The sitemap is the backbone of a good redesign/restructuring project. However, it’s overlooked quite a bit in favor of: “let’s just use what we currently have.” Why is a sitemap important to the overall process and what benefits does it bring?
I should never be allowed in a home improvement store. I walk in the front door and have no idea how the store is organized, so I end up wandering around aimlessly. I often walk out of the store empty-handed because I couldn’t find the product I was looking for.
It would be far more useful to me if I could be automatically transported to the correct aisle for the product I need. That way, I could instantly buy what I wanted, without getting frustrated and giving up.
With an effective marketing approach, you have the opportunity to do just that for any customer or prospect visiting your website. Think of the sitemap as a way to transport your customer to the proper aisle instead of having them waste time in the front of the store, getting frustrated and leaving without purchasing.
Consider the audience, their needs, and the problems they’re trying to solve. Then organize your sitemap accordingly.
Take a 30,000 foot view
Have you ever looked out of an airplane window to see the outline of a new neighborhood being built below? The image from your window is a type of sitemap, outlining where houses will be positioned, as seen from 30,000 feet.
Similarly, a sitemap provides a bird’s eye view of your website, indicating how each page fits together in the overall framework.
Sitemaps are one of the most critical components of SEO, helping Google and other search engines find (and better understand) the pages on your site. The sitemap increases the visibility and accessibility of your content, helping you rank higher in SEO searches.
Since this accessibility allows search engines to quickly find pages of your website, having a sitemap positively impacts your search engine rankings.
In addition to being critical for search engines and boosting SEO, sitemaps are valuable tools for people searching for specific pages on your website. Sitemaps nurture the user journey, helping visitors understand the structure of your website, making it easier to navigate, and helping them find the information they need.
Use your sitemap to reach your goals
Your sitemap will be driven by the type of product or service you sell. As you’re building the sitemap, continually reference your project’s goals so that your site’s structure helps you reach that goal.
For instance, if you’re building an ecommerce website, your main goal will be to sell products. Therefore, your sitemap should place product pages at the top of the hierarchy, so customers can immediately see where they need to go to buy products (and not get lost aimlessly wandering around the site).
Creating the sitemap
A sitemap lists your website’s most important pages, ensuring that search engines can find, crawl, and index them. It also helps key audiences easily find what they need.
The sitemap should convey information clearly, and can be designed in a list format, a horizontal diagram, or a vertical diagram.
Is it primarily relational?
The decision to buy from your company takes time, especially if the purchase comes with great risk. In this case, your sitemap must be created to build trust over time. One effective way to do that is to address customers’ problems with comprehensive educational content. This positions your team as thought leaders in your space, increasing your credibility among your target (potentially wary) audience.
Expect prospects to visit your website multiple times during the decision-making process as they gather information about your company, your expertise, and any information about how your company would address their specific problem.
Will the relationship be purely transactional?
If customers will likely buy from you once (or make infrequent purchases), the sitemap needs to support smooth movement from introduction to purchase.
Demonstrate how your company addresses customers’ problems, then guide them to buy. This journey must be easy, with minimal friction that might delay or prevent this sale.
You need a sitemap. Liger can help.
Building a sitemap is a smart move for several reasons. First, it’s a great way to give Google and other search engines a boost to find your content. Secondly, it serves as a helpful roadmap for customers and prospects, allowing them to easily navigate your website and take specific actions (like buy your products).
For more information about the importance of a sitemap — or help building one — contact the experts at Liger Partners.