As a Web designer working with primarily small businesses, I’m usually the only Internet professional that my clients have access to. I don’t specialize in Website promotion, and don’t necessarily want to offer it as a service, but since most clients want (or even need) their site to be found through search engines, I’ve become an SEO (search engine optimizer) out of necessity.
A client of mine read about Google Sitemaps and wanted to implement one on his site. The fact was that the site was already fully indexed by Google, so I didn’t really see the need, but you never know what may help in the black art of SEO, so I set one up anyway.
You have to have a Google Account to set up and submit a Google Sitemap. It’s a useful thing to have anyway. Google Analytics is another really cool tool by Google that could replace any Web statistics program that you could use to track traffic on your Website.
Creating the sitemap using Google’s tool, and per their recommendation was a mistake. It’s a Python script and you need SSH access to your Website. The only way to include dynamic pages (database driven) is to type them into the configuration file, or point the script to your server logs. The former is obviously too time consuming and the latter is a mistake, because it generates a bunch of garbage URLs (or it did for me) that you have to manually remove. The Google tool also creates a compressed file by default, so you would need to look for the switch in the documentation to have it create a file you could actually edit. Rather than do that I used a 3rd party tool called GSiteCrawler, which is a free download by SOFTplus.
GSiteCrawler, as the name implies, get’s the URLs for the sitemap by actually crawling your site. That way you know the pages in your sitemap really exist. Through the GUI it is easy to edit the URLs before you generate the sitemap. Once you generate it you can upload it to your site root and point Google at it.
I haven’t seen an improvement in SERP position yet by using Google Sitemaps, but control over what pages Google crawls on your Website has to be a good thing.