Well, if you’ve been following the posts we’ve been putting up as part of our blog over the last few months then your search engine rankings should be starting to come along nicely. Ok, it’s going to take a bit of time for you to actually notice a difference as SEO doesn’t happen overnight but it should certainly be building up a nice bit of steam by now.
Sitemaps are the next bit we’re going to focus on and again, another important move in terms of SEO.
First off, exactly what is a Sitemap you may ask. Well a Sitemap traditionally is a list of links to the pages on your site and most old school websites would publish this list of links on a page somewhere on your site so that Google could follow these links and make sure it indexed all the pages of your site.
These days, Google does all of this behind the scenes using a page that is not visible to your audience but is an XML file that Google can use to grab these list of links to your pages in your site that will not need to be seen by your web visitors.
But it’s far more than that too.
You can use your Sitemap to let Google know in the metadata about specific content such as photos, images, news etc which normally wouldn’t get picked up by the search engines when crawling your pages. Importantly, you can also use the Sitemap to let search engines know when it your website was last updated and how often it’s expected to change (and you should know by now that bots and spiders love unique, updated content). This means the search engines will know when to return to your website to look for new content and it’ll therefore get picked up easier.
Sitemaps are then an additional means (to the ‘crawling’ mechanisms) of allowing search engines to find your updated content quickly and effectively.
On your sitemap you should describe your company in the first paragraph then go on to list the products you sell and your company philosophy. Follow this with a list of your links and short descriptions for each. It’s your most important pages that you want the search engines to find.
Google itself recently listed a number of guidelines for issuing Sitemaps and improving your SEO. These included making sure:
- The Sitemap has links which go to the main parts of your website
- That if there’s too many links on the Sitemap you break the Sitemap down into more pages which is easier for search engines to read
Other advantages of Sitemaps is they can help websites which would otherwise fare poorly in bot searches. These are websites which have:
- Pages featuring rich AJAX or images (these don’t get picked up easily by bots and spiders)
- Few links to other websites (bots go round the web by jumping from link to link)
- Poor linking structure between the website’s pages
The Sitemap itself is best placed in your website’s root directory and shouldn’t be more than 10MB.
Google has a sitemap submission page in the WebMaster Tools area of its site which you can get access to by signing up for a Google account.
In summary then, a Sitemap is an excellent means of improve your SEO and guiding Google etc to where to find the relevant content and images etc it normally wouldn’t pick up on. It’s certainly one method that shouldn’t be overlooked.