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Monday, May 14, 2007

The importance of site maps

Site maps are an important part of a website as they provide your users will a page that enable them to access any part of a website from one page and also provide search engine spiders with a definitive list of all of the main pages that your website contains. Not only does it help confused and lost users find their way around you site but it helps the search engines work out all of the main pages of your website. Please note that I am not talking here about Google Site maps the service Google have to enable you to submit your site structure to them to index. I am talking about a page that contains links to all of the main sections of your website.

A successful site map will aim to achieve the following;
- Show detailed quick access to all site sections.
- Provide search engine spiders with more information on which pages to index.
- Include descriptive links and "alt" tags for each of the links, including keywords, to improve search engine ranking for your keywords.
- If you can provide a short description of what you will expect to find when each link is clicked this really does help the user to navigate your site.

I have found that a site with a site map generally has more of its page indexed in the main search engines and allows users to access your site through individual pages rather than straight from the home page. I have also found that when I visit a site and cant find what I want straight away busying the site navigation or search then the site map is where you head, which points out to me that if the site did not have a site map and I hasn't found what I wanted at this point Ii probably would have left the site. This means that they have their roll in retaining users on your site.

One thing that is a pain with site maps is that unless you are driving the links out of a database then you have to make sure that you keep these pages up to date as should any 404 messages appear on this page down the track then this can have negative affects on you search engine ranking.