URLs, Sitemaps, and File Names
Search engines like Google and Bing not only rely on the content within the HTML code, they also look at several other factors such as the URL path, a Sitemap file you submit online, and the actual HTML file names to determine a site’s focus and its relevance to a user’s search criteria.
There are several legitimate ways to get to a website home page. From a user perspective, there’s no difference between typing “www.company.com” and “www.company.com/”. Both URLs get them to the same spot. But from a search perspective, each path is seen as unique. Therefore, your site’s search ranking is diluted as if your website has multiple evil twins on the Internet.
To fix this problem, you can specify one “official” URL path using the canonical link element up in the <head> section of your page, as shown in below. This way, whichever link users click on or enter to get to your page, the search engine knows to credit the one official link.
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.company.com”/>
The term “sitemap” is used frequently in web design circles and actually refers to a few unrelated items. One kind of sitemap is the blueprint an information architect prepares when designing a site. Another sitemap is a web page often included in sites that lets users see an index of all pages. There is a third “Sitemap” (with a capital S) that specifically relates to SEO, and is one your users never see. This type of Sitemap is an XML file (extensible markup language) as shown in below, that lives on the root directory of your server (ideally, although not mandatory). The file contains a list of all the URL paths of your website, along with some data such as when the page was last updated, and its relative importance in your site’s hierarchy.
If you do not provide a Sitemap XML file, search engines can only rely on the paths they see based on the links within your navigation. A Sitemap file does not guarantee that a search engine will display your pages in search results, but it does help them make better informed choices.
You can generate your own Sitemap file online at www.xml-sitemaps.com.
<?xml version=”1.0” encoding=”UTF-8”?>
Not only is your page’s title and description in the <head> section of your HTML code important, the file name you choose for your page is also relevant to search engines and helps them determine the focus of the page. All too often people save their HTML files with bland titles such as “sectionthree.html”, instead of something closer to the page’s content, like “products.html”. Also, as shown in above, any search terms that a user enters will be highlighted in bold on the results page - including when the term is embedded in the URL path.
Above Shows My search terms “North Shore” and “Lopuck” appear in bold. The top line is the page’s title, next is the URL path, and lastly is a short copy segment from the page which Google felt was most relevant.
Read Next - Website Search Engine Optimization - Part 4