HTML and XML Sitemaps: Why You Need Both

A well designed map can help lead the way

 

In the SEO world, the use of sitemaps is always advisable. There are two types of  sitemaps, the XML sitemap and the HTML sitemap. These sitemaps are very different with each serving its own purpose and both providing value to your website.

What is the difference between XML and HTML sitemaps?

XML and HTML sitemaps are created for different purposes, but both can help increase traffic to your website and improve its usability.

 The XML sitemap

XML sitemaps are used by search engine spiders, also known as robots, bots or crawlers. Spiders “crawl”, or follow links throughout the Internet, finding content and adding it to search engine indexes.

An XML sitemap is a file containing all of the URLs on the website that you would like to be indexed in search engines. The XML sitemap also provides spiders with the following information:

  • Metadata for URLs
  • When the URLs were last updated
  • The importance of certain URLs
  • Average frequency of changes to URLs
  • URL relation to the rest of your website

Having an XML sitemap is crucial for the proper display of your site’s pages in search engines.

 The HTML sitemap

In simple terms, the HTML sitemap gives users an overview of your website. This can be helpful if you have pages that might be difficult to find. For example, if a user visits your homepage and is looking for a “contact us” page but can’t find the link for the page easily, the user may click on the “sitemap” page. There, the contact page may be accessed a simple click on a link.

An HTML sitemap helps users navigate your website and get to the pages or information they are seeking quickly.

The benefits of using both sitemaps

Having your XML sitemap functioning properly ensures that search engines are finding your site’s information and correctly listing it in search results. This may also often lead to better search engine positioning and send more visitors to your site.

Having a well thought out HTML sitemap improves your visitors’ experience and helps them find the pages or information they want quickly.

By using both sitemaps in combination, you are helping your SEO while increasing the likelihood of visitor retention and return visits to your site.

DIY: 3 Great Website Tools to Check the Speed and Health of Your Pages

With the dawn of the mobile revolution, it has become more critical than ever to have a website that is not only responsive by design for multiple devices, but also fast and mobile friendly.  Statistics show that in the hospitality world 30-40% of users are increasingly using mobile devices to research and book vacation rentals.  It is clear that Google rewards websites in both organic and paid search placements with higher rankings when a user does not use the back button after getting to a landing page.  While this is only one small factor in consideration, it makes a big difference from a usability standpoint when a customer is using a phone or tablet to open a website over a cellular network.  Gone are the days of testing page speed with your desktop computer as T1, T3, Cable, and Fiber connections are much more commonplace in urban areas.  So how can I really tell if my website will open fast for all my users?  How do I isolate the cause of those problems?

If I were you, I would not rely on just one tool to test my website.  Keep in mind, you will get varying results depending on server locations, bandwidth being used, time of day, etc.  So make sure to test a couple of times and get an average.  As well, in this example we will only test the homepage of a website.  I strongly encourage you to test new landing pages used for your AdWords campaigns as well as any that may have extra functionality, forms, widgets, or just a lot of pictures…All of these below are free tools!

1.  WEBSITE OPTIMIZATION For many years, I have referenced this tool as a starting point to get a quick glimpse of how the different objects on my webpage are being seen by crawlers.  http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/

The 2 main things I look at are:

dowload-times

page-analysis

Check out the red highlights in the analysis tool then ask your webmaster how they will address these items.

2. Pingdom Pingdom is great in many ways as you can sign up to get alerts when your website goes down via email or text message.  I use tools.pingdom.com to get even more in-depth with what objects are slowing my website down in addition to THE ORDER that they load.  Sometimes just having some objects load at the end allows a user to see the important stuff and gives time for the other secondary style sheets and .js calls to load.  You can drill down to see specifics, get a “performance grade” and it will also keep a history so you can see how well you have improved over time.

http://tools.pingdom.com/

performance-grade

 3.  Google Page Insights - Lastly, I will check Google’s Page insights to see what score they provide.  It is out if 100 and theoretically the higher the better.  The nice thing about Insights is that they break down all the links, server calls, and objects and let you know where your biggest opportunities are for optimizing for page speed.

https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/

google-pagespeed

Remember, most times you can tackle 2 or 3 biggies – usually image size, caching, and order in which objects load to make a dramatic difference in your website’s page speed time.  In the end, the effort is worth it because it will result in a lower bounce rate, higher rankings, and a better overall user experience.  Many have said for years…you only have 8 seconds to make that first impression!  Now go OPTIMIZE!

