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SEO With Google Sitemaps

What is a Google Sitemap?

A Google Sitemap is a very simple XML document that lists all the pages in your web site, but the Google Sitemaps program is actually much more important than that. In fact, the Sitemaps program provides a little peek inside Google’s mind – and it can tell you a lot about what Google thinks of your web site!

Why Should You Use Google Sitemaps?

Until Google Sitemaps was released in the summer of 2005, optimizing a site for Google was a guessing game at best. A web site’s page might be deleted from the index, and the Webmaster had no idea why. Alternatively, a site’s content could be scanned, but because of the peculiarities of the algorithm, the only pages that would rank well might be the "About Us" page, or the company’s press releases.

As webmasters we were at the whim of Googlebot, the seemingly arbitrary algorithmic kingmaker that could make or break a web site overnight through shifts in search engine positioning. There was no way to communicate with Google about a web site – either to understand what was wrong with it, or to tell Google when something had been updated.

That all changed about a year ago when Google released Sitemaps, but the program really became useful in February of 2006 when Google updated it with a couple new tools.

So, what exactly is the Google Sitemaps program, and how can you use it to improve the position of your web site? Well, there are essentially two reasons to use Google Sitemaps:

1. Sitemaps provide you with a way to tell Google valuable information about your web site

2. You can use Sitemaps to learn what Google thinks about your web site

What You Can Tell Google About Your Site

Believe it or not, Google is concerned about making sure webmasters have a way of communicating information that is important about their sites. Although Googlebot does a pretty decent job of finding and cataloging web pages, it has very little ability to rate the relative importance of one page versus another. After all, many important pages on the Internet are not properly "optimized", and many of the people who couldn’t care less about spending their time on linking campaigns create some of the best content.

Therefore, Google gives you the ability to tell them on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0 how important a given page is relative to all the others. Using this system, you might tell Google that your home page is a 1.0, each of your product sections is a 0.8, and each of your individual product pages is a 0.5. Pages like your company’s address and contact information might only rate a 0.2.

You can also tell Google how often your pages are updated and the date that each page was last modified. For example your home page might be updated every day, while a particular product page might only be updated on an annual basis.

What Google Can Tell You About Your Site

Having the ability to tell Google all this information is important, but you don’t even need to create a sitemap file in order to enjoy some of the perks of having a Google Sitemaps account.

That's because even without a Sitemap file, you can still learn about any errors that Googlebot has found on your web site. As you probably know, your site doesn't have to be "broken" for a robot to have trouble crawling it's pages. Google Sitemaps will tell you about pages it was unable to crawl and links it was unable to follow. Therefore, you can see where these problems are and fix them before your pages get deleted from the index.

You can also get information on the types of searches people are using to find your web site. Of course, most web site analytics tools will give this information to you anyway, but if the tool you use doesn’t have this feature, then it’s always nice to get it for free from Google.

But the best part of the Sitemaps program is the Page analysis section that was added in February of 2006. This page gives you two lists of words. The first list contains the words that Googlebot associates with your web site based on content on your site. The second list contains words that Googlebot has found linking to your site!

Unfortunately, Google limits the number of words in each list to 20. As a consequence, the inbound links column is partly wasted by words such as "http", "www", and "com" – terms that apply equally to all web sites (hey Google, how about suppressing those terms from the report?). That said, this list does provide you with a way to judge the effectiveness of your offsite optimization efforts.

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When you compare these two lists, you can get an understanding of what Google thinks your web site is about. If the words on your Site Content column are not really what you want Googlebot to think about your site, then you know you need to tweak your web site’s copy to make it more focused on your core competency.

If, on the other hand your inbound links don’t contain any keywords that you want to rank well for, then perhaps you should focus your efforts in that direction.

Above all else, you really want these two lists to agree. You want your inbound linked words to match up to the site content words. This means that Google has a clear understanding of the focus of your web site.

Additional Benefits of the Sitemaps Program

Google has even started notifying Sitemaps-participating Webmasters if they are breaking any of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This can be very valuable information if your site suddenly becomes de-listed on Google and you don’t know why.

Only Sitemaps participants can get this information, and it is only provided at Google’s discretion. In fact, Google will NOT notify you if you are creating worthless web sites that offer no original content, or if you are creating thousands of doorway pages that are redirecting to other web sites. Google doesn’t want to give the sp@ammers any clues as to how to improve their techniques.

How Do You Get Started with Google Site Maps?

