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Consolidated SiteMap

However, it is worth noting that this approach goes further than just category > sub-category > product. By thinking about main content and supplementary content, a product is just as likely to qualify as main content as a category. The question is more about which topics consumers want us to elaborate on to help them make choices. Some clear opportunities already stand out to create content and rank via rich snippets.

People want to know how whiskey is made, what different varieties exist, and of course, whether it’s spelled ‘whiskey’ or ‘whisky’. This could be the beginning of a business case to create a whiskey tasting guide or a ‘history of whiskey’ content hub on the site. From here, we can dig into some of these topics and start to flesh out what each hub might look like. Combined with ranking difficulty metrics, business priorities, and content production capabilities, this approach will soon take shape as a site hierarchy and opportunity analysis.

Site Hierarchy

Again, there are decisions to make. One could argue that the tasting guide page for barley whiskey should sit under the barley whiskey sub-category page in the site hierarchy in the last URL. Barley whiskey has been earmarked as ‘main content’ in my spreadsheet, after all. The choice here comes down to where we want to consolidate value; dispersing that value would reduce our chances of ranking for any ‘tasting guide’ terms. These are exactly the kinds of decisions that can lead to a confusing structure if consistent logic is not followed. All of this will contribute to your topical authority and increase site visibility.

This type of content often already exists on-site, too. I am not claiming anything revolutionary by saying a website should have lots of useful information, after all. However, the structure of this content and how entities are semantically linked to each other makes the difference between success and failure. This can be used as a ‘quick win’ tactic, and it tends to be received well by all parties. Updating and moving existing content will always be an easier sell than asking for an all-new content hub.

Create an XML Sitemap

Once you’ve ticked off all of the above, you’ll want to make sure search engines know what’s going on with your website. That’s where sitemaps come in handy — particularly XML sitemaps. An XML Sitemap is not to be confused with the HTML sitemap. The former is for search engines, while the latter is mostly designed for human users (although others use t00). So what is an XML Sitemap? In plain words, it’s a list of your site’s URLs that you submit to the search engines.

This serves two purposes: 1. This helps search engines find your site’s pages more easily. 2. Search engines can use the sitemap as a reference when choosing canonical URLs on your site. Picking a preferred (canonical) URL becomes necessary when search engines see duplicate pages on your site, as we saw above. So, as they don’t want any duplicates in the search results, search engines use a special algorithm to identify duplicate pages and pick just one URL to represent the group in the search results. Other web pages just get filtered out. Now, back to sitemaps.

One of the criteria search engines may use to pick a canonical URL for the web pages is whether this URL is mentioned in the website’s sitemap. So, what web pages should be included in your sitemap? For purely SEO reasons, it’s recommended to include only the web pages you’d like to show up in search. You should include a more comprehensive account of your site’s URLs within the HTML sitemap.

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