Thursday, June 08, 2006
Google Sitemaps - Submission of your WHOLE Website
I was working on my Google AdWords campaign for SchoolAndTeacher.com and I noticed that Google had a new feature called "Google Sitemap". It was a perfect fit with my needs. I was concerned with how deep Google would be able to get into my site. Teachers are able to have homework posted daily on my site but will Google see the daily changes? Now they can. When a new teacher signs up, how many months will it be before Google recognizes it? With Google Sitemap, Google can be informed about new pages quickly and when a page last changed.
If you have a website and want Google to know about ALL the pages in your site, build a Google Sitemap. That's it. Keep reading, since I will show you how to do so, and where it proves most useful.
Webmasters (like me) have been frustrated by the slow methodological way in which Google gradually finds the pages in your site. If your site starts out big and has a lot of dynamic pages, then this is unacceptable. Hurray for Google! They are listening.
Many webmasters like using DHTML menus, but are concerned about the search engines finding all the pages. This will help Google to find them. (In reality, I would still recommend having a regular site-map to help the other search engines find the rest of your pages. Google may drive the most traffic but customers coming in through any search engine are welcome. Don't throw this away.)
DO WE KEEP OUR OLD SITE MAPS?
Yes! The Google Sitemap is not useful to your normal human user just to Google. (It is in XML format, not HTML.) Also remember that other search engines (like Yahoo and MSN) don't use this type of site map yet. Hopefully they will.
WHAT DOES A GOOGLE SITEMAP LOOK LIKE?
It is XML. For XML gurus, here is the schema: http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84/sitemap.xsd.
But if you are new to XML, you can generate one here: http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
BUT I DON'T WANT TO USE XML
You can just provide a text document with the list of URL's. This will help Google find your pages, but will not help Google effeciently decide on what to spider.
I would strongly encourage you to build an XML version of the Google Sitemap, since it also has the date your page was last changed. This date helps Google to know what has changed recently. It wont have to spider your whole site to find out either.
BENEFITS OF USING THE XML VERSION:
Google can know what pages have changed and not have to re-crawl those pages that haven't changed.
If you have a lot of pages and Google doesn't have time to crawl all of your pages all right away, it will focus on the ones that changed according to your priority.
Google is your friend.If they want information on how to efficiently crawl your site give it to them.
WHAT TO SUBMIT?
You may submit a sitemap, or an index of your sitemaps. Either will do. Google has documentation on both. (Don't worry about the index yet. That is addressed at the end of this article.)
I BUILT ONE - NOW HOW DO I SUBMIT IT?
- First TELL GOOGLE IT EXISTS
- Upload your Sitemap to your site to the highest folder in your website.
- Sign into Google Sitemaps with your Google Account. (Use this link: Google Sitemap Login )
- Click on "Add a Sitemap" link.
- Type the URL to your Sitemap location.
Congratulations! Google now knows about it!
Now tell Google whenever something changes. It will check this sitemap to see where the changes are.
Quick and Easy Way:
Type the following into the address section of your browser:
Of course, you should replace the YourDomain.com with your domain and YourSitemap.xml with your sitemap.
If you have a dynamically built site then you would want to automate this using screen scraping techniques.
HOW OFTEN TO SUBMIT?
Ideally, it should be submitted when changes are made. Personally, I would avoid doing so more than once per day. However, we will look to Google as they may provide further guidance on this. Search engines are our friends, and we should be respectful of abusing any service they provide or making them process things needlessly.
Google doesn't make any promises of this. This is mainly a way for Google to find your pages, and to efficiently know what pages need to be re-crawled on your website. If your site makes frequent changes, this feature helps Google to know about them more quickly. It won't have to spider through your whole site to find the changes.
HOW MANY URLs CAN I HAVE IN A GOOGLE SITEMAP?
According to Google documentation, you may have up to 50,000. If you anticipate more than this, then you should build several sitemaps and use a Google Sitemap Index. This Index will point to the several sitemaps. If you want more information on the Sitemap Index, go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/docs/en/protocol.html#sitemapFileRequirements
FOR more information, please refer to Google Documentation at http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/docs/en/about.html
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Website Submission - A SEO Specialist Shares His Secrets
Many of you have heard of submitting your website, but what does this really mean? What places should you really submit your website? What about submitting to thousands of search engines and directories through some website promotion service?
WHAT PAGES TO SUBMIT:
At the minimum, you should submit your home page. Many search engines will promise to find and crawl the rest of your website automatically (in their own good time). But if they don't discourage you from doing so, I would submit several of the important pages in your site. For example, a site map is definitely something I would want to submit, since it should have direct links to the rest of your website.
Also, if I get another webmaster to link to my website, it I like to submit that page as well. I want the search engines to recognize that this resource has changed - it has a link to my website and I want the credit for it.
WHAT TO PREPARE:
For the search engines, I would make sure that the website is properly optimized. At a minimum, I would do a double check the meta-tags to ensure that the title, meta-description and meta-keywords properly describe the web pages and have some of my desired keywords in it. I would also run a website validator on the pages I intend on submitting - to keep the search engine spiders from choking on my website. (http://validator.w3.org/) For more information on optimizing a website for the search engines, go to http://website-optimization-2.blogspot.com/.
For the directories, I would normally prepare some commonly requested information. This really helps to speed up the process. I normally use a generic text editor like Microsoft Notepad and save the following data before I go and submit to the different search engines and directories. This enables me to use copy and paste.
