Website planning is one of the biggest steps that you can take to ensuring your success online. Unfortunately, many people get in such a big hurry to build their site that they do not plan what they do. If you're doing this, you are going to have a collection of random articles with no flow, and a mass of keywords that don't really relate well.
Think of your website as a product. Like any product, it needs to have a logical flow that people can follow. If you were writing a book, you would create an outline and there would be a flow that people reading it could follow. This will stick in their minds, and they will remember you the next time they have a problem. However, when most people are building a website they don't follow the same formula.
Look at most websites out there. They are a random conglomeration of articles written to target a keyword, not a customer's need. People often forget the #1 rule to building a website:
Everything you do is about helping customers make a decision to buy a product!
With that in mind, let's look at how to use website planning to engage your customers, and help them choose to buy a product through you.
Before You Start, Create an Outline
The very first thing that I do when I start a new website is a create an outline, much like a book outline. I do this before I even do my specific keyword research ( but after getting ideas from forums and social sites where my customers hang out).
Each "chapter" of my outline becomes a category for my silos. Once I have each of these set up, I find specific keywords to target each one of those silos.
I also choose my products for reviews based on the categories. I find a product that fits each category for my site. This product will get a full review, as well as going into my review table. The product that fits each category will also be promoted on each page within that category.
This creates a logical flow that people can follow as they read my site. It also helps to group specific categories together, and streamlines your link building process, all by doing a little website planning before starting.
How Do You Choose Categories?
One of the steps is to choose the categories that you're going to use when you're engaging in website planning. For this I stop in the forums related to my niche.
Let's look at the Affillorama forum as an example, since we are here. There are categories for content development, choosing affiliate programs, website design, and other specific topics that the users have specific questions about.
This is a great guide for your categories if you were building a make money online site. If there is enough information on each of those topics to warrant a category in the popular forums, then chances are you will find loads of keywords and topics related to the categories that you can write about.
Picking the Right Keywords
Now, once all that is done, it is time to do your keyword research. Rather than looking for keywords that are all "make money online" or"affiliate marketing", you can target keywords that are related to the specific problems that people trying to make money online are facing. Choose 5-6 keywords for each category to start with. You can always go back and get more keywords later, if you decide to add more articles to ramp up into an authority site. You can also add new categories if you want. However, start with a few and build up from there once you are sure the niche is profitable for you.
This works with every other niche well. I have done this with weight-loss sites, dating sites, video game sites, and every other niche that I have been involved in.
When I began a new site, I choose five categories, and write five articles on each category. By choosing five, I can then do five product reviews, and five products on my review table. It also helps when writing the home page. I chose 5 because that is where Affiloblueprint started, but it is up to you how many you want.
Putting your site together
Writing your website home page content should come next. It needs to be an introduction with some basic tips to draw people's attention, and a short summary of each category that the articles will cover. As I get started, I usually do one article for each category, and get them online, as well as a product review table. Once I have that in place,and online, I can start requesting review copies of those products so that I can do the product reviews.
Now, personally, once I get that all set, I do five articles for each category, and each article has a logical flow that ties the whole site together. Once I have the initial 5 articles, I build on my sites one or two articles at a time. I write the articles and build links to them, then go on to the next couple of pages. It helps to build links to one or two pages at a time rather than trying to do a full 30 page website all at once. It helps to keep from being so overwhelmed with building links to all of your pages at once. As I start building links, it is much easier to follow. I can link one link to an article on the site, and one link to the product review related to that article.
As you can see, Spending time on website planning is a crucial aspect of being successful. You don't have to follow the same plan that I use, but using a plan that fits your goals will help you to build your site faster, and it will help visitors navigate your site much easier.
So, as I leave, I want to know what others think. How much time do you spend planning your websites? How much time does it save you? I am interested in seeing what results others have had, so leave a comment below.