The next time you are on a Web site, look for a link titled “sitemap” or even “site map.” When you find it, chances are it is at the bottom of the Web site page buried deep in the footer of the page. If you find it prominently at the top of the page, congratulations! You have visited a Web site that wants you to find the information you are looking for.
Sitemaps (I prefer to spell them as 1-word) were originally added to Web sites to benefit not the Web visitor but search engines. On a sitemap page is a link to every page of the Web site. Ideally, when a search engine crawls the sitemap page, it will take in every page of the Web site into its search index. These pages are typically a lot of static links, with descriptive titles to help define the keywords for each link. Sitemap pages have been effective, especially with Google and now Bing allowing you to register a Web site and submit its sitemap page link.
It didn’t take long for people to realize the sitemap page was a quick way to find the information they were looking for, especially if the Web site does not have a search function. The pages tend to be clear of excessive branding and gives you a quick view to determine if the information you are looking for is on the Web site or not. That is if you were able to find the sitemap page link. Their placement at the footer of the Web site’s pages was for it didn’t need to be that prominently presented for a search engine to find it.
To XML And Beyond
More recently the sitemap page has been accompanied by an XML file which contains all of the links on the sitemap page. This way, a search engine doesn’t have to do too much work to get to the reason it goes to the sitemap – to get the links to all pages of a Web site and nothing else. Many modern content management systems will generate an XML file, or there are 3rd-party services which will create one from either a static sitemap page or by crawling the Web site itself.
If your Web site has a sitemap link, promote it! Place it in your main navigation for all to see. Track the hits to the page to see how effective it is. If you don’t have an XML file to accompany it, create one and register the XML file with the search engines. If you don’t have either, there’s no time like the present to start making your Web site friendlier to man and machine.Technology • (3) Comments • Permalink
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