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This course was updated on 10/12/2012.
- Understanding why indexing is important
- Using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool
- Dealing with frames, iframes, and popups
- Working with SEO-friendly URLs
- Using meta tags
- Clearing source code clutter
- Building links within the site
- Working with Google+
- Reviewing page content
- Building and submitting an HTML and XML sitemap
- Garnering links outside the site
Skill Level Intermediate
- You've probably heard about sitemaps, but many people don't understand that there are actually two different kinds of sitemaps: HTML and XML. In fact, when somebody talks about the sitemap it's not always clear what they're referring to. For many years site owners have created basic HTML sitemaps to help both site users and the search engines find their way through the site. For users, it's another navigational tool. For the search engines it ensures that every page can be found through plaintext links.
In fact, a sitemap can help resolve the sort of navigation problems that we've discussed in an earlier video. As we've also learned earlier, you need plenty of text links in your site to tell the search engines what the reference pages are about. The search engines look at the anchor text in a link to get more clues about the subject of the page. So HTML sitemaps are a good thing and you would do well to add one to your site. In 2005 though, we will introduce the XML sitemap, a file that is designed for the search engines, not the site users.
In fact, the users will never see it. An XML sitemap is essentially an index of your site, a list of all the pages on your site that a search engine can lead. All the major search engines now support XML sitemaps. Google, Bing, and Ask. Yahoo, of course, gets its results from Bing. It's a good idea to use a sitemap as it can definitely help improve the number of pages in your site that are indexed, at least in some cases.
It's particularly important for very large sites, but even small sites might as well have them as they can be created relatively quickly and easily. So, how do you create an XML sitemap? Well, that depends. Many e-commerce and content management systems already have built-in sitemap functions, or you may be able to add the function. There are several WordPress plugins that create sitemaps, for instance. Such built-in and plugin tools are generally set-and-forget.
You set them up, and when you add pages to your site those pages are added to the sitemap automatically. In the case of large custom dynamic sites, the programmer building the site will need to create a function or find some kind of sitemap code. What works depends on what technology you're using. But you can find plenty of options with a quick search. For a smaller site you might use something like xml-sitemaps.com.
In fact, if you Google "XML sitemaps" you can quickly find a lot of sitemap creators. Using this system you can create a small sitemap in a few seconds. If you're not sure of the answers, just keep the defaults. Simply enter your URL, then click Start. The system crawls your site and provides you with a downloadable sitemap. This particular tool only works with sites under 500 pages, but the company also sells a $20 PHP-based sitemaps generator that you can install on your server, or they'll install it for you for 10 bucks.
There are actually several different kinds of XML sitemaps. There's the basic sitemap that lists webpages, but then there are image sitemaps, video sitemaps, and news sitemaps. The last of these is used by sites that have been included in Google News. If these types of content are important to you, you should definitely use these special sitemaps. Some tools, such as the xml-sitemaps.com commercial tool would create all these types of sitemaps.
I'll show you in a moment how to submit your sitemap to Google and Bing. You don't have to worry about Yahoo. But to make sure that all search engines that use sitemaps can find it, you should also reference the sitemap in your robots.txt file, like this. Ask.com, for instance, can find your sitemap this way. Now let's look at how to submit your site to Google's Webmaster account. Go to the webmaster area at this URL and click the Sign in button.
If you don't already have a Google account, start by creating one. Otherwise you can log in and will be taken straight to your Google Webmaster account. When you get into the search console you can enter your site's domain name into this box. Include the www piece. Then click the Add Property button. Now Google wants you to prove that you own this site, and it provides several ways for you to do this. The easiest in most cases is to use the HTML file.
This file contains a unique ID code that Google provides. You are to take this file and place it into the root of your website. But there are several alternative verification methods, as you can see. You can add a metatag containing a unique ID to your home page if you wish. Or you might login to your domain name registrar to make some DNS changes that Google can recognize. You can also associate this site with an existing Google Analytics account, or Google Tag Manager account.
But in most cases, for most people, the best option is going to be to simply download the HTML file, drop it into the root of your website, the same folder that contains your homepage. Click here to download the file. And then upload it to your website. I've just uploaded the file to my site. I can now click this link to verify that the file is where it needs to be.
As you can see, it opened it in a new tab. Then I can click the Verify button to complete the operation. Google is going to go and download that file and read it to verify that that file has been placed. Once you've done all this, Google knows that the person who setup this Webmaster account has admin access to the website. The next step is to tell Google about your sitemap. Click here to go into the dashboard.
Then click the Sitemaps heading. And then the Add/Test Sitemap button. You'll type the filename of your XML sitemap. And you'll click Submit Sitemap. You can then refresh the page and we can see that Google has downloaded the file and read it. Google will read your sitemap and use it to help it find its way around your site.
But it will also provides all sorts of interesting information about your site. Give it some time to collect information and return to the account sometime to dig around and see what's available. Information about searches that return your site in the search results, about who is linking to your site, the key words Google sees in your site, links within your site, and so on. There's even diagnostic information to tell you if there are problems on your site. One more quick setting, you should go into the Site Settings area and select the www form of your domain name as the preferred domain.
Now let's take a quick look at Bing. Go to this URL to get started. Create an account and login. When you first get in you'll see this area. Enter the domain name of your site and the path to the sitemap. Then click the Add button. As with Google you then need to verify your ownership of the site. You can save a file to the root of your website or use a metatag, or change the DNS settings.
As before, the easiest thing to do is to use the verification file that they provide to you. If you click this link you can download that file which you can then upload to your website. I've just uploaded the file to my site so I can now click this link to verify that the file is in the right place. You can see the file with the code here. And I can scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Verify button.
Now the site has been verified and Bing has access to the sitemap. So, you've seen how to submit your sitemap to both Google and Bing, and how to provide a reference to your sitemap in your robots.txt file. Sitemaps are very useful, and really quite easy to create and submit. So do make sure your spend the time to do this.