Before you sit down with a designer to plan out how you want your website to look, it helps to grab a piece of paper and a pen (or a good software package, more on that later) and sketch out exactly what pages you want your website to have. Most web designers worth their salt will create a site map before starting development, it allows for a long range and complete look at the website architecture, which helps to avoid creating extra work by seeing what pages can be combined and eliminated, and also gets the whole team on the same page as to exactly what is required.
The other great thing about a site map is that you can also use it to plan your SEO strategy. Including what pages should be optimized for what keywords, doing this correctly from the beginning can also focus your SEO campaign from the beginning to make sure your site is structured for the most important thing – traffic!
But what exactly do you need to include on a site map, and what software do you need to make it useful , and what mistakes should you avoid?
- Choose a good software
There’s a lot of great software out there, free and paid, as well as downloadable and online (cloud). One bit of software you may be interested in picking up is SmartDraw, which I personally use for a lot of things other than just a site map. However if you’re on a budget you may want to go for the old pencil and paper, however the problem with this is that it’s hard to modify. If you don’t want to go out spending money just to draw up a sitemap, you may want to check out https://bubbl.us/. It’s not strictly a site map generation software but it can get the job done – to check out SmartDraw click here and to check out bubbl.us click here
- Understand the goals of your website
If you know the goals of your website, including how important each goal is, planning your site map will be much easier. For example, if you have an online store, you would need a Products page, with sub pages for different categories of products that you offer. Planning this up front will let you know what categories you may have to combine (if you only have a couple of products in that category). If the goal of your website is simply to educate your prospect about what you do, instead of making a sale, you’d need to find out what is that makes your company unique and gets clients to buy from you and organize your site this way. Do you have many satisfied clients? Then be sure to include a ‘Testimonials’ page. Are they from different industries? You may need sub pages in your ‘Testimonials’ page for industry.
- Research your competitors
Competitors for your product or service have probably all ready put in much time and thought as to how they need to organize their sites. Clicking through and hanging out on their domains should give you some ideas for how you can organize your own site.
- Save and revise
The first sketch out of your site map will never be the one you end up using. Save your site map and share it with your designer or your team and get feedback on what pages should be added or removed. However don’t try to share with too many people, otherwise you’ll have a headache incorporating all the feedback. Sometimes all you need is one person to bounce ideas off.
- Think keywords
While it may be tempting to make your website site map have the mandatory About Us, contact Us, Products pages, you may want to consider looking at keywords that your customers are searching for and including them in some way. For example if you sell control panels, instead of naming the page ‘Control Panels’ why not go for a more descriptive name like ‘Home Automation Control Panels’ to make sure that you can get listed for that keyword.
Good luck with creating your site map. Remember, your first draft is just that, a first draft. Make at least 10 – 15 boxes to get started and you’ll have a lot of ideas come up as you do. Good luck.