Have you ever visited a web site and noticed the “Site Map” button jammed somewhere near the bottom of the page? Ever click on it? Probably not. So, why do sites have site maps?
The Site Map – Very Important
In the old days of the net [about three years ago], experts proclaimed every site should have a site map. From their ivory tower, they proclaimed the site map as the extraordinary method to assure potential customers could easily navigate the site and find what they needed. Once they found it, they would buy it and you would be rich, rich, rich!
As is typical with such universally accepted proclamations, this one was wrong. Anyone remotely paying attention to server statistics realized very few people were visiting site maps. The proclamation stopped being shouted and evolved into criticisms of sites which still have site maps. These criticisms, of course, also miss the mark.
HTML site maps are archaic. Visitors to your site will almost never use them. You may even forget you have one. You will certainly forget to update it as often as you should. Still, the site map is a critical component of the site.
The first thing to realize is there is a specific purpose for having a site map. The purpose is to make it is as simple as possible for search engine robots to crawl your site. The more pages indexed by the search engines, the better off you are.
To create a site map, just make a page with the meta tag of “site map”. Add hyperlinked text to each fulcrum page of the site. A fulcrum page is simply a gateway page to a particular section of the site. For example, you may have a centralized article page with links to each article. The centralized article page is a fulcrum page and should be included on the site map. Once completed, make sure that every page you want included in the search engine has a hyperlinked text headline on at least one of the fulcrum pages.
A quick word about Google. Google has a new xml feature you can use for a site map. You can use it or forgo it as you see fit. Still, make sure to make an html site map for the other search engines.
Once you have the site map page up, don’t wait for the search engine robots to find it. Publish the link in an article byline or blog as soon as possible. Within a week or so, you should see pages from your site being added to the search engine indexes. This is true for Google even if you don’t use the xml site map tool.