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Monday, December 24, 2012

Creating and Optimizing a Sitemap


In the last newsletter we looked at alternative sources for paid traffic for your website. But today we are going 'back to basics' and looking at a simple way to improve your website for both human readers and search engines.
By creating an optimized sitemap, visitors who are after a certain page on your website will have an easier time. But maybe more importantly, search engines will also be able to see all the pages on your site (that you want them to), which will increase the likelihood of those pages being indexed.
Today we'll look at:
  • Creating a sitemap for human visitors.
  • Creating an XML sitemap for search engines using automated tools.
  • Uploading your XML sitemap to your website.
  • Submitting your sitemap to search engines.

Creating a Sitemap for Human Visitors

Creating a sitemap for human visitors to your site is the easiest part of the process. Simply create a page that you will use for your sitemap (for example if you have the website 'Dog Training Problems' then you would want to create a 'Dog Training Problems Sitemap' page)
Use simple headings like 'Admin' and 'Articles', and under these place anchor text links to relevant pages on your website. For example, under 'Admin' you would link to your home page, contact page, privacy and disclaimer page, and so on. Under 'Articles' you would link to each of the articles on your website.
You do not need to do anything fancy to create a sitemap for your human visitors. Just use plain text links and formatting.
Here is a great example of a sitemap for human visitors:
oracle sitemap example

Creating a Sitemap for Search Engines

Slightly more difficult than creating a sitemap for human visitors is creating one that search engines can understand.
This will require you to create what is called an XML sitemap. XML is a 'language' that can be understood by search engines. Creating a sitemap in XML will allow search engines to see your whole website.
Creating an XML sitemap by hand can be quite a time-consuming process, especially if you have many pages on your site and want to be consistent with optimizing the tags. Thankfully, there are tools available to help you build your sitemap efficiently and quickly.
If you use a blogging platform like Wordpress or Drupal to build your site then you can easily add plug-ins to build and submit sitemaps automatically. A quick Google search will yield many different options for sitemap plug-ins.
If you built your website using software such as Dreamweaver, and you upload your files to your webhosting server then there are a number of different options available to generate a sitemap. Affilorama Premium offers an extremely straightforward sitemap creation tool that takes all of the hassle out of a building a good sitemap. You can see the Affilorama Sitemap tool in action here.
It is definitely worth using an automated tool to build your sitemap, and use the time you save creating new content or building links.

Uploading your XML Sitemap to Your Website

If you used a tool to create an XML sitemap, and it saved the file to your computer (but does not automatically upload it to your website) then how do you upload your sitemap?
In that case you will need to upload your XML file via FTP. If you use a website design program like Dreamweaver then it may already have a built-in FTP client (this is the tool you use to upload files from your computer to the server your website is hosted on). You should use whatever tool you normally use to get files from your computer and on to your website.
Make sure to upload your sitemap to the Root directory of your website. This means that if your website is www.example.com, upload your sitemap to www.example.com/sitemap.xml. Doing this will make sure that all pages on your website are included in the sitemap.

Submitting Your Sitemap to Search Engines

Once you have created and uploaded your sitemap, you will need to submit it to the search engines.
Google makes this process very simple. First sign into Google Webmaster Tools, and then verify your site by adding a small Meta tag to your site (this is very easy to do and full instructions are provided).
You will then be able to submit your sitemap by instructing Google where your sitemap is located on your website. This option is available from within your Google Webmaster Tools account.
You can submit your sitemap to Bing and Yahoo as well, using the Bing Webmaster Tools. The process is very similar to that for Google.

Tip - Checking That Search Engines Can See Your Sitemap

Traffic Travis can help you check if you have created and uploaded your sitemap properly. When you add your website to the Traffic Travis Dashboard there is an XML Sitemap indicator - when you see 'Yes' and a little green tick then you know your sitemap is working well. We looked at adding your sitemap to allow you to import pages into Traffic Travis in an earlier newsletter.
Here is an example of Traffic Travis showing that a sitemap is present:
traffic travis checks for sitemap
Not only will a proper sitemap help human visitors navigate your site, but it will also assist search engines too.
We have covered:
  • How to build a basic sitemap for human visitors.
  • How to create an XML sitemap using automated tools.
  • Uploading and submitting your sitemap.
In the next newsletter, we'll talk about how to get your web pages indexed quickly by the search engines.
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