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Google Sitemaps :: Are They Or Aren't They Lucrative SEO Tools?

Google has had a feature out for some time which allows webmasters to create a sitemap file to help Google's crawlers find and index content.

It sounds like a great idea. After all, it's much easier to feed the crawler the content then hope it finds it on it's own.

But is a Google sitemap worthwhile? Is it even necessary?

When the Google Sitemap program first started my thought was "That's kinda cool but what's the real benefit?"

So, I thought I'd try it out and submit sitemaps for a few sites that I own.

When Google Sitemaps first came out it was very difficult to figure out what all the entries meant as well as how to actually create the sitemap.

Sure, it was XML based, and I could plainly see what they expected but when you have a large site, how do you go about creating this?

Then Google came out with http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/docs/en/sitemap-generator.html, a sitemap generator which is a program intended to help you create a sitemap for your site. This does help speed up the process but unless you are a developer it is a little difficult to implement.

Also, you need access to your server to run the script required to generate the sitemap. If you are unsure you should check with your web host to see if you have terminal access to execute Python scripts.

Personally, I've never tried the Google Sitemapper tool but I have used others. For example, on my personal weblog which uses Moveable Type, I found a weblog post which shows How to build a Movable Type Google sitemap template http://www.niallkennedy.com/blog/archives/2005/06/google_sitemaps.html. And I've used Xenu and an Excel spreadsheet http://forums.digitalpoint.com/showthread.php?p=199253 which works great as well.

Now that the sitemap creation is covered, let's get into the question at hand. Is a Google sitemap really worth the effort?

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A few months ago I would have said no, but lately Google has been adding features that make me think otherwise.

For example, if you've gone through the verification process (which is really just placing a blank HTML file on the site and having Google find it) and ensured your 404 errors are properly configured you can get access to a wealth of additional intel.

One such feature is the "Top Search Queries." This tells you which queries were used when your pages appeared in the search results but may not have been clicked on.

In other words, these are actual searcher queries that were performed on Google where your site may have appeared but not had click-through's.

From a keyword research point of view, this is a huge advantage to you. By monitoring your sitemap stats you can easily see some of the terms people are using and perhaps determine what you need to do to rank higher for those terms so you too can get the clicks that your competitors are receiving.

If you don't have ready access to log analysis or other stats, the Google sitemap can also tell you what terms actually drove traffic to your site.

In other words, these were searches performed on Google that actually generated clicks for your site.

There's also a wealth of other information. For example, "Crawl Stats" shows you how Googlebot sees your site, errors generated by it, and even a PageRank distribution chart detailing how well PageRank is distributed.

So, if you are like me and wondering if a Google sitemap is worth it I'd say yes, it is. The information provided, while mostly technical, can help you troubleshoot problems as well as provide ideas to help you improve your positioning.

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Rob Sullivan is a SEO Consultant and Writer for http://www.textlinkbrokers.com. Textlinkbrokers is a link building company. Please provide a link directly to Textlinkbrokers when syndicating this article.

Google Sitemaps - How important are they?

There is no denying that Google is the king of the hill when it comes to search engines. A fairly decent page ranking in Google is worth so much more than a better showing in other less prominent search engines. The reason for this is the overwhelming popularity of Google. A vast majority of internet users use Google's services in looking for quality content on the internet. With the large number of people using it, a high page rank acts a great advertising opportunity for your web site.

Because of the astounding amount of web sites that submit their web pages to Google, the think tanks at Google decided to come out with Google Sitemaps. This service, which was started in June 2005, makes web page submissions to Google much easier but with the added bonus of getting detailed reports regarding the submitted page's visibility in Google. With Google Sitemaps webmasters can continually inform Google about their web pages as well as any changes that they make to help improve their standing in Google. This program serves as complementary service to Google's regular crawl, although it is considered that using Google Sitemaps can do a better job than the regular crawl.

Google decided to come out with the Google Sitemaps program as a way for the search engine to offer better search results to its users. With the current limitations of web crawling, usually not all pages are discovered. It is also difficult to determine if a page has changed. With so many uncontrollable variables, crawlers sometimes just make guesses. With Google Sitemaps it becomes easier to get a better picture of all the possible URLs in a web site as well as the frequency of the changes that are made. Knowing these variables makes searching in Google a more robust and fruitful experience because users are assured that they always get a fresh index of web pages.

