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Guide to Content Planning Part 1: Sitemaps

Guide to Content Planning Part 1: Sitemaps

Guide to Content Planning Part 1: Sitemaps

Welcome to our Guide to Content Planning. Making the move to a new shopping cart isn’t easy, but this guide aims to remove some of the major pain points of an E-Commerce Migration by teaching preparedness.

In this series we’ll focus on best practices for understanding, organizing, and preparing your content for a migration between e-commerce platforms, or as we call it: Content Planning.

Content Planning

Content planning is one of the most vital steps to an e-commerce migration. Your content is what helps you make sales, so taking the time to familiarize yourself with your content and how it’s structured will make for an overall smoother migration process. That’s the core goal of Content Planning: knowing your content well enough that it makes the transition to a new e-commerce platform as worry-free as possible. Now that you understand the importance of Content Planning, below is a brief summary of the 4 steps involved in the process:

  1. Sitemaps: You’ll begin your adventure in Content Planning as any good journey should: with a map! A Sitemap to be exact. These sitemaps will be used to help you understand the way your site content is currently structured.
  2. Content Audit: You’ll then use Sitemaps to build a strategic plan for which content to Keep, Revise, or Remove, through a process we call a Content Audit.
  3. Content Inventory: Any content that makes the cut will then go into a Content Inventory. This inventory will act as a checklist during your migration process to ensure your content and its requisite data makes the transition to your new e-commerce platform.
  4. Product Architecture: Finally, as an e-commerce company, you’ll take the extra step of detailing your product-specific data through the creation of a document we call your Product Architecture.

Phew!

We know that’s a lot of information to take in at once, but don’t worry, we’ll break down each step in further detail over the course of this series! First up: Sitemaps!

Sitemaps

If you’ve been running your store long enough, or if you simply offer a large enough selection of products, you’ll likely have more pages of content in your site than you’d expect. To better understand the characteristics and breadth of your website’s content we look to what are known as Sitemaps.

Sitemaps are essentially lists or charts of a website’s URLs that act as a virtual inventory of its content. They can vary in scope and design, offering you flexible ways to organize and streamline your Content Planning efforts. We’ll cover the various types of Sitemaps found useful in Content Planning.

Technical Sitemap

Technical Sitemap Example

One type of Sitemap you may have familiarity with is an XML Sitemap, which is a document built mainly to assist search engine robots, such as Google’s with crawling your website’s content. Creating an XML Sitemap is a great starting point in understanding the amount of content which currently exists on your site. For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to XML Sitemaps as Technical Sitemaps.

So how exactly do we go about building a Technical Sitemap? You could crack open your favorite text editor and start manually crawling your site, carefully constructing your Sitemap from scratch. You can also play music by shooting a laser at a mirrored surface, but it’s not 1998 anymore, and we aren’t masochists. If you are, there are like-minded individuals that can help you. In this guide, we’ll look to far faster and simpler methods!

As an e-commerce business owner, you likely already use a platform that automatically generates a Technical Sitemap for you. Our e-commerce solution of choice is of course, Shopify, which touts this very feature. All a Shopify owner needs to do to find their Technical Sitemap is add “/sitemap.xml” to the end of their domain name. You can test it here on growthspark.com, right now! Note that our site’s structure generates a main Sitemap that actually links to two separate Sitemaps, following either of those links will reveal a more commonplace Technical Sitemap. Similar URL tricks may work for other e-commerce platforms, but if not, there are other options at our disposal.

Google Site Search Example
If your site is on the smaller side you can use some Google-fu to do a Google search that will reveal all the pages being indexed by search engines. To do so just load up Google and perform a ‘site:DOMAIN’ search, where DOMAIN is your site’s domain (i.e. growthspark.com) and you’ll see results such as these. As you’ll likely notice, this quickly becomes an untenable solution for sites with more than a few dozen pages and would still require you to manually compile the information on hand.

The most foolproof method is to use an external Technical Sitemap tool, which are e-commerce platform agnostic and proven to deliver results regardless of the scope and quantity of your site’s pages. If you’re looking for an online solution, we recommend Online XML Sitemap Generator. It’s free and it does what it says on the tin: generates XML Sitemaps.

If you prefer local software then Screaming Frog offers a Windows/Mac application called SEO Spider that can generate Technical Sitemaps amongst other SEO-focused tools. SEO Spider is free for domains with less than 500 URLs, anything beyond that will require a paid license good for a year of use.

Visual Sitemap Example

As you can see, Technical Sitemaps are a great way to explore the size and scope of your site’s content, but they aren’t as useful when it comes to deciding on the content that’s worth keeping. In Part 2 of our Guide to Content Planning we’ll explore Visual Sitemaps, like the one shown above. We will discuss Visual Sitemaps and their usefulness in conducting Content Audits.