Google Sitemap

As a Liverpool based SEO company, sometimes you need to get a little bit of perspective in regards to tried and tested techniques.

This week I’ve been talking to my friends over at SEO Manchester about Google Sitemaps. Is there still a value in submitting a Sitemap to Google?  In our opinion, if a site has very poor navigation and on-page SEO, submitting a Sitemap might be your only alternative. But for well optimised sites, is there a benefit in submitting a Sitemap file to Google?

Here are some important points

  • The Last modification date field in the sitemap file can aid Google in quickly locating the actual change in the page. John at Google explained that Google might not have time to crawl all the pages you said changed, so if you specify the actual change in the Sitemap file, it will be easier for Google to pick up on those changes.
  • The Priority, Change frequency is a lot like the last mod date. If you give Google data that “makes sense”, i.e. don’t list 100% of your pages as the most important page on your site, then it can be useful to Google.

Googles Advice States;

   * Yes, please send us Sitemap files, preferably sitemap.org XML files!
   * Work on good URLs & use them to double-check your site's navigation
   * Optional: Date or change frequency? depends on how you work.
   * Also optional: Priority

In conclusion, if you have good solid navigation, you may not need them. But why take the risk! Webmaster tools is an incredibly valuable tool that enables you to check any issues with each indexed page.

 

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Keep visitors engaged with Site-Search

Some websites do tend to be more difficult for visitors to find what they’re looking for!

Perhaps it’s because things don’t always fit neatly into more intuitive consumer categories. Perhaps it’s because B2B sites are often filled with so much diverse information. While site owners can engineer enhanced usability, better optimise and structure content, or create better organic landing pages, none of these options is a quick fix.

I’ve worked with a large knowledge management company, who’s product involved extracting information from vast online content and bringing the desired relevant information to the forefront. This technology was extremely expensive but created massive efficiencies for clients.

Google’s Site Search offers a quick, inexpensive way to keep visitors engaged and (hopefully) get them quickly to their destination on your site.

With SEO PPC, we’ve all clicked on promising organic search results and been quickly disappointed that the landing page doesn’t contain what we’re looking for. In many cases I’ll often land at a site I’m fairly certain contains what I want, so I’ll take a few clicks through the site’s navigation. But if I don’t find what I want in a few clicks, I don’t have the patience to keep searching. I’ll go to another site. All of us see these visits in our analytics, too. A four-page, 20-second visit. Then, they’re gone.

Site search functionality offers a way to keep visitors engaged a while longer. If visitors don’t quickly find what they want through navigation, they may try the site’s search tool. Many B2B visitors will go to the site’s search tool right away as an alternative to navigating to find an answer.

While many larger sites have already have site search functions, more often than not I’ve been disappointed with their search results. When I’m looking for a specific product or service, I’ll get hundreds of search results, but the first 30 results will be investor news releases or obscure technical articles. The results aren’t relevant to my quest. Not only do I leave without my desired answer, I’ve also formed some negative perceptions of the company and its website.

But then I tested Google Site Search. I think it’s a good answer for many B2B sites. It doesn’t cost much. Pricing depends on the number of pages indexed and the number of annual queries. For a site with less than 5,000 pages and less than 250,000 annual search queries, the cost is $100 per year. Pretty reasonable.

Getting all of your content indexed by Google can be a challenge, especially with large B2B sites. Google Site Search offers the opportunity of deeper site indexing for site-specific search. While this deeper site indexing won’t get more pages indexed by Google or help you in your Google rankings for web searches at Google.com, it will help you ensure all of your pages are reflected in the index of your site’s Google Site Search. This means searchers will get different (and likely better) results using Google’s Site Search on your site than if they used Google.com to search for information on your site (e.g., incorporating site:www.yoursite.com into the Google query).

Google’s site search also gives site owners the opportunity to “bias” the search results in a couple ways. For sites in which new content is typically more important, site owners can ensure search results are more heavily weighted to newer site content. Site owners can also bias search results to reflect certain sections of the site more than others, e.g., product-related pages more than company-information pages. This can help drive searchers more quickly to revenue-generating pages. This has been so impressive, under our search engine optimization training, we recommend this for our e-commerce customers.

If you don’t have search capabilities on your B2B site, it makes sense to spend £100 to try it. There’s not much you can do for $100 these days. So try it out. Then watch your analytics. Notice what visitors search for. That alone is great information. Also, see if your bounce rates decline, or if the average time on your site goes up materially. And watch your conversion rates.

If you already have search functionality on your site, you still may want to test out Google Site Search. Set it up and do some comparative searches. See if you think the search results are more relevant or if the user experience is better. I’m not sure if Google’s Site Search will be better than what you already have (and I’m not trying to sell Google’s Site Search), but again, for $100, it’s worth a test.

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