You’ve just purchased land to build a mini-mall. What crucial step must take place, before you even pick up a shovel?

YOU NEED A BLUEPRINT.

Without a properly laid-out plan, your building is doomed to fail before you even begin. And what does this have to do with your website? We tend to eagerly jump into projects without proper thought as to what our goals are. By crafting a well-executed sitemap, you can ensure that your website’s design is practical, beautiful, functional, and goal-oriented.

WHAT’S A SITEMAP?

A sitemap is an outline of the basic layout and functionality of your website. There’s no right or wrong format to use when site-mapping, but there are a few crucial rules and regulations your design team should be cognizant of when site-mapping.

Most web designers will subdivide the site-mapping process into 8 stages:

1:  Decide on key priorities for your

Do you have the time, resources and availability to create a multi-dimensional site? Examine this honestly with your website team. Prioritize the degrees of functionality, beauty and interactivity of your website.

2:  Brainstorm your basic content

Have you ever written a pamphlet? A company guidebook or mantra? Aggregate all of your business’ content and come up with an overall picture of what you’d like you site to portray about your vision, values, and team. This step is where you ensure your Information Architecture (IA) is organized: meaning whatever content you’d like to feature is readable and logical.

3: Determine your primary navigation

The “Primary Navigation” of your site is the key to the map: most websites divide content into categories like “Home”, “About Us”, “What We Do”, “Projects” and “Contact Us”. These overall categories keep your website organized and readable. The lucky number of primary navigations is between 5-9 headers.

4: Outline your second and third levels of content  

Take each of your primary navigation categories and break it down further. For example, in your “About Us” section, you could have links to a “When we started” page, “Our vision and values” page, “Meet the Team” page, etc. Those pages can contain additional pages as well. In essence, this is where the “mapping” takes place.

5: Determine which utility pages are necessary

A legal disclaimer is almost always necessary, and additional utility pages are determined by industry. Work on these pages early on so they don’t hold you up close to your websites launch date.

6: Write notes/define expectations for each page, both functionally and aesthetically

Now that you have the content, decide on the User Experience and User Interface (UX & UI) you’d like visitors to have on your site. Write notes of what you’d like each page to feel like and what message it should contain.

7: Choose your design

This is the fun part: make it LOOK GOOD! Decide on a color scheme, logo, effects, and the overall feeling. Should the buttons be large or small? Should the images slide or shuffle? Do you want to add video? At this point, your website designer can already begin prototyping and wire-framing the site.

8: Rehash (ongoing)

Nothing is ever a finished product, especially continuously updated websites. A/B testing your site is a great way to determine the greatest UX for your visitors! Invite as many professionals and laymen as you know to review your site and give you constructive feedback. Keep perfecting it!

 

SEO Tips

Each day competition is vying for all of the same eyeballs as you, and each day every one of those competitors is using every trick in the book to win. From competitive PPC to aggressive backlink building, businesses with money to spend are doing everything they can to drown out your website. Your best bet to outmaneuver them, without going into debt, is assuring your site is optimized and ready to be properly indexed.

In the past, SEO marketing firms could strategically horseshoe some targeted keywords into the copy on your site and get decent results. Some consistent but not particularly valuable blog content could also go a long way. These days search engines know their way around these tricks and will reward sites for the value of their content, a solid user experience, and a variety of other subtle and not so subtle “ranking factors.”

While the tricks that were once used can no longer help you, there are some simple best practices you could enact today to guarantee your site is getting the best organic rankings possible. Let’s check out nine ways you can improve your site immediately:

  1. Freshen Up Your Content
    Users cannot stand out of date content and neither can search engines. By updating your content regularly you can keep users engaged and attract the search engine crawling spiders to index your site more regularly. Add content about current deals, seasonal hours, and new products to keep things up to date!
  2. Category Specific RSS Feeds
    By allowing users to subscribe to category specific RSS feeds you encourage them to visit the site only when content of some intrinsic value to their interests comes up. As a result they will spend more time on the site and offer the kind of valuable traffic that search engines love to see. WordPress users can find an easy to install category specific RSS feed plugin.
  3. Proper Anchor Text
    Appropriate anchor text for links is a great way to let Google and other search engines know what you are talking about. When possible avoid posting links using text like “here” or “click now” and instead incorporate the kinds of descriptive text that lets users know exactly what they are clicking into.
  4. Subdirectories > Subdomains
    Whenever possible it is best to keep your content on your site’s primary subdomain. While many have experimented with adding new subdomains, and some have even eked out minor victories in doing so, content tends to have the most value to a site when it is added in subdirectories on the same URL.
  5. Optimize Your Images
    Images make a site pop visually for users but to search engine crawlers they are unreadable data without proper tagging and descriptions. That means every untagged photo on your site, as well as any video, is a missed opportunity. In order to make sure each image is properly indexed, add keywords, alt text, and detailed descriptions that explain exactly what the image is showing and how it might be valuable to a user.
  6. Keep Links Search Engine Friendly
    Permalinks on your site should avoid characters like &, !, @, *, etc. These can be helpful shorthand in communicating between people but to search engines are tiny red flags that suggest spam.
  7. Hyphens In URLs
    Underscores (_) should not be anywhere near your website’s URLs. Instead break words up with hyphens(-) allowing them to be more readable to users and more inviting to search engine crawlers. Keep those URLs as descriptive and brief as possible for maximum effectiveness.
  8. Smarter Internal Linking
    Internal linking can be helpful and can invite users to explore more of your website. When appropriate, link to relevant items inside of your site. If, for example, while writing a page about your carpet cleaning services you mention your company’s carpet restoration services it is helpful to link to a page detailing those offerings. Of course the most important thing is that all internal links are relevant and helpful to consumers.
  9. Using Nofollow Tag
    Not all of your website’s pages are intrinsically valuable to users. A “thank you” page on a sales site for example offers no true help to your site’s SEO and in some cases can drag things down by seeming superfluous to search engines. Tagging these pages with rel=”nofollow” will inform search engines to ignore these internal pages when crawling your site and considering your page ranks.

For small businesses trying to get a leg up without putting too much money into their site, the methods mentioned above are a great way to begin better SEO tactics.

SEO is and always will be a moving target. While following all of the above tips and tricks can make a huge impact on your site today, each could be called into question or further refined down the line. Your best defense is getting regular site audits from accredited web marketers with a sturdy understanding of the latest developments in SEO best practices.

Interested in auditing your site’s search engine friendliness or your marketing on the Internet in general, our team of marketing experts would love to help! Give us a call or send us a message today!