Friday, June 26, 2009

How To "Sitemap" - Thrive Learning Institute

For a website to be seen, it must be visible. That's about as simple as we can put it. In order to make sure people get to your website, it has have a good search engine ranking. If no one has any way of knowing that your website exists, how can you expect your site to succeed?

Now there are a lot of tips, tricks, and tools that you can use to make sure your website and web pages are visible. One of these tools is the Sitemap. So, what is a Sitemap, why does it help, and when is it useful?

What is a Sitemap?
Let me speak a foreign language here for a few seconds: A Sitemap is an HTML or XML file submitted to the search engines that includes the URL links for every single page and sub-page or your website and store. This allows web crawlers to find these sub-pages more easily.

In English: A Sitemap is essentially a list of all of the pages of your website. This will include your main pages (like your home page, about us page, contact us page, or anything else you have) as well as your store pages (and the individual products inside of your store). It has to be created in a certain "web code" format -- either XML or HTML.

This means, that in addition to everything else a Sitemap is, it is also pretty difficult to make. No worries, Thats why Thrive Learning Institute is here.

Why use a Sitemap?
So, if a Sitemap is a complicated piece of website code (which you probably don't know how to make off of the top of your head), then why bother using one? What are the benefits of having a Sitemap?

Well, there are several reasons, but it all boils down to one thing: It helps Google find and read pages that it wouldn't normally find or read.

So, what are those pages? To a list a few types of pages that are hard to read:
  • A page made in Flash or Javascript. Pages made in Flash or Javascript usually have some sort of "moving pictures" in them. As a result, though, the pages become "hard for Google to understand."
  • A database. If you have a large database -- let's say a list of all of the professional football players that have played in the last thirty years, their statistics, and their teams -- it will make your website, and specifically your sub-pages, very difficult for Google to find and understand.
  • A very large website. If you are running a multi-national corporation, your web-page may have 3000 pages. Google's crawler will "give up" before it reads all of them.
  • If your site doesn't have very good "internal links" (in other words, if you have a page that you want people to find, but you don't have a link to it in your website), Google may never find that page.
  • Your website is brand new and doesn't have links from any other websites. Google may not even realize your site exists, at least not for a while.
So, if your website falls into one of those categories, a Sitemap can be useful.

When should I use a Sitemap?

Since most of you who are reading this probably don't have a 3000 page website, a complex database, or a flash website, we'll focus on the last two "problems" that a Sitemap helps resolve.

First, if you don't have very good internal links, should you use a Sitemap? If this is a case, a Sitemap can help resolve this problem and help Google like you more. However, the far simpler solution is simply to put in good internal links.

Second, if you don't have links from other websites and are brand new, should you use a Sitemap? If this is the case, of course a Sitemap will let Google know you exist. Again, though, the simpler solution is to submit your website to the search engines, to directories, and/or to social bookmarking sites. Since this takes a lot less effort, it's usually the better solution.

With that being said, let me clarify: a Sitemap will never hurt your search engine ranking. Its benefits are relatively insignificant in the instances mentioned above, and may well not be worth your time. However, if you have the time for it, it certainly won't hurt either.

How do I make my sitemap?

So, you've decided your site deserves a Sitemap. Now we're to the complicated part. Making your Sitemap.

I won't go over the full directions in this blog, but generally speaking, you have two options.

Option #1: Use a Generator.
There are a lot of free XML generators on the web ( for instance). However, many of these will not actually find all of your website pages. Most of them are restricted in many of the same ways Google's crawler is restricted. Also, don't give your e-mail address to any generator site. I promise, they will sell it.
This option is fast, easy, and much less effective.

Option #2: Build a Full Version
Click HERE for Google's tool. They provide step-by-step directions on how to download their software, create your Sitemap, and submit it to them. This is quite complicated and very time consuming, and to those of you who have never used website code, it will also be pretty confusing. However you'll learn a lot from the process. Thrive Learning Institute recommends this option.
This option is difficult and can be confusing but far more thorough.

In Conclusion:
Is a Sitemap a good thing? Absolutely.
Is it easy to make a Sitemap? Absolutely not.
Is it worth it to make a Sitemap? Not Always.

For our clients, the only case where we recommend a Sitemap, is when your site is an e-commerce site that has a few hundred products or more. In this case the benefit is usually worth the investment, but in many other cases it simply isn't.

For more information on ways Thrive Learning Institute can help your online business achieve its goals, simply visit Learn how to make money offline by marketing online with Thrive Learning Institute

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