Just when I think I know Indianapolis, I have to open the maps app on my phone and get directions to somewhere five minutes away. Even when I know the roads, a map confirms and clarifies the best direction to take. Does your website have a map? Or are you running by the seat of your pants without a plan?
Think about your website map like a meeting agenda. It’s the outline of your web pages that leads your visitors from introduction to action. Like an agenda, different types of information will break out into different sections. You might include what you do, how you do it and how to contact you. Different sections like these become your web pages.
Of course, you could spill all of this information at once. Why not put work examples next to your bio? While it’s tempting to just “get it all out there,” too much mixed information will divert visitors down side roads. Keep to an organized agenda and funnel visitors towards their destination: the action you want them to take.
You can make the funnel as long as you like. Some products might require more information and research before a purchase decision. However, most small businesses could write their own website with the following basic map.
Technical Note: I’m talking about a website map, something you could write out on pen and paper or a whiteboard. There’s also something called an XML sitemap that nerds like Larry Page talk about. An XML sitemap is a special file that tells search engine robots about the pages on your site. Ask your web designer about this. If your website is on WordPress, I recommend the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin to generate this special file automatically.
Example of a Basic Website Map
About Us – Write this page like it’s an elevator pitch. No jargon and minimal technical language. Just tell me what you do and why you do it. You are what makes your business different from your competitors. Keep it short, 300 words and a nice picture of you and your team.
Our Products/Services – On a minimal website, the writing here should be even shorter. 100 words is a good length. But make sure to include a good photo gallery of your team at work or professionally taken product photographs. If you have just one product or service, you could spend more words and make it more like a landing page. Whatever the layout, let the pictures do the talking and move visitors to click on a prominent call-to-action (CTA) button.
Contact Us – This is your action page. Include your location or mailing address and phone number. There should also be some option to contact you electronically, either by an email address or through a contact form your visitors can fill out and submit online.
Those three sections of your website should be written, or at least thought out, before you talk to any web designer. I frequently stop small business owners in their tracks because they aren’t ready with this information. A web designer can certainly help you develop this outline, but don’t expect to get wireframes or mock ups until you have a website map.
You might be wondering, “What about the homepage?” That page deserves some special attention. Like your products/services page, I recommend minimal copy with a focus on photography. The idea with the homepage is to get visitors started on the path to contacting you. But don’t worry so much about writing copy for this page on your own ahead of time. Your web designer will have their own ideas about how to lay this out.
Extras – Other features you might want include a sidebar on each page with more information, a blog, and an events calendar. You might also have your products broken out onto individual pages, maybe even with e-commerce integrated so visitors can make purchases online.
This example is definitely a minimal approach. There are 4 maybe 5 pages and about 500 words total. An SEO consultant would have serious concerns about that. For reference, this blog post has 600+ words. You can certainly fit a few choice keywords in that space. But if you want to appear high in search results, you’ll have to demonstrate your expertise with more writing. That’s where an inbound marketing strategy comes in. Continuous blogging will help you build authority on search keywords, while active social media accounts and other tactics will help to drive traffic as well.
What’s your website map like? Where does it lead your website visitors? If you already have a website, map your current content. Get rid of the fluff and go for a simplified path to action. If you don’t have a website, what are you waiting for?