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You can have an awesome site with tons of awesome articles… but it’s all completely worthless unless visiting search engines – and your web site visitors – can easily find what they’re looking for.
A good site map is crucial, not just for search engines to find your content, but also for your visitors.
Search engines depend on site maps to find all of your buried articles
One of the real benefits of a blog or web site is that your articles accumulate over time, and so your site becomes more valuable to the search engines. So, you end up getting more web site traffic over time.
But search engines can’t send you traffic if they don’t know what great content is hiding on your site. Let them quickly and easily find all our your articles with a dynamically generated site map.
For a quick example, see what we’re doing with site maps in the footer of our askdanandjennifer.com Dating & Relationship advice column
Your web site visitors often like to look around and get their bearings
A site map is also very helpful to give your visitors an at-a-glance view of your site, how it’s organized, what information is available where, and so on. Some visitors like and even expect easily accessible site maps, while others don’t care for them. But you’re better off having one and giving them the option.
How to create a great, dynamic site map which automatically updates with your latest web site content
First, create an automatically updating HTML site map page for your visitors
This is mainly for your visitors, but also for some search engines that happen to find it.
We recommend the XHTML site map template from Chris Pearson.This is not a plugin per-se, but rather a custom WordPress page that auto-generates your site map. Get it here.
Then, create a Google XML site map for your favorite search engines
Although the format is referred to as “Google Site Map format”, the other major search engines (Yahoo, MSN, Ask.com) have agreed with Google on this format, so they will all be able to use the same site map.
Get the Google XML Sitemap Plugin, which auto-generates a site map in Google Site Map format. This plugin also updates the site map every time you make a blog post.
You absolutely do NOT want to be updating a site map by hand every time you post. Unless of course you would find that therapeutic.
To get the most search engine benefit, include your UTW tag pages in your site map
Add your UTW tag pages to your dynamic site map with the Google Sitemaps – UTW Tag Addon plugin.
Tell Google directly about your site map
You can tell Google where to find your site map through Google Webmaster Tools.
Login to Google Webmaster Tools with your Google account, and tell Google the location of your site map.
- After logging in to Google Webmaster Tools, fill in the name of your site, and submit it. You’ll have to prove that you own the site, but it’s a very easy process – basically uploading a file to your site for Google to verify. Follow their very simple directions.
- Then follow the prompts to submit your site map.
Tell Yahoo directly about your site map
Yahoo also provides a way to submit the location of your update site map, through the Yahoo Site Explorer.
Then follow the simple step by step process to prove to Yahoo that you are the owner of your web site, and then submit the location of your site map.
The process is very similar to the one with Google above.
Update your robots.txt file to tell the visiting search engines where to find your site map
The major search engines (Yahoo, MSN, Ask.com) have finally agreed on an easy, universal way to notify a visiting search engine of where to find your site map.
This is a very easy single-line addition to your robots.txt, as shown in this example. Of course, change MyDomain.com to be YOUR web site address.
# Robots.txt file domain: http://www.MyDomain.com/
And be sure to check out How to Start a Blog and Make Money Online – in 10 Easy Steps if you haven’t done so already.