You have no doubt seen those sitemap links at the bottom of many webpages. Have you ever clicked on one? Probably not. After all, you might not find the sitemap any easier to navigate then the site itself. So why do such pages exist?
Back in the olden days of the Web (about 3 years ago) the experts insisted that every site should have such a page. They said it was a way for visitors to find what they needed on the site and to keep them from quickly leaving, never to return again.
As is often the case, such common knowledge was wrong. All it took was a glance at one’s server statistics to see that the sitemap was rarely ever visited. Many experts changed their stance from advocating to criticizing the use of sitemaps. However, this also missed the mark.
Sitemaps are actually rather archaic. People don’t visit them. In many cases, they aren’t automatically updated, and you’ll likely to forget to update them as often as you should. Nevertheless, sitemaps are an essential component of your website.
The key thing is to realize that the sitemap is not so much for the convenience of your site visitors as it is for the search engine spiders in crawling your site. Needless to say, you want as many pages on your site to be indexed by the search engines as possible.
Sitemaps make use of what are known as fulcrum pages. These are simply gateway pages to various sections of the site. In creating a sitemap, you simply create a page with the assigned metatag of sitemap and add hyperlinks to each of the sites’ fulcrum pages.
Your website, for example, may consist of the main page with links to the other pages. The main page is a fulcrum page that should be a part of the sitemap. Every page that you want to be listed on the search engines should have a hyperlink in its headline to at least one of the fulcrum pages, if not more.
The HTML editor you use, such as Realmac Software’s RapidWeaver for the Mac, may be able to create a sitemap for you. To include a page in the sitemap, open the Page Inspector and make sure the “Show in Menu” option is checked on the General tab.
RapidWeaver can also create an ‘XML Sitemap’ which can be enabled in the Site Setup > Advanced Settings tab. Unlike the Sitemap Page Type, it is not intended to be viewed by visitors to your site but it works on the same general principle.
Google accepts sitemaps in a number of formats, but recommends those based on the Sitemap protocol, which are also accepted by the other search engines that are members of sitemaps.org (including Bing and Yahoo).
Don’t just wait for the search engines to find your sitemap once you put it up. Post a link to it from the social bookmarking sites, your article bylines or your blog as quickly as possible. You should start seeing your site being listed on the search engines in as little as a week.