Search engine robots are not terribly sophisticated. They cannot click a button, submit a form, pull down a menu, or perform any other type of online "user interaction" that might be used by a human visitor. Robots are able to index the text on a page and click through hypertext links. For this reason, adding navigational text links to your web pages (often located at the bottom of the page) 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.
A sitemap page is a supercharged version of the bottom-of-the-page hypertext links. The sitemap provides "food" for a hungry search engine robot. A sitemap page will at very least have links to all of the major pages on your site. Depending on the size of your site, it may actually link to all of your pages. This means that once the robot gets to the sitemap page, it can visit every page on your entire site. Having all of the content of your site included in the search engine database is a good thing: you are much more likely to come-up in the search engine results when somebody is performing a search related to your topic.
A good sitemap will:
Even if your website is small, add a sitemap for your visitors and for the search engine robots.
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 for search engine robots to move around on your site, you increase your chances of being favorably listed in their search results.
March 11, 2003
Daria Goetsch is the founder and Search Engine Marketing Consultant for Search Innovation, a Search Engine Promotion company serving small businesses. Besides running her own company, Daria is an associate of WebMama.com, an Internet web marketing strategies company. She has specialized in search engine optimization since 1998, including three years as the Search Engine Specialist for O'Reilly & Associates, a technical book publishing company.
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