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Why You Should Have A Sitemap

sitemapYou more than likely know by now that sitemaps are a smart thing when it comes to helping your viewers to better get around your site. Ease in navigation makes it much smoother for the average internet user to find what they want to find, but also, what you want them to find. However, this is also one of the better ways to help the searches to crawl through your site, and index much faster than if you were not using a sitemap. This helps you to rely a great deal less on external links, and can also make internal links move a bit smoother- if you have any broken links that aren’t really accessible, this sort of circumvents that issue. (This is not to say you should not correct those problems, but it can help if you have some you have not noticed.)
Generally speaking for newer sites, a sitemap is a key element to getting it off the ground- this also helps when you have new content or updated pages. These are usually the standard way to submit your sites to search engines because it is a great deal easier- you submit, then you’re done- sure, the engines will index sites without them, but why make things more difficult than you have to? I am a firm believer in doing things not the fastest way, but the best way- but when you can do both at once, it’s definitely worth it. Here are the submission pages for both Bing and Google:
Bing:
http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?siteMap=
Google actually has an entire webmaster help blog on the subject of the various ways you can submit sitemaps:
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/12/sitemap-submission-made-simple.html

But it is more than just creating a sitemap- many applications out there create these simple, rudimentary sitemaps that in the long run don’t offer you the level of control that you probably want. However, if you feel like you’d rather go with a sitemap application, Google has a great list to get you started:
http://code.google.com/p/sitemap-generators/wiki/SitemapGenerators
Basically, you want your sitemap to point to the areas of the site that are the most important, it needs to be on the root directory, and you need to be sure that on each page of your site, it’s easy to find that sitemap again- this means, putting it on every page of your site. It does not so much matter how you format the links- this is just about making sure it’s easier for you to maintain, and for your viewers to get the context of what they’re looking at and for. When you combine the useability factor, with the search crawling ease- this is one of those things that for a little bit of effort could boost your traffic a bit. Keeping it simple, clean and using a static design can help, as well as utilizing a multi column sitemap to keep it much easier for users to navigate.