This should have:
- Your email
- Your website url
- A good title for your website
- A description for the website
Since Yahoo will allow you to submit a list of URLS that are in a text document (or an RSS feed) I would encourage you to prepare one to help them out. These should be at the root directory of your website and be updated whenever there is a change to your pages. That way you can just submit the location of the RSS feed or the text file and let Yahoo use that to find the rest of your pages. It is a nice time saver. Personally, I like using an automated RSS feed since Yahoo can use it to determine when the last changes occurred and decide what pages to re-crawl first.
(If you don't know what RSS is, here is a great article on it: http://feedvalidator.org/docs/rss2.html.)
Google uses a similar technology to help it find all of your web pages. It is called a "Google Site Map". That is the subject of another article. I wrote one that has a lot more info on the Google Site Maps, for when you are ready to build one. Google also has a special way to submit these. Just follow their instructions. If this is too complicated, contact a webmaster or a SEO specialist who is familiar with this feature.
WHERE TO SUBMIT:
I would recommend submitting your home page to the major search engines individually, at least initially. However, there are several services that do groups of them for you - and is a big time saver for the rest of your site. The following is one of my favorites: http://www.freewebsubmission.com/ I have always deselected Google, though, since I submit to them manually through the Google website. I submit my web pages to the following search engines manually (without a special tool) just to ensure that it is done.
You will need a Yahoo account to submit to the Yahoo search engine. And don't fret if you don't see immediate results. Your site should normally exist in MSN within about 6 weeks, in Yahoo in 8-12 weeks, and in Google within about 3 months. (You will not likely get much search results from Google for the first year though - but hold out and keep working on the other tricks. In the long run, Google will normally give you about 60 - 70% of the search engine traffic if you follow these methods.)
Also, if you have the Alexa toolbar installed, navigate to your website and click on the "info" button on the toolbar. Then you will have to fill in information about your website. Once this is registered, you will start seeing how your website's Alexa rating looks. There has been some rumors that Google considers the Alexa description in its searches - so make sure it is relevant to your website as a whole and has at least one of your keywords.
You should also submit your website to DMOZ. This is a massive directory that is republished in several other websites. It is managed by humans, and is therefore considered to be of special relevance by other search engines. I strongly recommend reading all their rules before submitting - and follow them closely. Make sure that you try to get listed in only one category - the most relevant one for your business. It can take a month or two to get listed, but it really helps with your backlinks and overall relevancy as a website.
After DMOZ, here are the most important list of directories to be listed in.
- Yahoo Directory website submission ($299 annual fee)
- Business.com website submission ($199 annual fee)
- Microsoft Bcentral Directory website submission ($49 annual fee)
- Best of Web website submission ($40 annual fee)
- goguides.org website submission ($40 lifetime fee)
- gimpsy.com website submission ($40 lifetime fee)
- joeant website submission ($40 lifetime fee)
- Tygo website submission ($40 lifetime fee)
- Skaffe.com website submission ($40 lifetime fee)
- 85directory.com (39.95 lifetime fee)
- wowdirectory.com website submission ($25 lifetime fee)
If you haven't used directories before - try browsing these before you fill out the form to submit your site. They are organized by category. You need to find the most relevant category to put your website before you start to fill out the form for each of these. Have a pen and paper as you browse - and write down directory paths of where you want to be.
Being in some directories just adds some good backlinks. (When another webmaster links to your website, this is considered a backlink.) Others, like Yahoo and DMOZ, tend to get some special relevance to certain search engines. After you get familiar with these well-known directories, look for niche directories that are specific to the type of business your website is about. The following web page has a larger list of directories: http://www.strongestlinks.com/directories.php
There are specialized directories that focus on a particular category of links. These can be valuable - you will just have to do a bit of searching to find them. These may be considered as part of your overall strategy.
Being listed in a search engine there doesn't guarantee that you will have a good ranking - this is just the first step - letting them know that you exist.
IF YOU SEE AN OFFER TO GET LISTED IN HUNDREDS OF DIRECTORIES AND WEBSITES AUTOMATICALLY - Be careful! Research it before submitting. Many of these will list you in hundreds of FFA (free for all) sites. If they suggest that this is to be done monthly - then you can be guaranteed - IT IS FFA. These sites are considered SPAM by search engines and I would strongly encourage you to avoid them. Did I mention to avoid these?
The best kinds of directories (according to search engines) are those that require a human review before publishing the content. All the ones I listed above require some human to review the directory listing before posting it.
Check out what Google has to say about FFA sites: http://www.google.com/webmasters/seo.html . They may get you quick backlinks, but they are from the "wrong" type of site. These are just a list of sites - and they stay there temporarily. Only the latest 100 submitted or so are displayed there and you need to be resubmitted regularly to stay there. Few humans use this - it is just a linking game to trick the search engines about your popularity (and search engines don't like it). Don't bother. And dont pay someone to do it for you.
TO WRAP IT UP:
Get backlinks - but avoid FFA sites. There are some important directories, but being listed in "THOUSANDS OF WEBSITES AND DIRECTORIES" is likely a promotional trick to get you listed in FFA sites. The most important backlinks are from web pages with content related to your website and those that your customers visit. If it isn't likely to draw your customers, it may not be very important for your website traffic.