To take advantage of the Google Sitemap program, webmasters only need to download a free open-source tool called Sitemap Generator that helps in creating a Sitemap using the Sitemap protocol. Google hopes that webservers will eventually support the protocol so that webmasters will not take any other extra steps to in order to join the program.

Google Sitemaps also freely accepts codes taken from or generated by third party providers and even lists down all of the available third party software within the Google Sitemap pages.

XML-Sitemaps.com is one such provider that provides a free Google sitemaps generator for webmasters which will also produce a HTML site map.

Google's software and service developers are continually tweaking and improving the Google Sitemap program to better address the needs of webmasters. Because of this, new features are continually added to the Sitemap program.

Some of the new features that have been incorporated now revolve around the reporting aspect of Google Sitemap.

When a site has been verified, Google can show webmasters the statistics and errors about the web site as well as the web pages. Among the information that would be included are:

* The URLs that Google had trouble crawling including the reason why. Also included are the top queries that resulted in returns from their web sites as well as those that brought traffic to their sites.

* The web page's PageRank distribution

* The common text in external anchors that other web sites used to link to their web sites.

These new features, as well as others that are still being developed, brings tremendous advantages for webmasters because it makes the task of running a web site so much easier. It also simplifies certain tasks that webmasters need to do to better manage their web site's page ranking. Ultimately, it gives their web sites better exposure as well as the inclusion of more of their web pages in Google's index.

Philip Nicosia is the webmaster of XML-Sitemaps.com which provides a free Google sitemap generator which will also produce a Yahoo sitemap and HTML site map for webmasters.

SiteMaps and HyperLinks: Keys to Attract Search Engine Robots

Sitemaps and hyperlinks are the keys to attract search engine robots to your web site. We will look into various techniques related to text links for searchbot optimized web sites, and the importance of sitemap in order to help search engine robots to dig deep into your web site.

Text Links

Search engine robots or oftenly called searchbots are not terribly sophisticated. They cannot perform action such as button click, form submission or any other action that any human visitor might perform. Searchbots are able to index the page content and click through hyperlinks on the web page. For this reason, adding navigational text links to your web pages provides the search engine robots with another means to click through the links of your web pages when it cannot access these other types of navigation.

No matter how great your JavaScript menu system is, afterall its just a script that any searchbots can't use. Search Engine Robots can only follow plain hyperlinks. Since the ability to move around on your site is vital to the searchbots for successful indexing of your web site content, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to visit all of your pages. Use of text links at the bottom of your pages, while hardly cutting edge, is one of the best ways to make sure that the search engine robots can move around your site. Be sure to include links to your site's principal pages on all the pages in your site. Always remember to put a link to your sitemap page here too.

Site Maps

A sitemap is a optimized and effective version of your navigation links for searchbots. A sitemap will have links to all of the major pages on your site. You may list all your links in the sitemap for the best performance. This means that once the robot gets to the sitemap page, it can visit every page on your entire web site with minimal effort. Having all of the content of your site included in the search engine database is a good idea to improve your search engine ranking and your web site page rank.

Now next question one can ask is, What a good sitemap contains? Answer is simple. Sitemap should provide following information:

1. Provide text links to at least the most important pages on your site; depending on the size of the site, it may have links to every page. 2. Give a short explanation of each page on your site, to inform your visitors about your web site. 3. Give your visitors the information they need when lost in your web site, and show them how to reach the page they are looking for. 4. Provide a pathway for the search engine robots to follow in order to reach your most important pages. 5. Provide important keyword phrases in the sitemap text and hypertext links that help the automated search engine robot understand what the page is about. 6. Help search engine robots find static landing pages that then link to dynamically generated pages they may not otherwise find.

Even if your web site is small, adding a sitemap for your visitors and for the search engine robots (search bots) is highly recommended and should be part of your web site optimization.

To make your sitemap most attractive to the search engine robots and your human visitors, be sure to include descriptive text along with the page URLs and links. Use your keywords in that text, including appropriate content for each of the pages to which you link. Be careful not to overuse your keyword phrases, though, or you may be penalized in the rankings. Remember that this is a map that will be used by both search engine robots and your human visitors. If the content of the page makes sense to the people who visit your site, chances are it will make sense to the visiting robots as well.

When you make it easy for your visitors to navigate your site, they will find what they are looking for. When you make it easy to search engine robots to move around on your site, you increase your chances of being favorably listed in their search results.

Paras Shah
Webmaster & SEO Expert
http://www.itsallaboutlinks.com - Web Directory - Add Link - Submit Article - Online Store - Forum

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