In part one of this series – identifying the demographic – you got a good handle on who will be reading your blog based on your niche and where you social efforts should have the most impact (#protip – you can begin working on building a social following long before you launch your new site – in other words, start now).

The topic of this post is about creating your sitemap and wireframe, but it’s also about beginning to formulate (and organize) your overall marketing and content strategy for the site or blog as well.

What’s a Sitemap?

A site map (in how I’m referring to it here) is simply organizing what “sections” and core features you forsee your new site containing. We’re not concerned with specific post content right now. We’re more concerned with “topics” and core pages.

How you do this is up to you. I learned to do it long before we had nifty mind mapping software, so for years I did it using what I consider an “old school method” so to speak (and for the most part, still do).

BRAINSTORMING YOUR SITEMAP

For me, brainstorming for a sitemap is one part “your ideas for the site”, one part “stalking the competition” and one part keyword research.

You already have some general ideas for content you plan to feature on the site because otherwise you wouldn’t be entering the niche in the first place. I’ve written about how to perform general keyword research before. Now you need to stalk the competition.

I lightly touched on stalking the competition when I wrote about researching a niche (in the “show me the angle” section). You want to see what core sections they have and what core sections you believe they’re missing that you have the ability to effectively do on your own site.

Remember – we’re not going into specific posts at this time. You’re looking for core topics you want (or need) to cover. We’ll get to the part where we strategize specific content (versus topics) and deeper into stalking the competition in a later post.

CREATING YOUR SITEMAP

Nothing complicated here. You open Word and begin listing off the core pages and topics you plan to cover on the site – much like you’d outline a table of contents in a book.

What main topics do you plan to cover? What primary pages will you be creating for the site? What core pages on the site are the most important in regards to driving visitors to them?

If I were doing this for the Sugarrae site, it would look a lot like this:

Home
  > About
  > Blog
      > Administrative (posts about the blog itself or the business)
      > Affiliate Marketing (posts that cover making money with affiliate marketing)
      > Blogging (posts that cover blog building, promoting and content development)
          > Genesis Tutorials (how to do specific things with the Genesis theme)
          > Thesis Tutorials (how to do specific things with the Thesis theme)
      > Entrepreneurship (tips and editorial style posts about running a business)
      > Interviews (interviews with industry experts)
      > Online Marketing (marketing posts that don’t fit into the subsections below)
          > SEO (how to and editorial style posts)
          > Link Development (how to and editorial style posts)
          > Social Media (how to and editorial style posts)
      > Rants in Bitchland (rants relating to any topic I cover on the site)
      > Reviews (reviews of products and services that I find useful)
      > Podcasts (listing of all Sugarrae produced podcasts)
  > Speaking (how to get me to speak at your event and a listing of my speaking gigs)
  > Press (where I’ve been featured and the Sugarrae press kit)
  > Consulting (this will link to PushFire)
  > Toolbox (a place to list all the tools I think will be helpful to my audience)
  > Products (a listing of eBooks, guides or what have you I create for sale)
  > Forums (a paid membership section for advice and more in depth information)
  > Contact
  > Disclaimer
  > Disclosure
  > Privacy
  > Advertise

Each indent signifies that it’s a subsection of the page one level above it. So, in the above example, SEO would be a subsection of online marketing, which is a subsection of the main blog.

The rough idea of why that section will exist is also listed next to it for pages that might not be obvious (we all know what an “advertise” page will contain, but a section on interviews can vary in regards to what it might contain depending on the niche and your intent with it).

You should create a rough sitemap before you ever even think about installing WordPress (or whatever content management system you plan to use), because frankly if you have no idea what you’re going to put on a site, you have no business building one. :)

And if you plan to hire a designer to design your site, they will thank you for doing this – immensely. For the sites I have designed professionally, I usually build out the above sitemap as a hierarchy chart in powerpoint and then print it as a .pdf and send it to the designer. Doing so for the Sugarrae sitemap above would result in the below:

the sugarrae sitemap

This can also be helpful to do for your own reference even if you don’t have a designer, so you can view your sitemap at a glance, in addition to “in detail” in your Word document.

SITEMAPS SHOULD PLAN FOR GROWTH

Keep in mind that a sitemap is not merely “what pages and sections you’ll launch with” – you need to brainstorm for potential future sections if you already know you may eventually add them as well.

For instance, in the Sugarrae sitemap above, you’ll notice there’s a section for “products”, “podcasts” and “forums” – none of which are currently on the site. However, I know they are something I might add at some point, so they’re included in the sitemap.

This way, the sitemap accounts for known “potential future growth ideas” I’m aware I might like to add to the site in the future – so I can incorporate that potential growth into my strategies for site structure and design from the beginning.

