Before any line of code is written or design is considered, the proper way to launch a new website for inbound marketing is to determine the pages and subpages required based on keyword research, competitive analysis, and the company’s goals and offerings. This process culminates in the creation of an SEO Keyword Sitemap. SEO professionals use many different tools and processes to create this document, but Excel works just fine.
The purpose of this document is to assign every page on a website an SEO objective. It also helps guide navigation, design and content creation while alleviating bottlenecks in the production and launch stages of the project. The keyword sitemap does not take the place of a wireframe. The three SEO objectives which can be assigned to a page are:
Organically ranking for the page’s primary keyword phrase
Supporting the overall website or section's primary keyword phrase
Supporting the brand name or company name
The process itself is rolled out in phases which are determined by how many levels deep or subpages of subpages are required. Generally, it’s recommended to keep website architecture as flat as possible so to allow the search engine crawlers the easiest path to index the website. The example below shows only one level of the website and the possible keyword phrases to assign with pertinent search data included. Those phrases highlighted in yellow represent the chosen phrase for that page.
The decision to choose a particular keyword phrase for a page can be made by the individual doing the research or a combination of the client and the researcher. Working directly with the client on these decisions however, means less headaches moving forward. Once keyword phrases are chosen it’s time to move to the next level or subpage. The phased process continues until all of the website pages are defined and keyword phrases assigned. See the first image for an example.
You may notice that some of the words chosen have little to no search data. This is because of the other two SEO objectives mentioned above. If there is not a good achievable keyword phrase then choose a phrase or meta convention which supports (includes) the overall website’s primary keyword phrase, the section's primary keyword phrase, or contains the brand or company name.
The SEO Keyword Sitemap merely represents a starting point for SEO. According to SEOmoz, on-page SEO represents no more than 26% of a website’s ability to rank. For some businesses, creating the above keyword sitemap and using it to craft content and meta data conventions is enough to rank on the first page of a search engine. However, those projects are rare and the expectation should remain low for ranking on the first page with just on-page optimization. For more help with SEO download our SEO cheat sheet.