
- Robots.txt updated to disallow: /
- All title tags being set to the homepage
- Product canonical tags set to category URLs
- 301s used for canonicalization being removed
- H1s disappearing
- Content disappearing
- URLs being changed
- Analytics tracking code removed
All of these issues can have significant impacts on SEO. The reasons for this are far and wide, ranging from the wrong code being copied from the dev server to designers forgetting that title tags are important. As SEOs, we can do things to reduce the likelihood of these things happening by creating systems and processes, but sometimes accidents will happen. Sometimes, something is bound to sneak by. This means you need to have a system in place to find problems when they arise rather than down the road.
Pro Tip: Be an actual user of your site, not just a creator – you will find problems and bugs very quickly this way.
Automated vs Manual
When I was working in-house, we had all of our internal links become nofollowed; the nofollow tag was copied over from a dev environment. After learning from this experience, I began doing manual testing following every deployment to ensure that each one was rolled out properly. With weekly releases and multiple sites, this task quickly became quite time consuming. Fortunately, we had a QA team that I trained to handle the testing themselves.
I started the manual reviews by going to pages that needed to be tested and verified that the SEO elements were all in proper place. To automate the process, I oversaw the development of test scripts built by the QA team to verify everything was in order. This was a much more efficient solution.
Big sites with frequent releases should be doing automated testing. Work with your dev team to get these tests created for you. Further, you should also have a QA team that should be capable of running the tests once they are trained. If you're unable to get the resources necessary, well...try to persevere until you can. You'll still have to do the work manually, but this issue is far too important to ignore. If you can gather the dev resources, you'll still need to perform manual tests until automated testing is created.
If you run a smaller site or don’t have frequent releases, manual testing is probably the better solution for you. Sure, it takes some time, but if you aren’t doing it every week, odds are the manual reviews won’t drive you insane.