Real SMB IT: Web Site Improvements; The Site Map

November 18, 2009

This post is the next in an intermittent series looking at your smaller business web site from a marketing perspective –  When you don’t have marketing staff!

This series started with this post, IT In Marketing? here and covers looking at real world web site improvements that SMB’s can make that don’t require major work or extensive help from experts. Stuff that can be typically done by a smaller business either by themselves, or in some cases just basic tech staff assistance.

In the previous post in this series, I wrote about the importance of adding a Site Map to your Web Site. That post also links to a full definition of what a Site Map actually is, and what it does as well.

I wanted to dig deeper into this topic for one reason; When it comes to a Site Map on your Web site, you actually want two of them!

Your Web Site is collection of pieces of content broken down into various pages. These pages could include Contact Us information, products and services you provide, case studies The works. That can be a lot of content scattered over many web pages. These site maps simply ensure that it is easy for visitors to find the information and content that they are looking for. Because if they don’t find it quickly, odds are that they will just go to the next web site.

The first Site Map; For Humans

The first Site Map that you create is for those of us in the human category. It is simply a hierarchical set of links that ensure that people that are on your Web Site don’t get lost. If they find themselves in unknown territory and get lost trying to find the information they were looking for, the site map is a quick way to ensure that they stick around.

Similar to a table of contents, the site map is a link that when a user clicks on it, takes them to a page that gives a quick summary of all content, and the links to all that content on your Web Site, it could look similar to this;

About YourCompany

* Overview
* News
* Our Philosophy
* Why Choose Us
* Our Staff
* Careers

Services & Solutions

* Overview
* Product_name
* Solution_Name

I am confident you have seen those type of links along the side, or bottom of other web sites. Again, need a quick check of where you are in that web site? The above sample tells you quickly and easily.

The Second Site Map; For Computers

More specifically, this second Site Map is a computer readable format that allows the search engines to quickly and efficiently index all the content that exists on your Web Site. You want to ensure that all content is properly indexed so that if some one searches the Internet for; “Who sells this widget in my town?” your information can appear in their search results.

This second map looks a little different, and after you create it, humans don’t see it. The data for this machine readable site map is in a data format called XML and sits in a file called Sitemap.xml right at the root of your Web Site.

This XML site map can be created manually (ugg) but there are also tools that can do it automatically for you. Note that the tool I used to generate this sample is shown in the second line below.

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″ ?>
– <!– Created by Devintelligence.com Sitemap Generator
–>
– <urlset xmlns=”http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84″&gt;
– <url>
<loc>http://www.yourcompany.com</loc&gt;
<lastmod>2009-11-06</lastmod>
<changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
<priority>0.5</priority>
</url>
– <url>
<loc>http://www.yourcompany.com/about_news.asp#27Oct08</loc&gt;
<lastmod>2009-11-06</lastmod>
<changefreq>hourly</changefreq>
<priority>0.5</priority>
</url>

As you see, this one is not pretty! but again, once you create it and place it on the root of your web site, humans won’t actually see it. The only time the you need to see it is if you add new pages to your web site, make sure the the site map gets updated as well.

The SMB Takeaway

For the human readable site map, you will most likely need the help of your web site developer, the second you can do yourself very easily.

The two of them together ensure that all content on your web site can easily be found, by people, or by computers!

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