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Help Search Engines "Find" Your Web Pages

With billions of web pages in existence today, it’s no wonder that most web surfers rely on search engines to find what their looking for on the web.

Nowadays, it is critical that you get your pages indexed by the most important search engines, especially Google. To maximize the traffic to your website, you must make sure that all of your internal pages are indexed in addition to your homepage.

Fortunately, there's no need to submit each page on your site to the search engines manually. If you properly design your site, the search engine spiders will find all of your pages on their own and index them. The most efficient way to accomplish this is to create a site map.

A site map is a special page on your site with a list of links to all of the site's pages. To help the search engine spiders easily find all of your pages, link to the site map from your home page.

How do site maps help search engine spiders?

Search engines find new web pages by “crawling” (also known as "spidering") the web. They go through the code of all the web pages in their database (index), following the links to other pages. They then add these new pages to the index. The vast majority of web pages indexed by search engines were placed there after being found by the spiders, not as a result of manual submissions!

But search engines have trouble following links to pages that are buried too deep within the link structure of a site. If your pages are more than a couple of "clicks" away from the home page, they may not be found by the spiders.

A site map provides an efficient route for the spider to follow on your site, ensuring that each page on your site is just two clicks away from your homepage. It also helps to place your site map in your website's root directory (where your index page is located).

Site maps aren't just for search engines

Some web users will navigate through your site by following your regular navigation links or by using the site search form. But many experienced web surfers will utilize your site map to go directly to the page they're looking for. If you design your site map with this in mind, your human visitors will get just as much benefit from it as the search engine spiders.

Here are a few pointers: 

  • Your Site Map should act much the same as the table of contents of a book.

  • It must clearly list all the pages of your site as well as a little information about each page.

  • Every listing in your site map should be hyperlinked to its specific URL.

  • If possible, use each page’s title as the link anchor text because it will increase the relevance of your site (and help with search engine rankings). Otherwise, use a keyword or keyphrase that best describes the content of the page.

  • Always place the link to your site map in an easily visible spot on your homepage. Make it easy for your visitors to find your site map!  A link added to your regular navigation menu works very well. 

  • Don’t get fancy: simply call the link “Site Map”.

  • Make the link to your site map a static text link. If you use javascript to construct the link most search engines won't follow it.

How can I check to see if my new pages have been indexed?

To find out if a page on your site has been "found" and indexed by Google, go to www.google.com and use the allinurl command in the search box.

Here's the format of the allinurl comand:


Replace “yourdomain.com/yourpage.html” with the URL
of the page you want to check.

You can easily get a list of all the pages on your website that have been indexed by Google.  Just use the site command, followed by your domain name plus a word (or group of words) that you know appears on every page of your site. A good example might be your copyright notice. Here's the format for the site command:

   site:yourdomain.com commonword 

This will list all of the pages on your site that have been spidered and indexed by Google.

For more information, see "Getting found by Google".

Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest, an online web design and internet marketing resource.

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