Navigating the Frustration of “Not Provided” Search Data in Google Analytics

If you’re using Google Analytics for website tracking, you’re certainly aware of the privacy policy changes that resulted in a huge selection of keyword data becoming unavailable. In October 2011 Google implemented a new privacy policy that resulted in “not provided” keywords displaying in the organic keyword list. Keyword search terms for visitors who perform searches while logged into a Google account have since displayed as not provided. This was Google’s attempt at protecting their user’s privacy; however, the changes have sent traffic analyzers for a loop. In addition to steadily increasing numbers in the “not provided” category, we have also noticed a decrease in organic traffic share in year over year comparisons. This decrease can be partially attributed to a glitch in Google Analytics which attributes visitors using iOS 6 (most Apple devices) as direct visitors even if they came through a referring site or search engine. Branded search phrases have also shown notable decreases in year over year comparisons, but the not provided terms have increased dramatically.

Frustrated with the volume of “not provided” keyword data you are seeing in Google Analytics for your site? We certainly were and we have taken action to look deeper into the source of the mystery keywords. Thanks to the helpful tips presented in a Search & Analytics article by Carrie Hill, we have implemented a custom filter that shows us where our not provided organic search visitors are landing on the site – in turn giving us tremendous insight into the keywords our not provided visitors are using. There are a variety of new filters and ideas on the web to help combat the not provided black hole and we encourage you to take action to grab a hold of the data available to you.

Not Provided Filter

*Bonus Tip: Make sure you’re reviewing your data in Google Webmaster Tools. We like to look at Traffic>Search Queries and then select Top Pages. Click on the page you are focusing on and drill down to see top search phrases used for the selected time period. This information helps in gaining a broader picture of top keywords for a particular page.

Upcoming Search Marketing Workshops

Blizzard’s upcoming workshops that can help you market your website more effectively.

It would be great if you can attend any or all of these… if you cannot, order a video copy instead.  We are selling a package of ALL 3 workshop for $499 and will record each workshop and deliver it to you via streaming video after the event. You can watch it at your leisure.

At VRMA 2012 Nationals in Phoenix (October 21st) we are hosting a 4-hour workshop that is All About Google Analytics.  Learn how to use Google Analytics more effectively.  I hope to see you there!

Are you looking for a more intensive learning experience?  We are offering both a beginners and an advanced workshop in the next few months:

All About Google 2-day workshop will be in Glenwood Springs on November 12 and 13th. This is a great opportunity to sharpen up your SEO skills and understanding of the many opportunities Google offers your website.

Advanced Search Marketing Workshop is a 2-day workshop intensively focused on enhancing the performance of your website marketing efforts.  January 21-22 in Glenwood Springs, CO.

Top Reports in Google Analytics Every Marketer Should Use

This is a recording of a 20 minute session presented by Trent Blizzard at RezFest2012.  The topic was the top reports that many marketers don’t know exist in Google Analytics.  The reports include Multi-Channel Reporting, Queries, Events, In-Page Analytics and Experiments.

 

See How Easily You Can Learn About Google Analytics and The Power of Your Brand in Search

Blizzard has a few Webinars coming up. Hope to see you there:

Google Analytics Multi-Channel Conversion Tool
Monday, November 28th, 2011 10AM MST

Learn about the most exciting new Google Analytics feature to come along in years!  This may be the single most exciting online marketing development during 2011.
Learn how to setup and interpret this valuable new data which is guaranteed to shed new light on where your online bookings really come from and will most likely change your budgeting process in 2012. This is a 30 minute webinar.

The Power of Your Brand in Google’s Search Algorithm
Thursday, December 8th, 2011 1PM MST

Learn how your Brand is becoming an increasingly important component in Google’s organic search algorithm.  Google monitors your brand signals and will rank you higher and drive more search engine traffic to your website if your brand appears stronger than your competitors.

Learn about the brand signals Google tracks in its algorithm and what you can do to increase the strength and frequency of those signals.

Google Plus for Hotels and Vacation Rentals: Strategies, Tactics and Tips
Wednesday December 14th, 2011 10AM MST

Get a head start in the new Google+ social networking platform. Learn how to get your account going and how to get the most out of it.  Includes tips for newbies but focuses on strategies and tactics that will work in the world of guest marketing.

Insight Finder from Google makes Google Research Easier

Google has a website called thinkinsights with Google that is a great source to get insight, facts, stats, research, planning tools and… data!

There is a lot of great travel related data that is worth checking out.  They also have a “Real Time Insights Finder” which can help you discover all kinds of free real-time data from a plethora of Google Tools: