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Why Successful Sites Start with Spreadsheets

A website that is founded on a marketing and strategic thought process mapped out on the basic Excel spreadsheet will achieve more and will give your business the flexibility you need online to get traffic and conversions.

As a digital agency, we design and build a lot of websites for our clients.

And as an SEO and Content Marketing agency, we have to overcome the obstacles that other web developers inadvertently set up in many websites to make any future digital marketing campaign extra challenging.

And, to be honest, we love the odds.

This is because most websites are built by developers, or development companies, who are passionate about code but have little knowledge or interest in marketing and sales.

Don't have your website built by techies, for techies - put marketing people in charge! Click To Tweet

On the other hand, as we are business-marketing people, our passion lies in salesmanship marketing, and we love the preparation and the application of solid marketing plans to the architectural structure of the websites we build – long before we even think of the designs and long before we even start to build.

And in my experience, this gives us (and our clients) the edge.

And when it comes to any planning process, even marketing plans, spreadsheets are the language of business people and of serious planning.

So let’s talk spreadsheets and let me show you the most important spreadsheets you should consider before you try to find a designer or a developer for your next site.

The Keyword Research Spreadsheet

This is probably the most important spreadsheet you will need, and this is where the story of your new website should really start.

From this spreadsheet we develop all other planning and mapping spreadsheets you will need and, in almost every case, I have seen it evolve into a few huge unexpected benefits for my clients:

  1. It focuses everyone’s mind on what the customer really wants, which is always a good way to start any marketing project – including a website.
  2. It helps us all focus on core USPs and copy strategy for the site as a whole.
  3. It guides us all as to which pages are really needed on the site in terms of Landing Page mapping.
  4. It also helps us discover and discuss the pages that will be used as an integral part of your content marketing and blog strategy. I see too many developer-led websites where the traffic-generation power of those secondary or tertiary pages that support each of your Landing Pages have been forgotten about or underestimated.
  5. It helps us map out the sales strategy of the site – and strangely enough, for the more successful sites it is not all about online sales but more about relationship-building for the long term.
Keyword Research Spreadsheet

The Keyword Research Spreadsheet is the basis of any SEO-optimised website.

When you commission in-depth keyword research for your new site, you should get a spreadsheet of hundreds (if not thousands) of keywords organised across many tabs and, in each tab, it should be organised into lots of specific groupings. And next to each phrase should be the search volume, which tells you how many people used that search term in search engines.

The Primary Navigation Strategy Spreadsheet

The first outcome of the Keyword Research Spreadsheet is to help you build your primary navigation spreadsheet.

Basically, by grouping keywords together into major categories we start to see the very rudimentary bird’s-eye view of your site structure and page mapping.

For example, if you specialise in safari holidays, then one possible main category breakdown might be by country. If this were the case, then the priority navigation in the header of your website would be your country pages.

But beware of making false or quick assumptions. I have been carrying out keyword research for over 15 years and I am still amazed at how often keyword research takes us somewhere the client was not expecting and reveals opportunities that they were not aware of.

Keyword research can bring amazing business opportunities that you weren't even aware of. #SEO Click To Tweet

And in the cases where the client has let keyword research lead them to new opportunities, the results have been stunning.

The Priority Landing Page Spreadsheet

At this point, it is very important to note a very common phenomenon. Your primary navigation path pages might not be your priority Landing Pages. In fact, they rarely are. However, this is where so many of our clients get led astray by developer-led websites.

Again, here are usually unexpected surprises that often end up offering far more profitable opportunities to our clients.

Let’s stay with our example of the safari holidays. In many cases, while the country might be the primary navigation of the site, they are not the best pages to designate as Landing Pages. In many cases, the keyword research might show us that a subsidiary page of a particular country – for example, honeymoon safaris in South Africa or family safaris in Namibia – might be more important than the South Africa page or the Namibia page of your site.

This is massively important because budgets are always limited and we need to know in advance which are the best key phrases to rank for – and, to do so, we need the site infrastructure to be properly mapped out in advance so that we can take advantage of the more profitable opportunities.

Budgets are limited, so find out in advance which are the best key phrases to rank for. #SEO Click To Tweet

However, I still see so many developer-led websites where it is evident that this was not properly thought through in advance, nor properly mapped out. The resultant sites are simply not able to be flexible enough to cater to this type of marketing-led thinking.

