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With so much talk about mobile marketing and strategic social media plans, it can get easy for college webmasters to forget about some basic SEO fundamentals that can help increase your online presence. A great example is sitemaps.

As indicated by the name, sitemaps are a map of your site, showing the structure of the entire website (including sections, links etc) on a single page. A page like this can make navigating your site easier for visitors (think of them like tourists in a foreign city), but it can also play an important role in how search engines interact with your program pages and the prominence of your online presence.

Sitemaps and Search Engines

Sitemaps communicate with search engines, telling them what parts of your website to include and exclude from indexing. Basically, it tells search engine crawlers where you want them to crawl. To best accomplish this, schools will often have two sitemaps: one for humans and one for spiders. This ensures that both serve their purpose in the best way possible. This isn’t to say that you necessarily need two sitemaps, but since Google does not penalize you for doubling up, it’s not a bad idea to go the extra mile.

There, are, however, some different options, specifically HTML and XML sitemaps. An HTML sitemap is the old school sitemap for users to find all the pages of your web on one single page. In many cases, university websites may require many HTML sitemaps. XML (Extensible Markup Language) sitemaps are an update on this older method, allowing web developers to submit a sitemap directly. They are also more precise, as they do not allow errors.

Here is Google’s Matt Cutts discussing HTML vs XML sitemaps:

YouTube video

Sitemaps and Page Depth

“Depth” in this case, refers to the amount of clicks it takes to get to a page from your home page. A page depth of 3, for example, means that moving from the home page to a specific page requires 3 clicks.

Crawlers, on occasion, will fail to crawl pages with high page depth or heavily Rich Internet Application (RIA) elements. Therefore, if your site’s page depth is more than 3 or 4, a sitemap is needed to get all those pages crawled.

Submitting Your Sitemap with Google

An easy way to submit XML sitemaps is to use Google Sites. Before it will generate a sitemap, however, you must verify your site. Click here to find the necessary steps to verify your site with Google Webmaster Tools.

Once you have done that, you can submit your Google Site’s sitemap with the following steps:

  1. On your Webmaster Tools home page, select your site.
  2. In the left sidebar, click Site configuration and then Sitemaps.
  3. Click the Add/Test Sitemap button in the top right.
  4. Enter /system/feeds/sitemap into the text box that appears.
  5. Click Submit Sitemap.

Has your school submitted a sitemap?