Traditional sitemaps, as well as search engine sitemaps (discussed next), are especially useful to cite pages
that are not linked anywhere else in a web site’s navigation. Indeed, the Google sitemap help page says
“sitemaps are particularly beneficial when users can’t reach all areas of a website through a browseable interface.”
Creating a traditional sitemap is done as any other web page is. It can be created by hand, or generated
dynamically using PHP. The sitemap page should be linked to in the navigation or footer of every web
page in your web site — or at least on the home page. For larger sites, it may make sense to create a
multiple page sitemap, partitioned into sections somehow, because we recommend not having too
dations regarding internal linking and pagination.
We used that unfortunate vague qualifier again — “too many.” As usual, there really is no concrete
definition for “too many,” and it varies by search engine, but search engine marketers usually cite an
upper limit of 50 to 100 links per page.
Search Engine Sitemaps
Search engine sitemaps are not for human consumption. Rather, they are specifically designed to facili-
tate search engines to spider a web site. Especially if a site has added or modified content deep within
its navigation, it may take many weeks before a search spider takes note of the changes without any
assistance. Likewise, if a web page is referenced nowhere in a web site’s navigational structure, it will
not get spidered without any assistance, either.
Search engine sitemaps provide this assistance. Google and Yahoo! both have implementations in that
vein. MSN search does not offer one at the time of writing. However, the end of this chapter points to a
new unified standard that all search engines will eventually adhere to.
Search engine sitemaps do
replace the traditional spidering of a site, so a site will continue to get
spidered normally. But if their systems notice changes via these sitemaps, a spider will visit the included
URLs more quickly.
You can see how a traditional sitemap accomplishes some of the same things that a search engine sitemap
does. Because the traditional sitemap is linked prominently on the web site, it is frequently spidered.
Thus, by linking deep content on a traditional sitemap page, you can accomplish most of the same goals,
but it is still advantageous to create a search engine sitemap.
For example, you can inform Google how often a page is likely to change, or that a change occurred with
a later timestamp on a web page. You can also “ping” Google to inform it of changes within the actual
By the same token, if the timestamps are out of date, providing a sitemap can actually be detrimental. If
you do choose to provide timestamps, you must dutifully update it when changes occur!
We do question how well such an orphaned page would rank (that is, one that is ref-
erenced only by a search engine sitemap), and we would recommend using a tradi-
tional sitemap in any case, because it does provide an internal link whereas a search
engine sitemap does not.
Chapter 9: Sitemaps
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