I’ve been guilty myself of underestimating the value of sitemaps. Don’t let it happen to you.
Sitemaps are still under rated by a lot of web marketers to get new traffic to their websites. If you don’t have a sitemap on your website, which points to the major sections of your site, I would suggest that (after reading this blog) you build one immediately.
Why are sitemaps so important?
Sitemaps are a quick and easy way for you to direct search engine spiders to find all of the pages on your website and get them listed. More web pages listed by Google will give you more chances to get traffic because you never really know which page Google is going to list for your customer to find.
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Just like with my previous question from Sharyn at dog-e-treats, she needed to build a sitemap to her shopping cart from her homepage because the search spiders couldn’t browse past the homepage.
Google, Yahoo and MSN have recently got together and made a truce about how websites can advertise to the search spiders about where their sitemap is. This to me highlights the importance of your sitemap as a tool that you can use to help spiders find all your web pages that you want them to find. Especially the ones that advertise that hot product or keyword everyone is looking for!! 😉
How to build a search engine friendly sitemap
The basic principles of a good sitemap are to link to all of the pages with text links with relevant anchor text. Here is an example (imagine I was a dog biscuit company):
Breath freshening dog biscuits – short description of page
Teeth whitening dog biscuits – short description of page
So the category name is at the top and then the different pages in that category are shown followed by a short description. As a shortcut, I would suggest that you use the <title> tag as your anchor text and your <META description> as your description to speed up the process. I am sure you could get your web developer a brief to write a tiny script to automate the process.
What is the fastest way to build a sitemap?
Use a script to do it for you. I have started trialling a new site that has a script which builds the sitemap for you automatically. It’s not great for your visitors to find out where to go on your website, but it’s a great for telling Google where to look.
How to leverage your new sitemap
Once you have got your sitemap live, it’s time to tell Google about it. Just pop on over to Google Webmaster tools, signup and login. There is a section inside there called sitemap where you can tell Google the location of your sitemap. You will need to have the sitemap uploaded to your website and it will take around two to three days for Google to spider your new sitemap.
I have had some super results with Google finding pages that I couldn’t get into the engines for clients before with this.
Make your opinion count, and let me know how you go and if you have some other tips?
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Megan at livingproof.net.au asks: Excellent information. Do you know if virtual hosting cause an issue with search spiders? I’m having trouble finding any information about it.
Fred responds: Thank you for your question. It’s a good question and one I have put some tests into to try and figure out. I have also spoken with a lot of search engine marketers about the topic and from all our talks and tests, virtual hosting doesnt seem to have any positive or negative effect on your search engine spidering. It can have a devastating effect on your email marketing, although for spiders its OK. The only thing to watch out for here is that if you are getting inbound links try and not pile a whole lot from the same virtual account. This will look like you are trying to spam Google by clumping all of your links from websites you control in the same hosting package.