Have you ever wondered how a search engine works? It must be enthralling figuring out how this search tool could direct you to several websites that are relevant to your keywords. Or, have you experienced instances where the link that supposedly contains your keywords is not exactly what you have in mind? You would likely think that there must be something wrong with the search engine because it generated irrelevant results.
How do search engines work?
Two things figure greatly in making search engine work efficaciously and efficiently: the electronic search spider and the sitemap.
What is a sitemap?
They are basically a page or page's that serve/s as a directory by listing all the links to all the documents and files found in a website. It is not merely a ergodic listing of links, but organized in such a way that it gives the web user an idea of how all the info that can be found in the site. It is like viewing the table of contents of a book, or viewing the 'concept map' of the site's content.
What is a spider?
In SEO language, a spider is not an animal found in your closet. This electronic search spider is actually a bot which collects data and copies content to be stored in the search engine's database for keywords which 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?
They are like any other map which gives directions for navigation. 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 dialogue appears. As such, it is actually a useful tool in search engine optimization. A well organized one would help the spider notice the information it needs for when keywords are entered on a search operation.
Sitemaps have proven to be useful even to web users. Since they display all the links to info found in a website, it helps the user to search for a particular topic in mind. Many consumers also use them to navigate between pages in a site.
What are the gains of having a sitemap for my website?
1. No page would be left unturned
Going back to the purpose of maps, having one would mean faster and easier tracking and crawling of spiders all over your site. As a result, search engines would surely get to the view all the pages of your site and not just the pages containing random keywords.
2. Easier navigation for site visitors
Once a web user has accessed your sitemap, they need not go to the search engine page to look for what they want. When what they are looking for is in your sitemap.
3. Potential advertising value
If it so happens that a relevant product or service company reaches your site, then it would be easier for them to see how best they can position themselves in the different pages of your site as a paid page advertiser.
4. Encourage greater traffic to your site
If your company website has a map then potential buyers would have an easier time in accessing your latest products and services. Moreover, they would not miss out any product that might be of future interest to them because the map would display all information found on the site.
How are sitemaps formatted?
There are at least three major types: indexed, full categorical, and restricted categorical. An indexed one appears as an alphabetical listing or directory.
A full categorical map displays all links classified into categories; although a restricted categorical one displays all links listed in a chosen category at a time. The full and restricted ones are very similar except that the former displays all links in all classes all at once in a page, tho' the latter focuses only on the links under the selected category for easier and less eye-straining viewing.
The most widely used format is the full categorical. Based on the results of a 1999 SURL study on sitemap designs, the full categorical format is most preferred by users because it is easier to search for topics within the site and it allows easier comparison between and among categories.
Some tips in setting up your sitemap
1. Link them only to your homepage
This is to ensure that the spider begins searching from your homepage down to all the pages listed in your map. In this way, no page would be left unvisited by the spider.
2. Do not go beyond 30 pages for a sitemap
Large websites having 50 or more pages should not go beyond 30 since this adds more pages to the site, and might make search engines think that it is a link farm. Also, this prevents overcrowding of links which could be tiring to view.
3. Check all 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 yours; click all links in every page to make sure that all links are indeed linked to the right page.
4. Give keyword-rich titles to sitemap links
Keyword-rich titles give your site more advantage in being searched properly under the right category. But be sure to have this link linked back (e.g. back to sitemap).
5. Provide a short description for the links in the sitemap
Doing so would give readers a more beneficial idea of what to find in the link and save them time during surfing.
6. Be consistent in planning yours with the other pages of the site
Employ a recurring design and the same HTML template for all pages to establish identity and build character to your website.
Now that you have learned basic things, maybe it is time for you to establish one for your site.
Uchenna Ani-Okoye is an internet marketing advisor