Search Marketing 101: The Importance of Sitemaps

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While there are several on-page and off-page search engine optimization techniques that play an important role in garnering higher page rank and link popularity, the importance of an often forgotten technique is usually underestimated – sitemaps. Simply put, these are a map of your website, a single page (or hierarchy of pages) that show the complete structure of your website along with the various sections, the main and secondary links and other details. A good sitemap helps visitors to your site, navigate your site easily.

Moreover, having an updated sitemap on your website helps not only your visitors, but the search engines too. Consider sitemaps to be a unique way to communicate with the search engines and telling them where you’d like them to crawl on your website.

Sitemaps and Search Engines

Sitemaps have been around for many years now and despite the fact that they are not a novelty, it’s only after the search engines adopted them that they have suddenly caught the eye of all good webmasters as part of their search engine optimization strategy. If you simply want to use sitemaps for search engine optimization purposes, then conventional HTML site maps are not for you. For example: Google Sitemaps should be written in XML, which is very different from the regular HTML site maps that are used for website visitors.

So does this mean that you need to have two sitemaps for your website? The answer is – Yes. One site map is for Googlebot or the Google spider, while the other is for your visitors. You should also be aware that having two sitemaps is not considered to be duplicate content and this has been made explicitly clear by Google, as it has stated that having two site maps will not lead to any penalty for your website.

In November 2006, the top three search engines (Google, Yahoo! and MSN) came together to create an industry standard for site maps for all websites. This standard was named ‘sitemaps 0.90.’ For all those webmasters who wish to get their sites indexed by these top search engines, following the protocols laid down in sitemaps 0.90 is a prerequisite.

Generating and Submitting Sitemaps To Search Engines

Once you have your website ready with your XML site map, you need to upload your website to your server and then notify Google, through Webmaster Tools, where your sitemap lives . Typically, there are two ways of generating a site map.

1. You can install a sitemap generator script on your website.

2. You can use an on-line sitemap generation tool to create one.

Though the first option is difficult it offers you more control over the final result. Google Sitemap Generator is a good tool that can be used for generating a site map. Since the tool is coded in Python script, you need to have Python 2.2 version on your web server to run it.

The second method of generating a site map while being easier doesn’t give you much flexibility. Google also suggests some 3rd party Sitemap tools but warns users that it has not tested or verified them. Having created a site map, it’s time to upload it to your website and let Google, Yahoo and MSN know about it.

Source by John Hill

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