Free Search Index Inclusion with Sitemaps

Time was that you needed to pay to ensure that your pages were indexed. But Skinflints want that for free. Enter Sitemaps, which offers most of the benefits of the old paid inclusion without spending a dime. You can provide a file that lists your URLs and helps the crawler find your pages.

Sitemaps, pioneered by Google but now adopted by Yahoo! and Microsoft too, provides several different formats for the URL lists, including a flat file with one URL per line. Some programs can generate the file for you—and some of the fancier file formats allow you to denote which pages have the highest priority to be included whenever they change. All in all, Sitemaps is a very nice way for Webmasters to exert some control over indexing.

So it’s nice that Sitemaps is free, but there are a number of drawbacks:

  • Some spider traps still cause trouble. Because the spider doesn’t follow the links on the page in a directed crawl, spider traps such as JavaScript navigation or robots nofollow tags don’t cause any problems. But other spider traps do, such as meta refresh tags and pop-up windows.
  • There are no guarantees. The search engines won’t make any commitments as to how quickly your site will be refreshed in their indexes. They’ll try their best.
  • Content optimization is still required. Some dynamic sites find it very hard to update the programs and databases with the keyword-rich copy needed to raise their search engines. Sitemaps gets your pages into the index, but does nothing to optimize them.

Remember, pages missing from search indexes means searchers miss your site. Sitemaps is a free way to increase your included pages.

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