Before we write a single line of code for a new website, we need to be really clear on where we’re trying to take this in the long term. We need a really clear sitemap that might not all be created before the site goes live but certainly provides a clear sense of direction for how this is going to evolve over time.

There are two distinct elements to this – the first is from a user experience point of view – what do we want people to do on the website and how are we going to get them to do it? The second is from an SEO perspective. Now to some extent these two things overlap, and with every year that’s gone by the degree tow which th they overlap has become greater and greater – we used to have all sorts of battles between SEO experts and UX experts.

Thankfully those times are changing and there’s an ever increasing overlap, so I’ll just give a very quick example. Let’s imagine we run a gym chain. The home page will naturally target certain keywords, and if we run a number of different locations then presumably we’re going to have a number of pages that each target those different local terms. Perhaps we might have a page for Chisqick that targets terms like “gym in chiswick” or “ladies gym in chiswick” or “budget gym in chiswick”. However, there are almost certainly going to be terms that it doesn’t cater to in any great detail. For example, maybe someone in Chiswick is searching for “yoga classes” and perhaps the gym does offer yoga classes but it might be 1% of what the gym does and therefore cluttering up the user experience with details of the yoga classes doesn’t necessarily make sense. On the other hand there’s no harm in getting that traffic and maybe we offer really good yoga classes and it’s something we want to be doing of more in the future, so we still want to be getting the attention of those people making that search query but we just don’t want it interfering with the primary user experience. So in that case we might create a separate landing page targeting yoga classes in Chiswick with really rich content about the instructor and the different types of yoga taught, and other information that’s going to add to the UX, but this is a separate page and not something that forms part of the primary user experience.

Now as you can imagine, doing this for some businesses can result in vast sitemaps. Some businesses that have hundreds of different products and services or different locations served, and with all the different variables and combinations of those things, you can end up with sitemaps that are thousands of pages large, so it’s not always practical to think that they’re all going to be created before the site goes live, but it is important that you have a sense of where you’re going to take this in the long term.

You may also want to consider searches that represent people earlier on in the sales funnel, so rather than just focusing on those who are ready to buy, we might want to target people as well who are earlier on in their decision making process. For example, rather than someone searching for “gym chiswick”, it might be more a case of targeting people searching for educational material on nutrition or exercise generally. This is really important as we want to be capturing this data and building these relationships. Now with pages like this we may decide that they belong more appropriately within a blog or resources section and we don’t necessarily need to create them before the site goes live and rather they’re going to form part of a broader content strategy, Again, it’s just so important, as with all of this, that we have a really clear sense of where we’re trying to take this architecture in the long term so that we don’t create any obstacles for ourselves in the short term.