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Sitemap Construction for Beginners

The importance of a sitemap

You wouldn't think of going on a vacation trip without a map or guide to refer to but many websites present a rich source of information without a sitemap. Your visitor needs a roadmap of your website if they are going to find what they are looking for and that is the primary job of a sitemap.

By providing your visitors a sitemap you help them to focus on the subject matter of your website. A visitor should have a ready reference to the nuts and bolts of your site which, in turn, will help them to hone in on the subject matter that they are seeking.

Your sitemap is a key element of your website navigation scheme. Every website should have a sitemap that complements and provides a backbone for site navigation.

Consider the frustration that your visitor will experience if they must wade through page after page looking for the desired content. It won't take long for them to grow bored. If your customer can not navigate your site to find what they want, they will go elsewhere. Limit the choices and direct your customers through a thought process.

Building the sitemap

Like a table of contents in a book you should construct your sitemap as an outline of what's inside your website. Constructing a good sitemap takes effort, patience and a thorough understanding of the website. The steps given below show a outline of how to construct a sitemap.

1. Understand the complete scope of the website. Have a clear picture in your mind of the structure of your website and what you are trying to present to your visitors. Draw a diagram of your site and go from there.

2. Find websites which have similar content and view their sitemap. How do they present their sitemap? What type of layout do they use? Are their links arranged in some logical order? Try and answer these questions. Then, take notes to add to your website journal or design model.

3. Make a list of all the main categories that make up your website. Break down the main categories into subsections. These subsections should become your site index or navigation tree.

4. From your subsections break down your pages. Each subsection should follow a particular topic which you will cover in your individual web pages. Group your pages into clusters that cover each aspect of the main topic. This is where your visitors will find the detailed content of your website.

5. Write a short description of each category and sub-category. Add these to your sitemap outline. Your visitor will be able to locate what they are looking for quickly and move deeper into your website.

6. Once you are satisfied with your sitemap build the webpage and upload it to your website.

Use the sitemap as your default page

By using your sitemap as your default page you increase the exposure of your website. By default page I am referring to the error page (i.e. 404page) that is served up when your visitor clicks on a badurl (i.e. broken link). Your webhost should have this feature available to you to modify as you see fit. Use your sitemap as this page and you give a visitor a birds eye view of your whole website.

Use your sitemap for this page and you will get visitors that you otherwise would have missed. Also, your sitemap will help to guide search engine spiders through your website.

Gene DeFazzio is the webmaster and author of the Rocketface(R) Workshop. [rocketface.com no content at this site].

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