Diagramming your sitemap is a painless way for search engines to visualize your site, and with so many visual sitemap generators on the market, there's no excuse to go without one. Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed that sitemaps are still a valuable tool for improving your site's search engine rankings. To summarize:
- Yes, please send us sitemap files, preferably sitemap.org XML files!
- Work on good URLs & use them to double-check your site's navigation.
- Optional: Date or change frequency? Depends on how you work.
- Also optional: Priority. Web designers can also use sitemaps for more creative endeavors.
Here are some innovative sitemap techniques that will bring visuals and improve any site's efficiency and organization:
Outline web pages before you design
Once they happen upon a great idea for a website, many people want to jump right into wireframing and mockups. While those are important elements for planning user interaction and user experience, a visual sitemap will strip away all the flashy elements and reveal whether you have a cohesive, well-designed website. A web developer who starts off with information architecture can easily ascertain how many pages he needs, whether he's missing anything crucial, and how fast the site delivers desired content to a visitor.
Think about your website needs
Most sitemaps will indicate exactly how many pages your site has. That number depends on the kind of site you’re publishing. For example, a simple Wordpress blog might have a flat structure with one page per post. A more complex site, like a library website complete with databases and tutorials, will need many more pages. A visual sitemap can help you organize either kind of site.
Sketch out hierarchy and user flow
A website can be incredibly confusing if it’s not designed well. A visual sitemap can help you quickly draw out the structure and flow of your website, so navigation is simple for both you and your visitors. Even if you have limited time to fill out a sitemap, sit down and crank out the top-level items for now. You can always bulk it up in the future.
Outline with conversion in mind
If you want to make money with your website, you’ll need to secure conversions. A conversion can be anything from a product sale to a newsletter sign-up. It’s up to you to determine what constitutes a conversion in your situation. To see if your site is effectively driving conversions, a funnel analysis can come in handy. While you can track this analysis with an analytics platform, a flowchart or a spreadsheet, you can at least get an idea and forecast rates with a visual sitemap. This technique allows a webmaster to predict exactly which pages are most and least effective.
Internal linking & SEO
A visual sitemap can also assist with internal link structures. The map will give you a visual, overall view of your internal linking strategy. A sitemap can help you determine when and where internal links are appropriate. Another simple way to utilize visual sitemaps is to see what keywords you're targeting on each page. If your goal is to make money, increase traffic, or both, effective SEO techniques and keyword targeting should be applied into every webpage you build. With a visual sitemap, you'll be able to determine the quantity and quality of keywords used per page, then comparing their performance and then proceed to identify any pages you would want to rename or better optimize.
Cross-check your perspective
While sitemaps and wireframes are both essential tools for web development, each one represents a fundamentally different perspective. A visual sitemap shows the relationship between pages and provides a clear picture of a site’s content, organization, and navigation. A wireframe actually builds out the flow design of a site. It’s a sketch of the site without robust content, graphics and media, but it ought to include the elements of each page. With a visual sitemap in place, it’s easy to toggle between sitemap and wireframe to make sure you’re building your site's aesthetics in line with what you've outlined and that you're not missing anything. Think of a visual sitemap as your colorful blueprint for the site’s structure; when it’s in place, you can beautify all the aesthetics of it based on your outline.
Make a valuable investment
A visual sitemap generator is an investment that appreciates in value. A thoughtfully created sitemap demonstrates the logic behind your structural decisions and will serve as a guide to future developers, designers, and let you see through the lense of search engines. Remember to continually update your sitemap as you add new elements to your site so that it's always accurate and fresh. Lucidchart offers a free 14-day trial so you can try our simple, collaborative tool risk-free.
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