The Power of Check Lists

checklist.jpgWhen launching new sites, contacting potential advertisers, starting new businesses you’ll find your self repeating the same actions over and over again. One thing I find really useful is to create a check list of all the things I need to do, that way next time I do a similar job I have a blue print to work from and add to. For launching a new site this is my current check list:

1. To WWW or not WWW
It doesn’t really matter whether you include www in your address or not but you want to be consistent. To a search engine and are two different pages and will be ranked independently (or supplementally). The best way to avoid this is to have a 301 redirect to the URL that you’ve chosen, Google as always is a great resource for how to do it.

2. Contact Us Page
Give your readers a way of getting in touch, wouldn’t it be annoying if you lost out on a bit of lucrative advertising because they didn’t know how to ask.

3. About Us Page
Either a page letting readers know what the site or the authors are all about.

4. Add Stats from the Beginning
Install statistics as early as possible, be it Feedburner, Analytics or whatever. Then in a years time when you’re getting thousands of uniques a day you can look back and see how you did (rinse and repeat).

5. Test on Multiple Machines and Browsers
See the “Well it works on my machine” post.

6. Check Email
If the site is on a new domain, make sure you have an address and that you are actually receiving email sent to the domain

7. Page Title
Make sure every single page has a unique title (UNIQUE). If every page on the site has the same title don’t expect a lot of traffic from the search engines.

8. Auto Discovery of RSS
Modern browsers can automatically discover RSS feed and make it really easy for readers to subscribe, they do need a little help so make sure you have a link in the page header.

9. Get an Unbiased Opinion
Ask a friend what they think of the site, you want a critical opinion so a blunt northerner is a good choice.

10. Spelling and Grammar
You should always spell and grammar check any posts that you make and this is especially true for the homepage of a site. Many peoples first impression will be the homepage, so if it’s full of typos what does it say about the rest of your site. Also check for typos in the often overlooked areas like footers and sidebars.

It does take a bit of time creating a check list but it can save you more than it takes over the long run.

About Al Carlton

Al quit the 9 to 5 rat race in January of 2007, before then he was a software engineer and systems architect of financial system. Nowadays Al spends the days running his various businesses and experimenting with different ideas and opportunities.
Al can be found on twitter at AlCarlton.


  1. A blunt northerner 🙂 Sounds good to me. I guess I would qualify in that catagory being based in Leeds.

    Checklists are good as there is so much to do and doing it correctly right from the start is always good. Also, if you dont have a checklist then you will always forget at least 1 item.

  2. Good list. #7, unique page titles is something that I see so often missed and yet can make a huge difference to the SERPS.

  3. Thats a good checklist, I’m often guilty of ‘stumbling by bumbling’ along and always going back relying on memory rather than a good checklist, also Google Webmaster Central allows you to set whether you wish your site to be listed as www or not but its certainly worth 301’ing for passing all link juice. It can be frustratingly difficult to find good up to date contact info on some sites so keep the navigation simple and obvious.

  4. I don’t quite understand point 6

    Are you saying that I need to have an email at the new domain that works?

    Also regarding page titles, would it be a bad idea to have it like “Site name: Page Name”, there would be some repetition of “Site name” would that be OK?

    Finally What would you use RSS for if its not a news/blog site?

    • I like each domain to have its own contact email. That allows me to segregate the emails easily, and if I close down a domain for some reason I’m not still getting emails to that address.

  5. That is one useful post. About point number 7 (unique titles bit). I am using wordpress and every new post of mine goes under the title of the main page.

    So how can I change that?


    • You can make a change to the title tag in the template, the following code should do the trick:

      • Hmmm….it stripped the code I put in, lets try again:

        [?php wp_title(‘ ‘); ?]
        [?php if(wp_title(‘ ‘, false)) { echo ‘–‘; } ?]
        [?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?]

        (Replace the [ and ] with less than and greater than parenthesis, the blog strips them out so I had to swap them)

        • There is a unique title plugin that you can use that takes words from the post name and puts them in the title. Just do a hunt for wordpress title tag plugin and that should find you what you need.

        • Thanks, that worked. Btw, I had changed the title tag in wordpress.

          Another question about titles. How long is too long?

        • Id say about 10 – 15 words is acceptable on average. Anything more would be a bit too much and you also need to remember that some of the title could be obscured by hitting the right side of the browser if the title is too long.

          The title of this page is spot on although I would recommend to Scott and Al they move the title around so it says post name and site name with out the blog archive in the middle… ie… The Power of Check Lists – Self Made Minds.

  6. One item that I always have at the top of my list for a new website is: ‘how will the content be created’. However, you have posted a few articles about purchasing a site with some content already available and so the idea has already provided a starting point. Something that could be added for first time site builders is setting up accounts with Adsense or other sites since they are not immediately available and take some extra effort to figure out. I am using wordpress and am working on making a side bar available to bring people to related sites. I was surprised to learn it takes almost a week to get the account setup. Then when you copy the link it takes up to 2 days to show. I am still waiting to see if I did it right or if I need to tweak it more.

  7. I’m a big fan of checklists myself, although i have to admit i tend to have ‘mental’ checklists and often miss a few points, i also have various scribble pads, that get hit alot during site development.

    • All of my check lists used to be mental but I find nowadays my memory benefits from having them on paper too 🙂

      • I have paper ones too but all too often they end up in a heap by the bin as i change my mind too often.

        I do however think its key to get certain elements right at the start of developing a site or even content for a site.

  8. Great point about page titles as well. What are your thoughts about having the name of your site appear in every page title? As in “ – News Story” or “ – Feature Story”? Does repeating your site name/brand in every page title hurt your site in SERPS?

    • I don’t think it hurts but it probably doesn’t help either. I find “Page Title – Site Name” tends to work pretty well (I should change that here really).

  9. Al, it doesn’t look like you bother with creating a sitemap of any kind. I am fairly new to this, but had heard that creating an XML Sitemap is worthwhile for search rankings?

    • I’ve never seen proof either way of that one but I expect it’s another thing that can’t hurt. I do like to have a HTML site map once a site is large enough, but that too could also be there from the beginning I suppose.

    • I use a WordPress plugin to create the sitemap for my blog. Does anyone have experience with whether a hand-crafted sitemap is better?

  10. Checklists are fantastic. I use them in all areas of my work. Sometimes they evolve into pseudocode, and then into macros to alleviate my workload next time!

  11. #6 is not the one which I don’t often do while I plan to build a blog or website. Good Tips

  12. Spelling and grammar are so often ignored, yet I feel they single-handedly carry the biggest reflection of your professionalism. It is essential to ensure your content is as free from typos as possible.

    Every spelling and grammar mistake is a negative reflection of you and your site.

    – Martin Reed

  13. Nice list.

    #1, #4 and #8 are particularly useful, and is something that no beginner should ignore.


  14. Thanks for the tips on launching a new site. This is definitely something I could have used 6 months ago when starting mine 🙂

  15. Fyi, +1 Digg

    Keep up the good work!

  16. I think before launching a new site, things such as the design and navigational structure should be well thought. There are many sites that just keeping changing themes/templates or moving block of content like recent posts or links from places to places to know where it fits best. I think that should be thought, tried and tested before launching a site. Not only this confuses any returning new visitors but also weighs lots on the credibility of such site.

  17. I edit my site with a CMS manager. i didn’t have them code in changable titles or tags. Big mistake. I’m having it done now and I have to go through all my pages an update everything by hand.

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