There are many key elements once you’ve built your website which you need to stay on top of, besides trying to focus on search engine optimization. Updating content, perhaps having a blog or a Twitter account with which to interact with customers/clients, and if your niche demands it, publishing a newsletter or email campaign to keep subscribers in touch.
In the background of your website, there’s also another element which needs consistent attention. Everytime you add a page to your website, create a new form or maybe add a photo album, your sitemap needs to be attended to. A sitemap is exactly as the name implies, it’s a table of contents for every page on your site. If you add, change, or remove pages, you also need to update your sitemap to reflect the changes. Typically your sitemap will be in xml or html format, but the important point is: it needs to be updated everytime you make a change.
Until now, there’s never really been a way to validate your sitemap without waiting for a short while until the search engines pass by your site to index it. At that point you could sign into your webmaster tools or site analytics and verify that you’ve either done things right, or if you needed to make some adjustments. But now for those who may be a little less technically inclined, Google has added the ability to test your sitemap before the spiders get to it, to make sure that everything is done correctly. This update, as well as a handful of other new and upcoming changes to their site tools are detailed on their blog post.
Have you ever wondered how a search engine works? Have you experienced instances where the link that supposedly contains your keywords is not exactly what you have in mind? You would probably think that there must be something wrong with the search that it generated irrelevant results.
How does a search engine work? Two things figure greatly in making search engines work: the electronic spider and the sitemap.
A sitemap is basically a page serves as a directory by listing all the links to all documents and files on a website. It is not just a random listing of links, it is organized in such a way that it gives the user an idea of how all the information that can be found in the site fits into an outline. It is like viewing the table of contents of a book.
What is a spider? In SEO language, spider is not an animal, the search spider is actually a bot which collects data and copies content to be stored in the search engine’s database when keywords are fed into the search dialogue box. The spider reads the content of the site and sends another bot to follow the links and copy the content contained in them.
What purpose does a sitemap serve?
A sitemap like any other map gives directions to a navigator. It primarily targets search engine spiders so that they are properly directed to your site and to the links where keywords entered in the search box. It is actually a useful tool in search engine optimization. A well organized site map would guide the spider to find the information it needs when keywords are entered during a search.
What are the benefits of having a sitemap for my website?
1.No page would be left out:
Back to the purpose of sitemaps, having one would mean faster and easier tracking and crawling of spiders all over your site. As a result, search engines would get to the view all the pages of your site and not just the pages containing keywords.
2.Easier navigation for visitors:
Once a user has accessed your sitemap, they need not go back to the search engine page to look for what they need. If what they are looking for is in your site, then they would have an easier and faster way of finding it.
3.Encourage traffic to your site:
If your company site has a sitemap then potential buyers would have an easier time in accessing your products and services. Also, they would not miss out on any product that might be of future interest to them.
There are at least three major kinds of sitemaps: indexed, categorical, and restricted categorical. An indexed site map appears as an alphabetical listing or directory. A categorical map displays all links classified into categories; while a restricted categorical sitemap displays all links listed in a chosen category at a time. The full and restricted sitemaps are very similar except that the former displays all links in all categories all at once in a page, while the latter focuses only the links under the selected category for easier and less eye-straining viewing.
Some tips in setting up your sitemap
1.Link the sitemap only to your homepage. This ensures that the spider will start searching from your homepage down through all the pages listed in your sitemap. In this way, no page will be missed.
2.Try not to go beyond 30 pages for a sitemap. Large websites having 50 plus pages should not go beyond 30 since this adds more pages to the site, and may make search engines think that the sitemap is a link farm.
3.Check the integrity of the links listed in your sitemap. It can be discouraging when you click on a link only to find out that nothing is displayed. Test your sitemap!
4.Give keyword-rich titles to sitemap links. Keyword-rich titles give your site more advantage in being searched properly under the right category.
5.Provide a short description for the links in the sitemap gives readers a better idea of what to find in the link.
6.Be consistent in designing your sitemap with the other pages of the site.