The Logic And Use Of Sitemaps For SEO

Many webmasters use sitemaps as a way of ensuring that the most important categories and pages of their websites get included within the Google search engines index and can be found by the Google’s freshbots / deepbots (now combined into freshdeepbot). Generally, this sitemap is a page linked to directly from the index page of the website (if not from all pages of the site) so that the main pages can be found within 2 clicks from the homepage. This sitemap will have html links (sometimes accompanied by text descriptions other times it is just a catalog of links).

Many webmasters use sitemaps as a way of ensuring that the most important categories and pages of their websites get included within the Google search engines index and can be found by the freshbots / deepbots (now combined into freshdeepbot) of Google. Generally this sitemap is a page linked to directly from the index page of the website (if not from all pages of the site) so that the main pages can be found within 2 clicks from the homepage. This sitemap will have html links (sometimes accompanied by text descriptions other times it is just a catalog of links).



Google openly states that webmasters should keep the links per page down to less than 100 links “Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).” Therefore, these sitemaps will have no more than 100 links, thus a sitemap is only good for sites with 100 pages or less until you must create a second sitemap. I’m sure all would agree and index page with “sitemap1, sitemap2….sitemap50″ is ridiculous. Generally, I try to keep my navigation models and link architecture rather flat and accessible, eliminating the need for such sitemaps.
{mospagebreak title=Proper Linking Architecture Eliminates The Need For Sitemaps&toc=1} Imagine this: your website utilizes a navigation consisting of 20 main category pages all interlinked, considered to be the focal points of both your main optimization and your PR efforts (this applies to any number of pages). Now, you have many minor pages that are nowhere near as competitive, with regards to keyword and content focus, yet you want them to be included in the index and receive some smaller measure of pagerank so that they will place by simple virtue of their inclusion and superior on page optimization. Do you need a sitemap’ NO! Instead, reserve a small piece of real estate somewhere on your main pages that will not interfere with the esthetic presentation of the pages or confuse your visitors for a proportionate number of unique links.


In this case you need 200 links. You need only to place 10 anchor keyword rich html links at the bottom of each of your 20 main pages and all of your 220 pages will be indexed and gain pagerank. How much pagerank you decide to distribute to each remains in your control by using the strategy of Channeling Pagerank, discussed in my article by that name, or by simple inclusion/exclusion of html links to any given page from other source pages.
{mospagebreak title=Why A Sitemap Is A Bad Thing&toc=1} For those of you unfamiliar with the pagerank algorithm, in its simplest form the relationship between 2 pages is stated by this equation: PR (A) = (1-d) + d[(PR{t1})/(C{t1})] which simply states (once you consider d=.85 (Goggles dampening factor) and PR t1= the giving pages actual weight and Ct1 = the number of links on the giving page) that when one page links to another page, it is able to pass on 85% of its weight divided by the amount of links on that page. Thus if a giving page had 100 PR weight points and 10 links on it, it would pass 8.5 weight points to each.


Now the reason for the sitemap in the first place was to get some PR to all of your important pages but what needs to be read into the algorithm is that with every link (iteration) that the spider follows, the total amount of PR available to the next recipients is diminished by 15% (remember d=.85 and an 85% pass on = a 15% loss). Consequently because a spider must first pass through the sitemap page to get to the internal pages it ends up endowing the sitemap with pagerank and causing the links off of the sitemap to receive 15% less PR weight points each vs. being linked to directly from the original linking index. This is a problem because, by their very nature, sitemaps are not the best or most logical choice for optimization as far as their on-page content goes, because – let’s face it – they’re sitemaps.


Now, Referring back to the original idea of linking with good architecture (extra links at the bottom of main pages), your minor pages receive the same amount of PR as they receive from the sitemap model, because they still had to be reached indirectly. The PR that would have been wasted on the sitemap has now been attributed to your main category pages, which is where you wanted it in the first place. {mospagebreak title=Links Pages Attract PR, But Why Lose PR To Them’&toc=1} Many webmasters (myself included) use links pages in order to attract suitable reciprocal link exchange partners in order to receive their pagerank in the first place. Most webmasters insist on linking with only those who have a link directly to their links page from their homepage. Fair enough – we all want our links to be found. However, lets again take the example of an index with 100 weight points and 10 links. Again each link will receive 8.5 weight points (see previous page). Seeing as 1 of these 10 links is your links page, the majority of your 8.5 links page’s hard earned weight points had to be sacrificed to your links partners.


Or did they’


Remembering that the PR is split between all links on a given page up to 100, the PR that went to your “links” page should be split between your partners and your main navigation (staying preferably under 50 per page). To keep it simple we will say 10 main pages. Thus your typical distribution of PR from a “links” page such as this would be that 1/6 of the PR is reinvested into your system and 5/6 of the links pages PR is given to your link partners. Now it’s the time to think about the sitemap. Not for the purpose of getting spidered and indexed, but for PR conservation. Imagine that instead of just placing your main 10 links for your navigation on the “links” page, you placed an extra 40 of your sub pages on the each page of your “links” directory, as well as bringing you to the limit of 100 per links directory page. Now the PR will be split 100 ways with half going to your link partners (still fair) and half getting re-injected into you internal system. Ask yourself which is better, 1/6 or 1/2′ The answer is obvious.


Now if you have a larger site, think of this for page inclusion: one link to the main links.html from the index, 50 links to your links partners, and 50 split between links1, links2….links50.html. Each of those 50 “links directory” pages has unique links to 50 of your internal sub-pages, getting 2500 of your main, secondary, and tertiary pages indexed within a maximum of 3 clicks from your homepage. Remember every links page recaptures 50% of its PR. Not too shaby.


Good luck!

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