Love yourself. Live with better site maps.
But what’s a site map, you ask? Websites are confusing enough anyways. What makes a site map any different from your drop-down menu? Simple: it’s a visual depiction of what users can find on your site, but gathered in one central location. A good site map is like an outline – or a table of contents. It gives a comprehensive overview in a condensed format so that it doesn’t overwhelm the reader. At the same time, a site map still provides access to all the different parts of the website.
Site Maps Help Behind the Scenes of Your Website
Behind the scenes, the site map makes it easier for your website design team to locate the different parts of your website. Programming takes time and work; a list of links, not so much. It’s organized, concise, and efficient. And what’s useful for your design team is generally also useful for other people! Improving accessibility is a thoughtful touch that many people appreciate and will continue to associate with your company in an age where most people are lower on both time and money.
Specifically for your user base, site maps are advantageous for visual learners, search engines, and people who are more comfortable with this sort of design. And while we would never encourage keyword stuffing, it does bump up your SEO, making it easier for your customer base to find your website. And that, dear friendo, is what we here at Dominate With SEO are all about.
What makes for a good site map?
A Reliable Site Map Provides Organizational Perspective
So you had all these ideas for things you absolutely had to have on your website. But how do they connect and relate to each other? Do you have duplicates? Could you and your designer put these functions together and make your website more user-friendly? How many archives do you really, truly need? And why did we even have that page in the first place?
There is such a thing as too much condensing. Maybe you do actually need all those webpages. But you are just not going to know until you break it all down and organize them. The same way you don’t know what you’re spending your money on until you make a budget, you’re not going to know what you’re spending your time on – and asking your users to spend their time on – until you make a map.
A Usable Site Map Is Necessary to Navigate a Large Website
There’s one thing that’s guaranteed: as your company grows, so will your site. If you don’t already have a place to collect and collate them, all you’ll have is a tangled mess. And nobody wants that.
It doesn’t have to be the most detailed thing in the world, but as long as you can access everything that’s on your website from your site map, then you’ve done a good job. You’ll have room to expand, and that’s one of the more important things in life, right? That’s what we’re told, at least.
A Valuable Site Map Provides Metadata
What’s metadata, you ask? Metadata is the basic information about a webpage: when it was last updated, how often the webpage gets changed, and the importance of the webpage relative to other webpages. This information might not be super interesting to your user base, but it’s the most interesting thing in the world to search engine web crawlers.
Good site maps make it easier for computer programs to read your website. They don’t need the visual display; they just need the information in a stackable, easily processable format. When it’s easier for the web crawlers to read your website, it’s easier for them to understand how vital your website truly is. Then they can take it to the top of the search listings. The harder it is for them to process your website, the more likely it is that they’ll miss important webpages. And that would be tragic! Just tragic!
Things a Site Map Should Not Be
We’ve talked about the things a site map should be, so now it’s time to talk about the things a site map should most decidedly not be. Avoid these pitfalls.
A Good Site Map Should Not Be Pretty
A good site map shouldn’t be pretty, unless you really do want to put in the extra effort to make it so. While aesthetics have their purpose, it’s not here. Ultimately, a site map’s purpose is function, not form. Think of it as a well-structured bookcase. It’s good for a bookcase to be clean-cut and presentable, but the focus isn’t the bookcase. The focus is on the books inside. And if they aren’t filed correctly, you’ll never find anything.
Remember: function over form, and you should be as good as gravy.
An Effective Site Map Should Not Be About Your Company’s Organizational Structure
So you’re looking at your first site map, and you realize – this has nothing to do with the way your website is actually organized. It’s more like a map to your company. That’s information that doesn’t need to be in the public sphere. And even if it does, it isn’t super helpful for navigating your website.
It is completely legitimate to organize your website differently from your company. They’re different things, after all. Your website is a presentation of your company to the world outside, and the world outside needs different things than you do. Focus on what people looking at your website need, and your site map won’t be a confusing distraction.
Remember: a site map is about your website, not your company itself and the organization of the site map is more important than the appearance or aesthetics.
Need help with creating a site map for your website? Worried you’ll muck it up and the function will fall out from under your site map? Fear not: Dominate With SEO is here to help. Contact us and we can help you get that information organized ASAP.