Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Using Sitemaps to Get Listed

A sitemap is a directory of links to other pages on a website. There are essentially two types of sitemaps, one geared toward visitors and the other designed for search engine spiders. Both have very important and distinct functions for webmasters.

Sitemaps for SEO
Webmasters are faced with the challenge of getting pages spidered and ranked. That’s where sitemaps come in. Search Engines like Google use sitemaps to detect new web pages or content on a website. Actively maintaining a sitemap helps tell search engines which pages of your site have changed and where your new content is. Sitemaps are also a good way for new sites to get noticed quickly by major search engines.

Sitemap Programs for the Big Three

Sitemaps for Google
Google just came out with a new beta program called Google Sitemaps that allows webmasters to tell Google where their sitemap is located. In return for helping Google catalogue information on the internet, Google Sitemaps provides you with valuable data on how Google Bot views your site including pages that it is having trouble spidering, the keywords it sees as important on your site, and how often Google Bot is crawling your pages. You can sign up for one here.

To create a basic Sitemap for your site open up notepad, type or paste in the urls of the pages you want spidered, then save the file as a UT8-F encoded file then upload the file to your site and viola! You have a sitemap. Next, you need to sign up for a Google Sitemaps account and complete the simple verification procedure.

Sitemaps for Yahoo!
Yahoo! provides a program similar to Google Sitemaps they call Site Explorer. Follow this URL to join this program.

MSN Sitemaps
Unfortunately, MSN does not offer a sitemap program yet.

Sitemaps for Visitors
Sitemaps can be used to help visitors access information on your site and allows webmasters more flexibility with site design. You can use a sitemap to maintain a simplistic home page that limits its links to important and new web pages pages or provide a comprehensive directory of all pages on your site.

A good example of a sitemap geared for visitors can be found here at SEO Chat. Notice there are two columns, the left column points to a sitemap on a specific subject which contains links to all the articles on their site related to that subject. The column on the right lists links to pages on their forums that deal with specific topics such as PageRank and Site Reviews.

Ecommerce sites typically make a directory of all their products to help potential customers find the products they want. ThinkGeek has a good Ecommerce sitemap. It lists and organizes all the products it sells, which helps consumers find the products they need.

When making your sitemaps remember they are used to organize the information on your site for visitors and search engines. A good sitemap will help visitors and spiders quickly and easily find information on your website. Don’t hesitate to make multiple sitemaps with different purposes such as a sitemap for visitors and a sitemap that is compatible with Google Sitemaps. An well designed and effective sitemap will help propel you to the top of search engine listings and keep visitors coming back to your site.

John Bravo
Commerce Solutions

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