UNDERSTAND SITEMAPS HAVE TO BE FLEXIBLE

A sitemap isn’t written in stone, nor do I expect it to be. Creating the sitemap merely gives me a solid direction to follow when creating the site. I could find out that a section “doesn’t work” for whatever reason and decide to axe it a six months in. I could also end up creating a section a year into the site that I didn’t originally plan for. Be organized, but flexible.

What is a wireframe?

A wireframe (in the sense that I’m using it here) is essentially taking your sitemap and putting it into “bare bones” form for a site layout – integrating it with other elements that aren’t part of the sitemap (like AdSense, and email subscription form or social buttons).

A lot of people will pick a site design first and then try and try to get their sitemap and “site priorities” to “fit” into it. IMHO, that’s a mistake. You should create what you need in your site design and then find a theme that replicates that as closely as possible (if you’re not doing a custom design).

CREATING YOUR WIREFRAME

I typically do this in one of two ways (and sometimes both). You can either do this with pen and paper or you can do this by installing a bare bones base theme on WordPress and adding what you need where as far as site navigation and layout on a live site (if you’re not a “boss” with WordPress, I’d go the pen and paper route).

Whatever way you choose, you’ll want to make sure you do one for all your core layout types (for WordPress users, this is typically the home page, internal page, category archive page and post page).

For instance, if I wireframed the Sugarrae home page, it would look like this (I made it a table to save you from my chicken scratch):

Logo and Header

About

Blog

Speaking

Consulting

Toolbox

Products

Forums

Contact

Photo with text PushFire CTA
Email Sub Latest Posts Latest Reviews
As seen in
Stroke walk
Blog categories
Social icons Footer info: Press | Disclaimer | Disclosure | Privacy | Advertise

If I wireframed the individual Sugarrae post page, it would look like this:

Logo and Header

About

Blog

Speaking

Consulting

Toolbox

Products

Forums

Contact

Post title and meta Advertisements
Social sharing icons Email sub
Post content Social icons
Recommended
Social sharing icons Search box
Author bio box Categories
Affiliate ad Recent posts
Related posts Stroke walk
Social icons Footer info: Press | Disclaimer | Disclosure | Privacy | Advertise

Let’s say I want a secondary nav menu to appear with the blog categories if someone is in the blog section (main blog lander, category or an individual post), then it would look like this:

Logo and Header

About

Blog

Speaking

Consulting

Toolbox

Products

Forums

Contact

Admin

Affiliate Marketing

Blogging

Entrepreneur
ship

Interviews

Online Marketing

Podcasts

Rants

Reviews

Post title and meta Advertisements
Social sharing icons Email sub
Post content Social icons
Recommended
Social sharing icons Search box
Author bio box Categories
Affiliate ad Recent posts
Related posts Stroke walk
Social icons Footer info: Press | Disclaimer | Disclosure | Privacy | Advertise

If I’m hiring a designer, this gives him a clear indication of what I want where. If I’m choosing a premade Genesis theme, then I know I need one that has styling for a two column layout, styling for an email subscription box, styling for an author bio and I’m going to need one with widget areas under the post content (or be comfortable enough with code to add them myself).

Knowing what I want on the site and how I want it laid out prevents me from wasting time with a design that isn’t going to “work” in the end. It also will help me create a content strategy of what content I need to launch the site and what content I need to create post launch on a continual basis. It also ensures that I’ve already laid things out with my later expansion plans already in place.

DEFINING YOUR URL STRUCTURE

Once I have the above done, I’m now ready to define how my URL structure will look. If the main page is going to be the blog (a listing of recent posts), then it might look something like this:

blog url structure

If the homepage of the site is going to be a page, with the main blog page as a subsection (like I have it here on Sugarrae), then it might look something like this:

page url structure

(Tip: Wondering how I got the /category/ out of the URLs on my category pages? The Yoast WordPress SEO plugin has a box you can check off to remove them.)

I like logical URL structures. I like the URL flow to mimic the content flow. I’m not a fan of having all the posts off the root (example: blog.com/post-name). I prefer it to follow the same my posts do within the WordPress backend for multiple reasons. This post is in the affiliate marketing category. I prefer that my URL structure reflects that.

Part 3 – Defining Your Brand

Now that you know your demographic and have a sitemap and wireframe laid out, you’re in a much better position to begin planning and shaping the brand and voice that will power your site – which I’ll cover in part 3 – Defining Your Brand (which I’ll hopefully get around to posting sometime early next week).

As always, if you have anything to add or tips to share, drop them in the comments below. :)

Is Pinterest part of your marketing plan?

Check out my recent case study that shows how I generated 234,000+ pins (and counting) to a site with only 45 posts. I give you all the details (with specifics) here.