Monday, August 15, 2022

Sitemaps 101 - Back to School SEO

Sitemaps 101 - Back to School SEO

Sitemaps 101 - Back to School SEO

Sitemaps are without a doubt one of the most overlooked and underrated aspects of search engine optimization. You've probably spent a great deal of time working on original content pages, keyword density, and getting inbound links, but never thought of a sitemap for your new creation.

What is a sitemap?

Simply put, it's a page or pages that contain a list and a link to all the other documents on your site. This is useful on two levels:

1. Your visitor can quickly reference all the documents on your site to find exactly what they are looking for.

2. Search engine spiders can also quickly find and index each page of your site in the least amount of time. The SEO benefits of using a sitemap are very considerable and should not be ignored.

This is a win-win situation for you, your website visitors, and search engines. Simply put, you're crazy if you haven't included a sitemap as part of your overall website promotion strategy.

The good news is that it is never too late to start. You can create a sitemap page today, but there are a few rules for creating an effective sitemap that you need to follow:

Your sitemap should only be linked from your home page and not from another page. Why? You want search engine spiders to find this link directly from your home page and follow it from there. Your sitemap MUST NOT be linked from any other page on your site. Also, from a Google Pagerank point of view, just linking to your sitemap from your home page can also quickly "funnel" PR to pages throughout your site.

If you have a large website of 50 pages or more, limit the number of pages listed in your sitemap to a maximum of 30. This is to prevent search engines from misreading your sitemap as a link farm. It also makes the sitemap much easier for real human visitors to read. Limiting the number of pages listed in each sitemap to 30 could mean dividing your sitemap into 5, 10, or 20 pages. This has to be done and the long-term benefits are worth it. Keep in mind that if you create a 20-page sitemap, you've just created an additional 20 pages of content for your website!

Make absolutely sure that each of your sitemap pages links to the next. If you have 10 total sitemap pages, each sitemap page should link to every other sitemap page. Otherwise, both visitors and search engine spiders will find a broken link, lose interest, and disappear.

Test your sitemap thoroughly. Make sure all links work. Make sure it is easy to read and navigate. Your sitemap is there to help your visitor and not confuse them.

How should you structure your sitemap? The following tips should be followed in order for your site to get the maximum possible benefit from having a sitemap.

1. The title of each sitemap link should be keyword rich and link directly to the original page.

2. Include 10-20 words of text from the original content page below the appropriate sitemap link. This creates more content for search engine spiders and human visitors can see exactly what each page is about before they click.

The human benefit to visitors is that they can preview what the page is about.

3. Make sure the appearance of your sitemap page is consistent with the rest of your site. Use the same basic HTML template that you used for all the other pages on your site.

So now you understand the importance of creating a sitemap for your website. There is work involved, but the long-term benefits to your websites far outweigh any effort you have to put in right now.