How To Make a Sitemap: Keywords and Catapult Safety Tips

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Andy Crestodina

Somewhere out there, someone is planning a website. They’re organizing possible pages into an outline or a flowchart. In other words, they’re making a sitemap. They are about to make a dozen little decisions that will have a huge impact on results. What are they thinking?

  1. It might be nice to include these pages  …or…
  2. This sitemap will have sets of pages which both target specific SEO keyphrases and create a flow that gently guides visitors toward conversion.

Let’s hope it’s the second option. If it is, this is how they’ll balance sitemap keywords with visitor perception. Here’s an example of how to make a sitemap that gets both traffic and conversions: Carl’s Historic Archery Centre.

Make a sitemap for visitors (conversions) and SEO keywords (traffic)

First, let’s look at four types of pages that will make up the website navigation and how they work with human visitors and search engine robots:

Page / Section Visitors’ perception Keywords (SEO / Robots)
1 Home Page “I see what you do.” Primary Keyphrase
2 Blog Posts “I see what you think.” Tangent / Lifestyle Keyphrases
3 Service / Product Pages “I see how you do it” Secondary Keyphrases
4 ‘About’ Section “I see what you believe.”
5 Contact Form/ Checkout “That was easy!”


Carl’s Historic Archery Centre sells bows and arrows to people who love to recreate medieval battles. You can see how various pages on Carl’s sitemap are doing different jobs, appealing both human visitors and to search engine robots.

Home Page

  • What you do is communicated within one to two seconds.
  • Visitors think: “I see that this website is a resource for medieval archery.”
  • Targets the primary keyphrase, a phrase that summarizes the business offering or category. Ideally, the phrase has high search volume and low competition.
    Example keywords: “medieval archery supplies

‘About’ Section

  • Why you do what you do comes through in your core beliefs, your personality, and your people. Be human. No one cares what you know until they know that you care. Right?
  • Visitors think: “Carl really loves historic warfare. He’s believes replicas of historic weapons should be as authentic as possible.”
  • These pages will get a lot of traffic, but not from search. Don’t worry about SEO here. Just be yourself!

Service and Product Pages

  • What exactly you offer is shown in detail here. Answer all visitors’ questions. Provide as much information as possible, but make it easy to take action.
    Visitors think: “This is a very accurate reproduction crossbow. I understand how it differs from others. I can imagine how I would use it.” Here’s an example of website navigation best practices.
  • Target very specific phrases. It’s almost impossible to target a phrase too specific.
    Example keywords: “historic crossbows,” “longbow strings,” “poison tip arrows.” Here’s an example of SEO best practices.

Blog Posts

  • Educate, inform, and demonstrate expertise by helping people with advice on topics they care about.
    Visitors think: “I didn’t know that about battering rams. That is the right way to load a catapult. This website is very useful for people like me.”
  • Topics and keyphrases that relate to visitors’ broader interests or lifestyle. These phrases may seem irrelevant to your business, but they’re important to your target audience. Example keywords “how to string a bow,” “catapult safety tips”

You can see how various pages target various phrases that are more or less relevant to Carl’s business. Although some phrases (and pages) are less relevant, they can still be powerful magnets for traffic.


Now let’s take a look at how these pages work together, attracting visitors and guiding them toward becoming leads and customers.

This sitemap actually looks like a sideways funnel, with search traffic coming in from the left, and visitors converting into leads on the right.

Not all pages will rank and get search traffic. That’s fine. Many will. That means that not all of the visitors start on the home page. When many pages are optimized to rank, there are many entry points into the site.

“Your home page is just another landing page.” -Lee Odden (click to tweet)

Traffic and Conversion Strategy

A well-planned website attracts visitors with helpful, informative content (blog posts), then engages them with content that solves specific problems (product/service pages), and finally guides them toward the contact or checkout form (conversion page) and the thank you page.

On a great sitemap, keywords and usability work together to attract visitors and guide them through the site. This is why at Orbit, we research keyphrases before making a sitemap.

Next time you find yourself planning a website, aim that bow at both visitors and keywords. Traffic and conversions both begin with the sitemap!

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Comments (10)
  • Another home run, Andy. Thank you. 

    •  @angriestmaninadvrtising Glad if this was useful. Makes you think differently about sitemaps, doesn’t it?
      Another tip (it’s not in the post but maybe it’s obvious): the navigation itself should use target keywords. There are a ton of websites with a “products” or “service” section. This does nothing to tell search engines and visitors what’s inside. Don’t be generic. Be specific! 🙂

  • Now this is an example of some evergreen content. Great job!  Another page that might get traffic from both bots and people is the FAQ page.

    •  @KyleAkerman Absolutely! If the FAQ are truly “frequently asked” they’re probably phrases people are typing into search engines. If you’re serious about ranking your FAQ section, each question should get its own page…

  • Thanks Andy! Can’t wait to share with clients during the sitemap/SEO phase!

  • I am meeting with new clients today and am going to share this post with them as we are embarking on a redesign of their site. Very simply explained, and documented…thanks Andy!

    •  @stepbrightly Glad to hear it, Lisa!
      I would use this with my clients, except that it’s really only relevant to archery companies…

      •  @crestodina There are a lot of Game of Thrones fans lurking out there that would appreciate it as well.

  • how do you let google know where the visitor sitemap is located?

  • Hi Andy! I’m starting my first website, & reading this just In time. Thank you!

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