Today, a well-structured website is more important than ever, and the first step to building this foundation is your sitemap.
A sitemap lays out all the pages your website needs (with most of them being accessible in the navigation). Whenever we create a website for our clients, we take careful measures to plan the flow of content to make sure their target audience can find the information they need quickly.
Whether you’re interested in revamping an existing site or creating a brand-new one, asking the right questions makes all the difference in building an effective website sitemap. Let’s delve into the essential questions you must ask to create a sitemap that serves your users and goals.
1. What Are Your Website’s Objectives?
The first step in building a successful website sitemap is to clarify your website’s objectives. Ask yourself questions like:
- What do you want to achieve with your website?
- Are you looking to generate sales, provide information, build brand awareness, or offer a combination of these goals?
- If you have an existing website, what is currently in place to help achieve these goals?
Understanding your objectives is crucial because it influences the structure and content of your site. For instance, an eCommerce site will have a different sitemap structure than a service-based or non-profit organization’s website. Knowing your objectives helps you prioritize content and design accordingly.
2. Who Is Your Target Audience?
This is a question you constantly have to ask yourself with any marketing effort, and your website’s sitemap is no exception. Ask yourself who your website is intended for. Different audiences have different needs, and your sitemap should reflect this by prioritizing content accordingly.
Consider demographics such as age, gender, location, and interests. By understanding your audience, you can make informed decisions about how to organize and present your content to meet their expectations.
For example, if you have more than one major target audience, maybe it makes sense to separate your pages by these client bases. Immunize Colorado does this under the Get Info section of their website and clearly lays out all the information a person needs.
3. What Content Will Your Website Include?
List all the pages you plan to include on your website. This could encompass a variety of content types, including pages, blog posts, product listings, videos, photo galleries, case studies, and more. By creating a comprehensive content list, you can organize it into categories or topics, helping you shape the sitemap’s structure.
4. How Will You Organize Your Content?
Once you’ve listed your content types, decide how to organize it effectively. This can involve creating categories, subcategories, or using a hierarchical structure. Your content organization should reflect how your target audience might naturally navigate your website. Logical grouping of content can make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.
For instance, an online clothing store might categorize its products by type (e.g., shirts, pants, shoes) and then further classify them by gender or style.
Keep in mind that it might take a few rounds of brainstorming before finalizing the way you move forward, which is perfectly fine (and recommended)!
5. What Is Your Content Priority?
If all of your content is a priority, none of it is, so don’t treat it all equally. Some pages or sections are more critical to meeting your goals than others, so it’s important to identify which content is most important and should be easily accessible from the primary navigation.
Key pages, such as the homepage, product pages, contact information, and about us sections, should be prominently featured. Secondary content can be second-level pages underneath the main navigation or combined.
6. How Important is SEO for Your Business?
The answer here should be VERY important! Search engine optimization (SEO) is vital for visibility; ranking high on search engine results pages (SERPs) will give your website a fighting chance to be seen by new visitors. Because of this, SEO needs to be at the forefront of your sitemap development.
The first step here would be to go through a keyword research process, where you uncover search terms your audience uses to find businesses like yours. Once you have a list of solid keywords, you can incorporate these specific web pages into your sitemap.
Related, ensure your sitemap incorporates other SEO best practices, such as optimizing URLs, using descriptive titles and meta descriptions, and using H1/H2/H3 text wherever possible.
7. Do You Plan to Expand Your Website in the Future?
While planning your sitemap, consider the future growth of your website. A website is a never-ending project, and just like any other industry, your website should evolve with what’s important to your audience. Thinking ahead can save you the headache of restructuring your sitemap in the future.
Ask yourself if you will be adding new content regularly (blog posts, videos, case studies, etc.), introducing new product lines, or expanding into new markets. By noting this now, it will help you with your hierarchy and categorization so it’s easier to grow these areas of your website.
By asking these seven essential questions, you’ll be well on your way to creating a sitemap that aligns with your objectives, serves your target audience, and enhances user experience.
If you need assistance with reworking your website’s sitemap or are not sure where to start with your website, contact the GreenMellen team today!