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Search Engine Optimized Site Maps

By Dan Thies
Posted Wednesday, October 20, 2004

If you want visitors (and search engines) to be able to find your whole site, the easiest way to do this is with a site map. The more content you have on your site, the more helpful this is, both for visitors and for search engines.

Unfortunately, a lot of folks miss out on a big opportunity when creating their site maps, which is to ensure that their site map is contributing as much as possible to their search engine positioning.

Here are a few simple tips for optimizing your site map:

1. If you optimize each page on your site for a particular keyword or search term, you should use those keywords in the links you set up for each page, including the link you put on your site map.

2. If your site covers certain distinct subjects, make sure you include the primary search terms for these subjects as headings on your site map page. I like to use H2 tags for each subject area, above the links for that subject.

3. No matter what navigation scheme you use, your site map really needs to use plain old text links - search engines have trouble following CGI navigation or image maps. This includes creating a plain text link to your site map from your home page, so the search engines can find it.

4. If you have the ability to set up a customized "404 error page" on your server, to display when visitors find a broken link or missing page, use your site map! This way, anyone who linked to your missing page in the past (or just mistyped the URL) is sending visitors (and search engines!) to your site map.

Site maps are a vital part of any good website marketing strategy - if yours isn't quite up to the job, it may only take a few minutes to fix it.

I wish you success!

About the Author
Dan Thies is the author of "Search Engine Optimization Fast Start," a step-by-step guide to search engine positioning for the beginner to intermediate level webmaster - available now at (


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