Content Mapping Spreadsheet

Creating primary Landing Pages is very important.

However, I have been finding over the past few years that the promotion of these pages is becoming increasingly competitive, which means that larger SEO and PPC budgets are required to maintain good positions.

But it gets worse! I am also finding that even when maintaining good positions for our clients with ever larger budgets, Google is simply not generating the same volume of traffic to our clients’ websites as it used to.

Thus, with higher costs for lower traffic numbers, we need to implement new strategies for traffic generation at more sensible costs.

Enter Content Marketing! And enter the Content Mapping Spreadsheet!

For this work, we need to create a spreadsheet of phrases that people are typing in where we can provide good and relevant content in the form of an onsite article or as part of your onsite business blogging programme.

An unexpected and profitable outcome of this spreadsheet is that this will also form the foundations of your social media content programme. But more of this later.

Let’s look at some examples: if our keyword research tells us that there is a nice little pocket of people searching for “safari honeymoon ideas for July”, we would not want to send them to your home page, or any of your country pages, or even to your honeymoon safaris page (if you had one).

Instead, you could map out in your Content Mapping spreadsheet that an important key phrase is “safari honeymoon ideas for July” and, in the “placement” column next to the key phrase column, you could enter “blog post”. Then, when it came to writing this post, you could talk about how Southern Africa would be wet during these months and, as a result, you can tell your readers about some of the great honeymoon safari ideas you have to offer in the warmer northern climes.

Useful stuff. Great for generating lots of very targeted, long-tail traffic at very low cost.

The more of these types of content you create and feature on your site, the more opportunities you have of being found by very specific groups of people all over the internet who are asking very specific questions in Google and in social media; and, the more of this traffic and exposure you generate, the more business you can get.

The more #content you create, the easier it is to be found by very specific groups of people. Click To Tweet

The Key Phrase Focus Spreadsheet

The next one is a little less exciting but equally valuable.

In this document, we now need to list every page that will be in your future site. For each page, we need to decide if it will have a key phrase focus (don’t forget that each page has to have a different key phrase focus).

For each page, we then need to write a title of about 60 characters that says what the page is about, along with a short sharp description of the page (with or without a key phrase focus).

And while you are about it, don’t forget that the titles and descriptions are what readers will see if that page gets ranked, so don’t forget to put your best foot forward and write both of them with the best salesmanship that you can muster, including some of your best USPs.

It is a very long and rather thankless job, but this is what is going to encourage people to click through to your site when your pages get ranked in Google and other search engines.

The 301 Redirect Spreadsheet

Last but not least, the most irritating job in the world is the preparation of the 301 Redirect spreadsheet.

Basically, when you are reworking your site, much will change from old to new. For example, your old site usually has a huge number of pages that will not exist on your new site; or your product and other important pages will have different URLs; or you will have one new page that consolidates two old pages.

There are many such scenarios for change. Nevertheless, if you don’t make them official by notifying Google and other search engines, then, in essence, your site and your important pages will be considered as brand new. This means that they will start with zero SEO assets. And this will mean that you will have to start your SEO all over again as if you were just born yesterday.

To keep your SEO assets and maintain those rankings that were doubtless expensive and hard won, the 301 Redirect Spreadsheet helps you tell Google that, while you are dressed differently, it is still the good old you.

Don't underestimate the importance of the 301 redirect sheet to keep your #SEO assets. Click To Tweet

Now, I know I started this section saying that this is the most irritating job – well, I meant it. It is also a job that can take many days to get right and most of the time we will be trying to decide where, if Page A on the old site does not exist any more, in the new site you would like that page to point to. The home page? One of the category pages? A blog post? Trying to make these decisions is nerve-racking and, when you have hundreds or hundreds of thousands of these pages, it can frazzle even the most brazen of SEOs.

But it is important.

Something Very Different

Remember how further up I spoke about how this process delivers all sorts of unexpected benefits to the marketing team?

While it can, and usually does, take many days of work, meetings and planning over a period of a month or two before you can even start to think about looking for designers and developers, this will generate a much more powerful website for your business. You will be amazed at how differently it will look from what you would have to live with if your site were developer-led.

It would be night and day… with yours being day!


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