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SEO and Site Maps

Using Site Structure to Speak to Search Engines and Users

Gone are the days when site maps were begrudgingly placed in a website’s navigation only as an after-thought or last-minute courtesy to web surfers. Content maps have become a standard practice for webmasters, web surfers and search engines alike, thus, can have a major impact on search engine optimization (SEO), usability and site planning.

Speaking to the Heart of Search Engines
Although search engines don’t have heart, they do have a heart-beat: their algorithms.
Search engines scour the web based on their proprietary set of logic-based algorithms which determine what, when, where and how they find webpages. Although no one knows the exact algorithms the big search engines employ, it’s possible to make educated guesses based on a variety of tests. Testing is important as it provides insight into where search engines are placing value.

Based on a number of site map tests internally conducted by Stand Marketing, search engines seem to have a penchant towards website maps. If one were to make a guess as to why, they might say that search engines have been logically programmed to look at a site's detailed 'table of contents' to get an accurate impression of a site’s content.  After all, search engine's goals are to find and logically categorize the web's content.

From a people perspective, internet users have also become conditioned to go straight to the site map if they can’t find the information they are looking for within a few seconds. This behaviour is similar to and likely derived from our conditioning around calling major companies with long and convoluted phone trees. Due to the time we have to wait for the robotic voice on the other end to get to the reason we’re calling, most people just press “0” to speak with an operator and get their request handled in a timely manner.

The point is, the web is an instantaneous medium and we’ve been conditioned to use it based on its efficiencies and our interaction with other communication tools.  Therefore, like we automatically press “0” to get information quickly via phone, we do the same with site maps. Is your website's map ready to provide instantaneous gratification?

Proper Planning
Anther benefit to site maps is the natural organization they bring to one’s planning and site structure. Many web professionals are finding that starting a website with the site map is a far greater organization tactic than waiting to produce one at the end.

Therefore, if you want your website's map to speak to the heart of search engines, to the behaviours of users and to the organization of your site structure, then embrace the basic yet useful benefits.

By Trish McCloy, writing for Stand Marketing, a Vancouver Internet Marketing Company. For more information on site maps and SEO, check out our list of search engine promotion services.

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