The first thing you must do is obtain a Google Account. If you already have a Gmail, Adsense, or Adwords account, then you are all set. If not, you can register an account by visiting the Google Accounts page (https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount).

Building your sitemap file is pretty easy to do if you are familiar with XML, and if you aren’t you can always use a third-party tool such as the ones that are listed on Google’s web site (http://code.google.com/sm_thirdparty.html). Google also has a "Sitemap Generator" that you can download and install on your server, but unless you are fairly adept at managing Python scripts, you should probably stick to the third-party tools.

At any rate, once you have your Google Account and your Sitemap file built, the rest is very easy. All you have to do is:

1. Log into your account (http://google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/siteoverview)

2. Type your web site’s URL into the "Add Site" box and click on "OK"

3. Click on the Manage Sites link for the web site you are adding, and add your sitemap file to your account.

Google Sitemaps – An Excellent SEO Tool

Google Sitemaps help Googlebot quickly find new content on your web site. They allow you to tell Google what’s important, what’s new, and what changes often. The tools provided to webmasters through the program can play a vital role in helping you understand how the search engines (especially Google) view your web site.

Using this information you can dramatically improve the position of your web site and quickly clear up any issues Google finds. You can also use the tools provided by Google to gauge the effectiveness of your off-site optimization efforts so you can better focus your time and energy on activities that bring you the most success.

Related: Quality Content - Web Content Trust

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Matthew Coers is an Internet marketing expert. His web site, ProfitChoice.com contains online courses designed to teach entrepreneurs how to build a web site and make money online. Download his FREE Internet Marketing report, 7 Days to Website Success.

Virtual Hand-Holding: Aids in Making Sitemaps

In virtual hand-holding, it is an important tip to remember that people visit the site in order to look for some information. Internet surfers are an unforgiving lot. They only visit sites that are useful to them. With thousands of web sites out there that offer the same features as your own site, how do you stand out? This is where sitemaps come in.

What is a sitemap, you ask? Just as the name implies, this is an aid that makes navigating a web site easier. The premise is basically the same as in an ordinary map. A sitemap contains the structure of the web site as well as links to the site’s major parts and subsections. Now, if your site offers sufficient information as well as easy navigation then you have hit the jackpot. Your site will probably generate more traffic than your competitors’.

Another advantage to having a site map is that search engines love it, mainly because of two things -- text and keywords. Therefore, it might also prove beneficial to combine relevant keywords with hypertext links. For instance, if your sitemap has a link to web site promotion, then your hyperlink should contain the words 'web site promotion' and then linked directly to that page in your site.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, a site map need not be fancy. It’s good for it to be catchy, though what’s important is for it to be clear and easy to navigate. In order to have a good site map, one must remember four things.

First, a prominent link to your sitemap should be placed on every page. It should be labelled as SITE MAP so that surfers can easily spot it.

The next thing you need to remember in order to have a good sitemap is that your sitemap should show all your web pages through different levels as basic text links.

The third thing to remember is to use standard colours for links and for the visited links as well.

Lastly, your sitemap should show a quick and easy-to-follow overview of the site without the need to scroll around in the web browser.

Google and Yahoo had begun allowing people to submit site maps to their account as a way of informing them about your web pages as well as the updates to your site. Although it does not help your page ranking any, it’s still worth taking the time to set up properly.

As more people came to the conclusion that sitemaps are indispensable, more and more sites have began offering free software for generating site maps. A quick search on Google for advice on creating a site map initially cropped up many links to software you could buy or download for free to create a site map. One such site is www.xml-sitemaps.com, which offers a free online sitemap generator.

When you are done with your sitemap, do not forget to tell Google about it so they can nose about and hopefully index all the pages of your site.

XML-Sitemaps.com offers a free online sitemap generator that creates Google Sitemaps, Text Sitemaps for Yahoo and a HTML Sitemap to help spiders index your site more thoroughly.

Google Sitemaps Explained

Once again Google is taking the lead at making their search engine results the most relevant in the industry. With Google sitemaps webmasters don't have to wait for spiders to index their sites. Google sitemap empowers the Webmaster to submit page links pertaining to sites through one sitemap page. And what's great about this process is that when you add other pages to your site, all you need to do is add those pages to the sitemap file produced by Google. Google. Will even help you debug problems with your pages.

