Website Sitemaps: Ensure Your Site is Indexed by the Search Engines
Website Sitemaps: Ensure Your Site is Indexed by the Search Engines
A sitemap is a web page on a site that lists in some format the information found on the web site. It is basically a table of contents for your website.
Sitemaps are extremely useful if a site is very large as it enables visitors to easily see at the glance the content available. It’s also used by search engines to crawl your content quickly.
There are two types of sitemaps that should exist on a website: one you create that is seen by visitors and one that is hidden and used only by search engines. We will discuss both of these sitemaps and how you can create them.
You can create and maintain a sitemap for your site in one of two ways depending on how your site is built. If your site is static, you have to code it and maintain it. Every time the content changes you need to update the sitemap to reflect what’s changed. If you have a dynamic sitemap with navigation fed from a database, then you can create a sitemap that automatically shows the changes reflected on your sitemap.
A few important sitemap tips include:
- Keep it short – if it’s more than one page think about how you can reduce it to only one by showing the most relevant content
- Shows levels of navigation – show several levels of hierarchy (3 navigation layers deep)
- Use keywords to define your sitemap link titles – run your keywords against a Keyword Analyzer and look for the best keywords to describe the content the link points to.
Search Engine Sitemap
There was a time when you had to create a different version of a sitemap for each search engine. In November of 2006, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo all agreed on a standard sitemap protocol. It is an xml file that sits on the server your site is hosted on that all three search engines can use to track updates to pages. This xml file describes the following information for each link on a website:
- Last updated
- Frequency changed
- Importance to the site (relative to other content on the site)
The good news is you don’t have to create this sitemap yourself. There are many free and not so free sitemap generators on the web that will create the sitemap for you and then let you edit the information in it. However, if you want to – you can create it on your own. Here are some of the basic requirements to create a sitemap:
- Name it sitemap.xml
- Maximum of 50,000 URLs per sitemap
- Maximum of 10MB in size
The sitemap must be UTF-8 encoded
- The location of your sitemap is important (you can also use your robots.txt file to indicate the location of your sitemap)
You can validate your sitemap using tools either by Google, Yahoo or other online resource.
Both Google and Yahoo have resources to help you monitor your website and sitemap. For example, Yahoo Site Explorer enables you to explore all web pages indexed by Yahoo search looking at the most popular pages, find pages that link to your site or a page on your site and dive into a comprehensive sitemap.
Sitemaps are critical to a strong search presence
Make an effort to have both sitemaps available on your website. The visual sitemap will help visitors quickly locate the information they are looking. Both sitemaps help search engines quickly crawl and index your content. While there’s no guarantee that either sitemap will help improve your rank in the search engine, the hidden sitemap does ensure that all your content is indexed and available.
How to structure a Website & Keywords for Maximum Internet Exposure
Having a website is relatively easy and inexpensive to accomplish. Having it indexed with Google and other search engines in order for a customer to view the web site requires a bit more web expertise and possibly some exposure to programming.
On the face of it, with over 1.7 Billion users (over 25% of the world’s population) on the World Wide Net, according to Internet World Wide Stats, this might strike one as counter intuitive. However, according to Royal Pingdom (a statistical source), with over 234 million web sites up and running, 126 million blogs, and over 27.3 million tweets on Twitter per day, the public’s collective attention span may be stretched to the point of exhaustion.
The point is, how difficult is it for a small business to get noticed and effectively book revenue on the internet? The problem is not insurmountable even for an internet novice
WYSIWYG Website as the Starting Point
WYSIWYG or What You See Is What You Get is a capability, in many, if not most website development tools or programs. With WYSIWYG, virtually anyone can do it, so it is assumed that the starting point is that a business owner has a web site up and operating. The web design program may allow a user to insert keywords. The user’s keyword or keywords are the signposts on the web site that point a search engine to the content contained on the web page or web site.
Search engines have evolved for the purpose of allowing web users to more readily access information of value. Google of course, leads the world in its search engine technology, however many web designers may be frustrated as Google continually changes its search technology. The aforementioned Keywords are usually inserted on various components of the website.
For instance, in the Alternate Text Area attached to images, in the title of the web page, obviously in the keyword area in the HTML text and, of course in the Meta Tag area. As Google evolves, certain keyword areas become less and less important for keyword indexing. For instance Google has deemphasized the Keyword Meta Tag area.
Inbound Links and Outbound Links
It’s important to have, if possible, inbound links to the website. Back in the day, it was important to trade links, both inbound and outbound and then Google and the other search engines determined that this was merely another attempt to ‘game’ the system. Therefore, Google really only values inbound links to the web site. The concept is that an inbound link would indicate the relative popularity of a particular web site. As social networks, such as Facebook and Linkedin rise in popularity, they become part of the search engine picture.
A Word of Caution With Social Networking
With either of these social networks, care most be taken because if a user is unhappy with a web site or e Commerce purchase, it’s usually reported on the network. However, the social networks permit Fan pages and Group pages which are almost like mini websites. Because they’re free, anyone with a web site should construct one.
In order to make the most of doing business on the internet, promotion is key and keywords are of prime importance when inserted in the appropriate areas and chosen judiciously. Inbound links and social networks are part of the marketing complexion, as well. One doesn’t have to be a certified Geek to have a successful web site, however the web site must be updated and worked continuously. There is no silver bullet on the world wide web