Not many websites have sitemaps installed for various reasons, but in most cases it is due to a lack of technical know-how but you can just use a sitemap creator. Creating a sitemap is a skill that requires proper understanding of how search engines crawl and index content online. As you create a sitemap whether manually or with the aid of a sitemap tool, it is paramount that you optimize it to deliver the required objective. There are several ways this can be realized, simply by customizing the process in the editor of the sitemap generator you are using. They include, but not limited to:
- Prioritization of web pages
- Content categorization
- Restrict the number or URLs per sitemap
- Proper keyword-rich descriptions
- Having the sitemap page on the homepage.
The Google sitemaps protocol provides for users to rank web pages on a scale of 0.1 to 1.0. Web pages with higher ranks are crawled more often by the bots than those with a lower rank. Bearing this in mind, encourage the search engines to frequently visit pages that are dynamic in nature, based on the frequency in which they are updated. A default average of 0.5 is assigned for all the pages, but search engines discourage users from assigning high ranks for all the pages. Pages such as contact us are rarely updated and therefore there is no need for frequent crawling. On the other hand, blogs and news-related pages should be assigned higher priorities because they are often updated. Doing this using a sitemap creator is pretty easy.
Place the Sitemap on the Homepage & Root Directory
HTML sitemaps are primarily designed for web surfers, but search engines also find them invaluable. The placement of a sitemap is very important because it simplifies access to information. Naturally, most web users start navigating a website from the homepage, proceeding to categories and sub categories. Having the sitemap installed on a site’s homepage will therefore ensure that users can find the required information by browsing through the listed URLs and clicking on the right one without a hassle as opposed to clicking one section to another. On the other hand, the search engines also start crawling from the homepage (in most cases) and proceeding to other pages. If new links have been added, then it will be easier and faster to be found. It is therefore important that you ensure that the sitemap page is strategically placed for easy identification by the users. For XML sitemaps, install them on the site’s root directory.
Most web structures have the homepage, then categories and sub-categories, in that order. Each section covers a specific area of business, which simplifies access to information. The same should apply when you create a sitemap; have the links categorized based on the commonality of the content. If it is an ecommerce website, for example, you may have categories such as fashion, electronics, among others then sub categories covering specific areas of the above. Proper categorization is also good for SEO because you end up with lots of keyword-rich content clumped together, which will influence the final ranking of the site on the SERPs.
Limit the Number of URLs For Each Sitemap
The number of URLs to include on every sitemap depends on the size of the website. Some really comprehensive sitemap generators like DYNO Mapper enable users to restrict the number of links on every sitemap, say a maximum of 50,000 or thereabout. If you have more pages, you can choose to create multiple sitemaps to meet varied needs and expectations. If your categories have sufficient content to fill up a sitemap, you can generate a sitemap for each of these sections. Alternatively, you can choose to only include specific pages that you deem important in your sitemap for the best experience. Limiting the number of URLs is important because overcrowding links will not only confuse users but may be mistaken by search engines for a link farm.
Keyword-Rich Link Descriptions and Titles
See to it that every link is accompanied by a keyword-rich description about the content. It doesn’t have to be a narrative, but a brief about what information users can get by clicking on these links. You will not only save the users’ time who will go direct to the relevant information, but also create a sitemap page rich in targeted keywords. This is very important for the search engines ranking and some websites have sitemap pages that rank higher than any other page. This is one of the most important ways to optimize your sitemap because you appeal to the search engines more and you stand to attract more traffic to the site. The same should apply to the titles, ensuring that you incorporate at least one major keyword in it.
Identify and Fix Error Messages
Users feel annoyed whenever they click on a dead link. This means that they cannot access the information on the link, which can really be frustrating. When you create a sitemap, it is paramount that you pay close attention to the links because they form the basis on which sitemaps operate. There are instances when some links may end up with the wrong description. To optimize your sitemap, endeavor to ensure that all links lead to their relevant content so that users and search engines are not misled.
Keep Your Sitemap Updated
It is now easier to automatically update the sitemap; thanks to DYNO Mapper website mapping tool. Whenever new content is created and uploaded to the website, the tool will automatically update the sitemap when you click refresh. In as much as this can be automated, there is no harm in manually reviewing and ensuring that everything is in order.
Creating a sitemap requires proper understanding of all major search engines and how they crawl and index sites and how users interact with the content on a website. To get the best from your sitemap, consider the above factors and get the best from your effort. Don’t forget that to create a sitemap is a multi-disciplinary affair requiring the inputs of a team involved in various aspects of website design, redesign and content management.