think every website should have a site map since it does help in traffic generation. As the term suggests a site map is a map of the web site and can be a simple list of links or a more complex representation. The type of site map you’ll need depends on the type of website you have.

Your site map actually has two audiences: the search engine spiders and your human visitors. Since spiders and humans use the site map differently, it’s often a good idea to have different site maps for each purpose.

If your website is small, less than 10 pages, chances are you won’t need a site map for your human visitors. More than likely, all of your pages will be linked in your main menu bar navigation that appears on every page. If your menu bar is easy to use and all of your pages are accessible in one click, there won’t be any need to create a human-specific site map.

However, if your site is very deep, if your navigation is more complex, or if your menu bar is written in javascript, a site map is a great idea and it may help pull your visitors deeper into your site.

The simplest way to create this site map would be to create an HTML unordered list such as:

.Page 1

.Page 2

.Page 3

And if your site is very deep, nested lists work perfectly:

.Page 1

.Page 1a

.Page 1b

.Page 1c

.Page 2

.Page 2a

.Page 2b

.Page 3

.Page 3a

.Page 3b

.Page 3c

.Page 3d

This will allow your human visitors to find anything they are looking for quickly and easily. It’s also a great idea to add this site map to your 404 error page.

Site Map For Spiders

The most accepted format for your spider site map is an XML document. If you’re not familiar with XML, don’t let “technology” get in your way. There are tons of on-line site map generators; just do a Google search for “site map generator”. Once you find the service you’d like to use, simply enter your URL, the service will crawl your site, and the XML document will be created. You will then need to download the document and FTP it to your web server. Be sure to add the XML document to your root directory.

In addition to the XML site map, you’ll also want to create a robots.txt file, especially if you have documents or directories that you do not want to appear in the search engines. The robots file is typically the first document the spiders will look for, so it’s good idea to point them toward your site map by referencing the XML document in your robots.txt. Just add a line for your site map like:

sitemap: http://www.YourDomain.com/sitemap.xml

And the final step is to keep both your site map and your robots file current at all times. Every time you add or delete a page on your site, you should update your site map. If your site is extremely large you might want to implement an automated site map update on a monthly, or even weekly, basis.

Creating and maintaining your site map is a relatively easy step that can improve traffic from both your human visitors and the search engine spiders. Why not set aside 20 minutes or so and create your site map today?

About the Author:
Karen Scharf is the founder of Modern Image Communications. Her company provides services that include business and marketing plan development, newsletter publication, copywriting services, graphic design, info-product development and strategic planning.

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