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XML Sitemaps (A Search Engine Secret?)

Here's one of those so-called secret search engine optimization tips that isn't really that much of a secret . . . unless you don't know it. After all, secrets are only secret if you don't know them. :)

Anyway, some search engines will only crawl to two or three levels deep on your site. By creating a site map which lists every page of your site that you want indexed, and by linking to the site map from your index page, you ensure that even the search engines that limit the depth their spiders crawl will still find all your pages.

Here's how those search engine will see your site if you have a site map in your the directory:

  • Top Level: All pages in the root directory, including the site map.
  • Level Two: All your pages, if you have a site map on level one.
  • Level Three: Who cares—you've already won!
With an HTML site map, if you have a large site of 50-100 pages or more, it's best to list your most important pages first because some search engines do limit the number of pages they will index at one time. With your most important pages listed first you ensure that they will be indexed on the first go-around.

While it's nice for your visitors to have an HTML sitemap to help them explore your site, using an XML Sitemap is more important from a search engine optmization perspective. If you don't know how to create an XML Sitemap just Google "XML Sitemap Generator" and you'll find some free online utilities that will spider your site and generate one for you.

I'd advise editing the XML Sitemap to remove pages that won't help your search engine positioning—read that to mean off-topic pages. The more pages you have that depart from the theme and purpose of your site, the more fractured the theme becomes and the less weight it carries.

SEO Tip Ideally, you've created your web site on your own computer as it is set up on the Internet, and used the meta description tag for each page. If so, some of the HTML sitemap generatiing software will create the sitemap without going online, just point the software to your web site folder and it will make a sitemap of your pages using the meta description as the link description. If you didn't use the meta description tags on your pages the sitemap just won't have descriptions for your links.

There you have the lowdown on sitemaps . . . but there's so much more that goes into search engine optimization than just that. If you don't do as much as you can to optimize your web site the odds of achieving good rankings are greatly stacked against you.

This web site has enjoyed top search engine rankings for over a decade. If you'd like to learn more about my search engine optmization strategies, check out White Hat SEO.

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