Q and A: Do I need to submit alternative descriptions for each search engine?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I have recently optimized a friend’s website. The site was already listed with Google and Yahoo etc. I have noticed that since uploading the site a few weeks ago the new description and title for the home page is now listed and a few of the new page extensions.

In the SEO 201 course, you recommended submitting different listing descriptions for each search engine/directory. However, all the search engines are just using the title and description from each page they have listed.

1) Should I be listing pages not listed on the popular search engines or wait till the find them.

2) Should I only submit alternative descriptions where the site is not currently listed and do I only need to submit the home page?

With thanks

Peta

Dear Peta

You generally don’t need to submit sites to search engines as they will be discovered, provided there is at least one site pointing to them. But what you should make sure of is that each page on your site is being indexed. You can do this by creating an XML sitemap of your site and submitting it to Google via Webmaster Tools (also via Yahoo). More info is available at www.sitemaps.org.

Regarding different descriptions and titles – search engines will use whatever they think is the most relevant snippet from a page in relation to the search query. This could be taken from the title tag, the description or from the text on the page itself. You can control this to some extent by making sure each page on your site is optimized for a small range of target keywords/phrases so that each page has the opportunity to rank on it’s own merit.

When I talk about submitting different descriptions, I am generally talking about when submitting your site to niche directories and search engines that don’t automatically crawl sites to discover new pages.  If you use different descriptions for these submissions, you can easily track keyword referrals in your log files and recognize which sites are bringing you the most traffic. I hope this answers your question.

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Q and A: What is an XML Sitemap and why do I need one?

QuestionHi Kalena

I am not sure what a XML sitemap is. I have gone to websites that will automatically generate a site map and the code they create is not understandable to me and they can only index the first 500 pages.

There are pages on my site that are important to be indexed and others that don’t matter. I have no idea how to create a XML sitemap that only lists the pages I want indexed. How can I do this? Can you clarify what a XML sitemap is and if I can have only my important pages indexed on it?

Beverly

Hi Beverly

Thanks for the caffeine donation, I’ll be sure to use it tomorrow when I visit Starbucks.

A sitemap is simply a way for search engines and visitors to find all the pages on your site more easily. XML is simply a popular format for the delivery of the sitemap. To quote Sitemaps.org:

Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site.

I personally use XML Sitemaps to build all sitemaps for my own sites and my client’s sites. I paid for the stand alone version so I can create sitemaps for sites with over 500 pages. At under USD 20, I believe the price is pretty reasonable and their support is pretty good so it might be worth the investment for you. Apart from that, the instructions for using their web version are quite clear – perhaps you need to have a closer look? These sitemap FAQs shoud also help.

You can either create a full sitemap of your entire site and edit out any pages you don’t want indexed later, or instruct the generator to avoid certain files or sub-directories before running. Once you’ve created and downloaded the XML sitemap file for your site, simply upload it to your web server and follow the instructions to ensure it is indexed by search engines. If you’ve created a Google Webmaster Tools account, you can login and enter your sitemap URL directly into the control panel.

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Q and A: How do I get Google to index more pages on my site?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I am currently reaching #1 in Google but only for two pages of my site. My question is how do I get more than two pages to return ranking? I don’t believe Google is indexing more than the two pages. How can I change this?

Gloria

Dear Gloria

Easy peasy. You need to create an XML sitemap of all your web pages and upload it to the Google Webmaster Tools area. Once you set up a Webmaster Tools account, you’ll be able to keep track of how many pages Google is indexing, what indexing issues, if any, Googlebot strikes and other useful statistics about your site’s visibility in the Google index.
But getting your pages ranking towards the top of the search results is more tricky and will require you to learn and implement some SEO tactics. You should also consider improving your site’s link popularity by obtaining more incoming links from relevant, trusted sites, particularly those in the same industry. This will help boost your rankings for industry-specific keywords and phrases.

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Q and A: Does it matter if my XML and HTML sitemap file names are the same?

QuestionDear Kalena…

About sitemaps. I of course have the sitemap.xml loaded and registered with Google and Yahoo. I also have a sitemap.html for site users. Is it ok for their names to be so similar, or should I rename the user sitemap something like usersitemap.html?

Thanks,
Rob

Dear Rob

It’s not a problem. Search engines recognize that XML and HTML are two completely different file types. As long as you have uploaded and verified your XML file to Google and Yahoo sitemaps, they will be found and indexed accordingly and you can continue to link to your sitemap.html file so users can find it.

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