Are you building a website? Do you have a plan? A basic wire frame? This free Excel spreadsheet is aimed at webmasters taking a common sense approach to website project planning.
It’s helpful to imagine your website as a property – virtual real estate, if you will entertain the analogy. Architects, engineers, surveyors and designers need a blue print or a project plan, and work will usually not commence without such plans.
A Common Point of Reference
The “architecture” of a website is most definitely in the category of web development. Turning your development plans into coherent data provides a means of quick analysis for fellow designers/developers working on the same project.
Dividing responsibilities, monitoring progress and communicating clearly is vital to the success of any project. It’s especially true if you’re outsourcing.
This spreadsheet is Microsoft Excel format. If you don’t have Excel, you might want to try the free Open Office software by Apache.
I successfully opened the Excel .xlsx file using the spreadsheet program bundled with Open Office. The character count formulas I created to measure page title and meta description length were intact.
Most Windows operating systems have Microsoft Office preinstalled. If you don’t have it and you’re looking for a suite of cloud based Microsoft Office tools (which include Excel) try Office 365.
Download the free spreadsheet here (MS Excel)
(Updated December 2017 – new Google meta description max length)
This 10 minute video analyses the spreadsheet and explains each row and column in detail.
By the end of the video you should have gained an understanding of the document and be confident in modifying it.
It may be worth your while taking a few lessons on using Excel. Use YouTube to search for Excel video tutorials.
It’s likely your website will change over the next few years. As priorities evolve so to do the strategies.
The structure and content of a website usually undergoes revisions and those tweaks/changes need to recorded.
- If your page titles change on your website, go change them in the spreadsheet
- If meta descriptions change on a blog posts, make sure those changes are reflected in the spreadsheet also
- Page hierarchy (parent/child structure) can be altered using the colour coded rows
A Quick Breakdown of the Spreadsheet
- New rows are easily inserted in the spreadsheet when pages are added to your website
- Character counts are included (using Excel forumlas) to ensure website page titles/descriptions fall within the recommended length to avoid truncation in search engine results.
- You can quickly look at the running theme of keywords in titles, descriptions and URLs to avoid conceptually disjointed pages
- Uses a recommended colour coded “Silo” structure for search engine spider preferences as well as ideal user experience
The “Silo” Website Structure Explained
The silo structure is a method for organising your website content into specific pages that use a family tree structure. This is similar in principle to the way you would organise a dissertation or academic essay.
There are two types of silo: virtual and physical. The example below is a “virtual” silo.
A “physical” silo uses a hard coded directory structure of folders within folders using topical keywords.
The URL of a physical silo is structured like this:
A physical silo folder structure is recommended if you are building a site with lots and lots of content and pages. But since many small businesses use WordPress today, you will probably not be using physical directories for your content.
You’ll be pleased to know WordPress does support parent and child pages, so you can imitate the physical silo folder directory structure.
The URL of a WordPress URL can structured like this:
Permalink structure for content in WordPress is stored entirely in your SQL database, meaning the URL structure is virtual.
Whatever your URL structure, record it in the URL column in the spreadsheet. It is mentioned in the video.
The spreadsheet has a series of vertical columns. These are resizable if you want expand the columns by clicking and dragging with your mouse cursor.
Titles & Description Length
Keep in mind that page titles and descriptions have a character limit in the search engines.
In other words, when users are browsing results, you don’t want your description so long that it gets truncated just as you’re trying to say something important.
In the worst case scenario amateur webmasters will drop entire paragraphs into meta description tags meaning it is not only cleaved in twain but looks like keyword stuffing from the perspective of search engine algorithms.
If you tweak titles or descriptions on your website, be sure to copy them and paste them into the correct column in the document.
On the subject of titles/descriptions length, I’ll take the opportunity to tell you Excel formulas have been used to calculate the average ideal character length.
Make no mistake: you want your text to come under par instead of running over.
For more information about title tag appearance in search engines, see this handy free Google SERPs title simulator.
The setup of your site is valuable information. Being able to provide such information to other team members makes it easier to work with anyone who may be hired to work on a project.
Consider storing a copy in a shared folder that all team members can access on the fly. DropBox is good for this, and free.
By all means, let your ideas start on the back of a napkin but don’t leave them there. A marketing plan doesn’t just reflect your intentions/plans, it inspires your choices along the way.
Use the tools at your disposal to save time and money. Use this spreadsheet correctly and you’ll thank yourself for doing so in the future.