Now you might ask: Does this program replace Google's normal methods of crawling the web? Google has stated that this program does not replace their normal methods of crawling the web. Sitemaps just gives Google additional information about sites that they would or may not have discovered otherwise.

Will this process increase time to index? Google has also stated that since sitemaps is a Beta program they cannot guarantee when or if URLs will be crawled or added to their index.

So how would I participate in this program? I am glad you asked this question. First, access is free, yes free. Any site owner can participate in the Google sitemaps program. Site owners with single page sites to owners with millions of ever changing pages. Now lets get into the fun part, creating a sitemap. There are a number of ways to create sitemaps using the sitemap protocol.

1. If the majority of your site is a HTML static file or your URLs can be found in your access Logs or if you have a text file that contains a list of URLs in your site, you can use the Google sitemap generator.

2. If the majority of your site is dynamic URLs and may not show up in your access logs, you can generate a list of URLs as a text file and then use the Google sitemap generator.

3. You may not be able to use the Google sitemap generator. In this case you may be able to use a third party tool to create a sitemap.

4. Create the file manually or use a script based on the sitemap protocol that extracts dynamic content as URLs and includes information such as last modified date for those URLs. Once you sitemap is complete its time to place the file on your site. You must place the completed sitemap in the highest directory that you would like Google to crawl. Why is this so? Because Google can only accept URLs contained in your sitemap that are the same directory level or lower. If you only have access to sub directories place the sitemap at the tip most directory you have access and ensure the URLs listed in the sitemap are at that level or lower.

Now add the sitemap to your sitemap account and your all done. Its as easy as that. Things to keep in mind

1. A sitemap can contain a list of URLs or a list of sitemaps.

2. If your sitemap file contains a list of other sitemaps then you should save the sitemap file as a sitemap index file and use XML format provided for that file type.

3. A sitemap file can only contain no more than 50,000 URLs. If your site ahs more than 50,000 URLs then split up the URLs into smaller sitemap files and link them together.

4. Completely specify each URL

That's it you're done. Enjoy the new traffic.

Kenneth Elliott is the owner of Market Associate, ISaved Home Decor and Designer Handbags web sites. He helps real people realize their dreams of a successful affiliate experience. Discover why so many have found their ideal business with Kenneth Elliott today.

New Features in Google Sitemaps

The Google Sitemap program has brought a high level of assistance to web developers, web designers and business owners who want to optimize how their web site’s web pages are seen by the Google search engine. We all know how important page ranking is for a web page. The higher your page rank in Google, the more chances that it will be clicked and visited by visitors. Increased internet traffic is what drives sales and awareness for products and services.

The Google Sitemap program has become very popular because it made the task of submitting web pages to Google so much easier. A web developer or designer does not even have to worry about aking frequent changes to the web pages because it is more easily known by Google. By presenting a constantly fresh index of web pages for your web site you are assured that what is presented in Google is the latest pages that you are maintaining.

The very high popularity of Google Sitemap has encouraged Google’s team of engineers to develop and add more features to the program. These additions seek to make Google Sitemaps more intuitive and effective in its functions.

Google recently announced that it has again added a bevy of new features for the Google Sitemap program that just made certain aspects of the program so much easier to understand and maintain.

Here are the latest new features of the Google Sitemap program:

Query Stats. Knowing the top position of your web site is important. With Google’s Query Stats, you will now know the top search queries where the results included your web site as well as those that Google searchers actually clicked on. The position given is the average statistic posted over the last three weeks.

Top mobile search queries. Google acknowledges that there is a growing number of people who use mobile devices for browsing the internet and also consider it as a separate “demographic”. For this reason, the top mobile search queries feature shows web designers and developers the top search queries made from mobile devices in which the results showed their web site. Web designers and web developers will see both the mobile searches of all web sites as well as the mobile searches of mobile-specific web sites. The results given by this feature will only appear if it is available in your web site. At this point of the development of this feature, Google only shows the top search queries and not the clicks made for those queries.

Downloading Sitemap details, statistics, and errors. Your Sitemap account now also contain additional information. You can now download information in the form of a comma separated value file. This type of file can be opened by using any text editor or spreadsheet program. You can decide to download the information on a per table basis, or you can opt to download Sitemap details, errors or statistics for all of the web sites in your Google Sitemaps account in one convenient file.

Philip Nicosia is the webmaster of XML-Sitemaps.com which provides a free site map generator which produces sitemaps in XML format for Google together with Yahoo site maps and HTML sitemaps for human visitors.

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