There are a great many different avenues to creating a website optimized for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). We’ve covered many aspects of this very important marketing activity in several past columns. Let’s talk about one more today, creating a sitemap for your site.
Many websites have historically had a page containing an index, or map, of every page available on your website. The reason was to provide a master index for the human eyes that were surfing your site. It was always considered to be most helpful for very large sites, as a way to efficiently find exactly what you were looking for. That rationale for creating a site map still exists today.
But there is now an additional reason for creating a sitemap, and it is possibly even more compelling.
Google has enacted a program that allows webmasters to make it easier for the Google Bots to successfully find, surf and index their sites. They call it Google Sitemaps. It is essentially a specialized form of the old sitemap concept, this time utilizing an XML format rather than plain old human language. By using this special XML format, you enable the Bots to easily “read” what your site looks like, so it will know how scan the site, and (hopefully!) index it fully. Google has built in some ability to troubleshoot your site by viewing it from the Bots perspective, allowing you to fix any issues that might prevent your site from appearing in the index. Things like flash, frames, etc, if they are issues, by participating in Google’s program you might become aware of the issues and be able to fix them. I believe that Google is also working with the other major search engines to make this a standard.
There are some nice things that drop out of creating a Google sitemap. You can tell the Bots what the most important pages are, how often the site is updated, etc. Supposedly this is simply a way to make it more efficient to get your site indexed (IF the Bots decide it is worth indexing), and doesn’t give your site any preference with respect to actually GETTING indexed, or WHERE your site might fall in the rankings. But it’s Google, so you never know! They are after all, the “international company of mystery.”
There are many good free Google Sitemap creators available on the Internet. I’ve used a couple of them without incident. Here’s one of the newer ones that I’ve run across:
Give it a try and let me know what you think.