If you’ve been following my blog and you’re a regular reader of my posts, you may have noticed in many recent posts we’ve been walking through my website design process. It has over 90 lines of to do items for my team and my clients. Yep I said 90 with a nine and a zero.
That’s a lot, but there is a reason for it. I’m methodical in nature and my web design process is too. There are a lot of dots to connect and things to worry about when you launch a new website. That doesn’t mean it has to be scary, it means it just needs to be right.
What We’ve Learned Thus Far
So far on our journey of web development, I’ve taught you to:
- Define Marketing Goals -> Successful Internet Marketing Begin With Goals
- Identify Your Target Audience -> A Box for Every Website Visitor
- Review Your Existing Website -> SEO Can’t Help a Website That Sucks
- Perform a Competitor Analysis -> Internet Marketing is a Battlefield
- Perform Keyword Research -> Keyword Research for the Average Joe
Now it’s time for us to prepare our sitemap and requirements list for the new website. I know you’re excited. This is the one step in my process that takes the most thought. But don’t be scared. I’m going to take you through it step by step.
In my last blog post we walked through performing keyword research, so you should have a great list of keywords in hand. That means it is time to create a rock solid sitemap that can support your targeted keywords and convert your traffic into revenue.
Eleven Steps for Creating a Great Sitemap and Connecting All Those Website Dots
- Perform a Gap Analysis of Your Existing Website – Really, this simply means asking yourself what is missing. We won’t go into specifics here, but when you look at your existing website, what jumps out at you right away. Or more important, what doesn’t jump out at you, but should jump out and grab your attention?
- List Goals and Objectives for the Website – What does the new website need to accomplish? Capture emails for a newsletter, obtain new leads, sell a product, etc.
- Outline Potential Call to Actions and Desired Outcomes of Website Traffic – If you know what you want your website to do, then you should know what you want your visitors to do. Should they sign up for a newsletter, attend a webinar, register for a white paper, request a quote, purchase your product?
- Identify the Path You Would Like Each Persona to Take Once Arriving at the Home Page – An earlier blog post discussed website personas and you can read the post mentioned above to catch up if needed. Since you’ve already documented your personas, consider what information you need to present to get the visitor to perform the desired action you just documented above.
- Develop a List of Functional Requirements – You’ve defined your actions or “what” you want people to do, so you now need to consider the “how” they are going to do it. Do you need a protected directory to house high quality documents, do you need an integrated contact form to register leads, do you need an e-commerce store to sell products?
- Develop List of Visual Requirements – Remember to consider personas here, because different genders, education levels, and personality types respond to images and visual stimulus differently. Do you need custom charts, photos, or buttons? What about a fancy web form?
- Take Inventory – This is the really fun part, because you are probably going through content that is three years old and now that you look back, you realize it isn’t pretty. Go through your existing website and list out all content pages, files, images, and forms that you want migrated to a new website. Don’t forget your web pages should match up to your keyword list.
- Match Content to Personas – Consider your visitor types, the products or services you offer, and what stage in the buying cycle they may be at when visiting. Now consider the inventory you just went through and match up that inventory (pages, files, images) to your personas. Don’t worry; you’re going to have gaps and holes that you need to fill. Just remember to keep looking at your keyword list and keep this in mind as you go through everything.
- Consider New Content Requirements – You just identified new gaps in content you didn’t know you had, so now it’s time to document those gaps so you can address them one by one.
- Develop a Website Outline – We are now creating the sitemap. You were really creating it as you walked through these last few steps, but it is now starting to come together so you can see how the pages and actions fit together to make a cohesive website. Remember, you need to have one page per competitive keyword and those pages need to align with your visitor personas. The pages also need to represent the information visitors need to see and the actions you want these visitors to take upon visiting your website.
- Validate Your Call to Actions – You’ve already done this right? Well maybe. But I want you to go back and make sure. Think about what words you can use that are compelling enough to make someone do that action you desire. Have you given website visitors enough “meat” to make them want to do something? Internet marketing is about give and take. You need to give before you take. So before you ask for that email address, make sure you’ve given your website visitors enough reason to want to give you something in return. If you haven’t, revisit your sitemap and make sure you do.
Note of Caution: Make sure your sitemap has a hierarchy that makes sense to you, visitors, and the search engines. Do not bury content so deep that a visitor needs to click three times to reach it. Keep as much towards the top as possible, while still having a logical flow.
Are you exhausted? You might be, but don’t have despair. Your new sitemap is significantly better than anything you’ve had in the past because you created it with a methodical approach geared towards SEO and converting visitors. This is excellent!
Next we’ll create a wireframe of your home page, but this is another post and another day.