The internet is a changing place. It is no surprise therefore to discover that some of the tips and tricks that used to work to rank your website highly within a search engine result are now defunct, having been replaced with newer and more sophisticated alternatives. Staying on top of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques is a difficult job, as you could spend many a day researching and coming no closer to an answer as to which techniques will make the most difference.
Well one handy, and often forgotten, method will help you in both ranking more highly within a search engine, but also in appearing within their results more quickly. This method is simple to implement but powerful, and is particularly useful for any website, but especially for website designs with a lot of Flash, those with many old archived webpages that are no longer linked to from anywhere, those that take advantage of dynamic content, and just those that are new to the World Wide Web. Even if your particular website design doesn’t fall within one of these categories, you should still consider this useful tool as an essential part of your site.
The little method that we speak of is known as a sitemap.
What is a sitemap?
A sitemap isn’t a complex creation. It is, quite simply, a map of your website. It will show how your website links together, for example if several subpages link from one other page. Also every page, whether linked from another or not, will be displayed within your sitemap.
Although it is unusual to actually link to a sitemap from your main navigation bar, many websites will allow users access to it from the footer. It is certainly beneficial to allow visitors to your website to access your sitemap, as it may help them find what they are looking for more easily than in using a search bar or trawling through several pages.
However it isn’t only your visitors that will take advantage of a sitemap. Search engines don’t consider a website as an entity; instead they consider the separate webpages within your website. If these pages don’t link to each other, the search engine spiders have no way of knowing that your pages are actually affiliated at all. With a sitemap though, search engines will soon know exactly how your website fits together, including all the intricacies of your navigation.
How do I create a sitemap?
Don’t worry; you don’t need to create a sitemap by hand. There are many free tools on the internet that will do it for you. Some of these tools require downloading a sitemap generator to run on your own computer, while others will simply run online. If you use a Content Management System such as WordPress, you might even find an appropriate plugin to do the legwork for you.
Once you have created your sitemap (assuming that you haven’t used the functionality within a CMS) you will need to upload the generated .xml file to your website, as with any other webpage. However your job doesn’t end there.
To take full advantage of your new sitemap it is important to let the big search engines, particularly Google, know that it exists. If you have a Google Webmasters account, you have the ability to submit the location of your sitemap to Google. If you don’t, register now and submit your new sitemap. Don’t expect an overnight difference to your search engine rankings, but within a few days you might be pleasantly surprised at the difference that you see.