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From the author of Trick #7: Create a Sitemap

Trick #7: Create a Sitemap

Here's something else that you can submit to increase your site's ranking: a sitemap. A sitemap is a map of all the URLs in your entire website, listed in hierarchical order. Search engines can use this sitemap to determine what's where on your site, find otherwise-hidden URLs on deeply buried pages, and speed up their indexing process. In addition, whenever you update the pages on your website, submitting an updated sitemap helps keep the search engines up-to-date.

The big three search engines (Google, Yahoo!, and Live Search), along with Ask.com, all support a single sitemap standard. This means you can create just one sitemap that all the search engines can use; you don't have to worry about different formats for different engines.

Your sitemap is created in a separate XML file. This file contains the distinct URLs of all the pages on your website. When a searchbot reads the sitemap file, it learns about all the pages on your website—and can then crawl all those pages for submittal to the search engine's index.

By the way, the new unified sitemap format allows for autodiscovery of your site's sitemap file. Previously, you had to notify each search engine separately about the location of each file on your site. Now you can do this universally by specifying the file's location in your site's robots.txt file.

While you could create a sitemap file by hand, it's far easier to generate that sitemap automatically. To that end, many third-party sitemap-generator tools exist for just that purpose. For most of these tools, generating a sitemap is as simple as entering your home page URL and then pressing a button.

The tool now crawls your website and automatically generates a sitemap file; once the sitemap file is generated, you can then upload it to the root directory of your website, reference it in your robots.txt file, and, if you like, submit it directly to each of the major search engines.

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