Bringing traffic to your Web site can cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars for search engine optimization consulting, online marketing, and other tools. A more cost-effective way to boost organic traffic is to make a site map.
A site map kills two birds with one stone: 1) For visitors to your Web site, a site map is an index of all the pages on your site, and 2) for search engine spiders or robots, it provides the information they need to properly index your Web site, which boosts your SEO. These two functions are broken down into two types of site maps: HTML and XML.
An HTML site map lists the pages of your site. It’s organized by category or in alphabetical order. It’s there to help users lost on your site find what they need.
An XML site map (also called Sitemaps, with a capital “S”) informs search engines about the pages on a Web site. Before XML site maps, the only way to get your site indexed was to wait for search engine spiders to find it through a search crawl. With XML site maps, you can control what you feel is most important on your site. You can include additional metadata about each URL, such as how often it’s updated and its relative importance to other URLs on the site. XML site maps are particularly useful for Web sites scripted in rich content, such as Flash, which is unreadable by search engines.
Building a Site Map
To create an HTML site map, open a new bookmarks or favorites folder. Then browse through the important pages and major sections on your site, that is, the ones you want search engines and customers to find. Bookmark these pages. Then organize them in a way that’s intuitive and user friendly.
Once you’ve sorted out your sections, create an HTML page with these links and upload it on to your server. Once your site map is up, add a link to it in the header or footer of every page on your Web site. If a user gets lost, your site map is just one click away. View the AllBusiness.com site map to get a better understanding of how a site map should look.
XML site maps should follow the protocol of Sitemaps.org. Your site map file must be UTF-8 encoded, and any data values must use entity escape codes for the characters. URLs in a site map must be from a single host, and a file is limited to 50,000 URLs and 10MB per site map.
If you’re looking for a quicker solution, online site map generators can create XML site maps for free. For example, Xml-sitemaps.com lets you enter your Web site URL then crawls the site for the number of pages, XML file content, and broken links. Google has also compiled a collection of links and tools to make your site map compliant with the Sitemaps.org protocol. In addition to this, Google Sitemaps offers diagnostic and statistical tools that report trouble analyzing your site, your highest ranked pages, and other useful information.
Considering the Details
In creating a site map, you’re allowing users to find what they need on your site and giving direction to the search engine spiders. When creating an HTML site map, keep the sections simple, with your typical user in mind. Categories yield higher numbers of successful searches than alphabetical indexes. As an example, Apple lists its products in its site map, such as Macs, iPods, iTunes, and so on.
In XML site maps, keep SEO in mind. Use computer languages such as Java or CSS in place of Flash or Ajax if possible. Make sure you fill out the Meta, Title, and Robot tags to help search engines. Also, make good use of text links on your site map and list URLs with descriptive words so search engines can easily detect what your site is about. Another aspect of good SEO is keyword density. So maximize relevant and important keywords on your site map. SEO Content Solutions has a keyword-density analyzer that scrubs your Web site for the most optimized keywords.