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The Art of a Good Site Map

I’m a fanatic about a good site map, even though the one on this blog is manually created, a serious pain in the…everything… and way past due updating because it is manually created.

I was thrilled with the article by Jim Westergren, “Tutorial on Automatic Site Maps in WordPress”, highlighting several different methods and WordPress Plugins to create different types of site maps.

Just as a reminder, there are sitemaps and site maps. A site map is a listing of your posts or articles on your blog, arranged chronologically, alphabetically, or by category. It helps visitors maneuver through your site.

A “sitemap” is a term used by Google, MSN, and Yahoo! and is a file you can submit and store on your website’s server that no one sees but search engine web crawlers. They use the sitemap as a guide to help them move through your website, finding all your articles and posts. There are a variety of WordPress Plugins and online tools that will help you create and maintain sitemaps, and there is a growing trend to make the sitemaps “human readable” and turned into site maps, but this isn’t what we’re talking about here.

A good site map works wonders to help visitors navigate your site, and also helps search engines find content throughout your site when they run across your site map page. A good site map is a table of contents for your entire blog.

Personally, I adore a site map organized by category rather than chronologically or alphabetically. Honestly, when was the last time you searched a blog for a post written on October 4th, 2004? You search for the content in the post that just happens to have been published on that date, regardless of the date, right? When you are looking for information, keywords and categories are the key to finding it, whether you are searching or using a site map.

A good site map takes into account how people look for information. And the yellow pages phone book is a tried and true example of a well organized and structured site map. ;-)

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

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16 Comments

  1. Posted December 1, 2006 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    What I use is a tag cloud: http://engtech.wordpress.com/tag-cloud/

  2. Posted December 1, 2006 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    A tag cloud or tag heat map is an interesting way of creating a site map, but it has a lot of downsides. On one blog, I recently found among their top tag keywords was the word “your”. That’s clearly not a helpful tag. ;-)

    If people know the keywords they are looking for, then a tag map helps. But if you were looking for how to make a great site map, would you look under “great”, “map”, or “site”, or possibly “how to” or “howto”? A tag for “site map” might take the person to your site map and not to a how to on making a site map. Or they may assume it’s your site map and not tips and information on site maps. See the problems?

    For specific words, it’s fine, but really take a look at their overall usefulness. Besides, someone might be looking for “how to make a table of contents listing of my posts” and your tag keywords wouldn’t help if “table of contents” wasn’t listed.

    However, if they were looking for techniques and tips on creating a blog, they would looking under “Creating a Blog” category or subtitle and find articles pertaining to all aspects of creating a blog, including “making a site map”, and think, “Wow, I need to do that!” This increases the usefulness of your site map and blog.

  3. Posted December 1, 2006 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle.

    I learned something new on your blog: the difference between “sitemap” and “site map” — a small difference but it can make a big difference. On my business website I had sitemap written where it should have been site map. Thanks :-).

  4. Posted December 2, 2006 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    My sitemap is created using a WP plugin :)

  5. Posted December 2, 2006 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I believe your “site map” was created with a WordPress Plugin, so why not share which one?

  6. Posted December 2, 2006 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    The plugin can be found here: http://www.dagondesign.com/articles/sitemap-generator-plugin-for-wordpress/
    :)

  7. Posted December 2, 2006 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

    Thanks. That’s one of the ones recommended in Westergren’s article, and one that I’m also using on one of my blogs.

  8. Posted December 3, 2006 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Thanks Lorelle, I was precisely writing my site map when you published the post. I tried the dd-sitemap-generator but found it too rigid for my purposes, so I went for the semi-manual way (using the Exec-PHP and WP category post plugins).

    In addition, I have a graphical view (which I call bubble broccoli for reasons which will appear obvious when you see it. I intend to overlay an imagemap for easier navigation, as soon as I harness the css code for that.

  9. Posted December 3, 2006 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    I changed my “all posts by title” page to act more like a site map where its divided by categories:

    http://engtech.wordpress.com/titles/

  10. Posted December 3, 2006 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Hey, Engtech, you ever going to share how you do your slick tag cloud? Somehow you got WordPress.com to not filter out the css. We’re all eagerly waiting!

  11. Posted December 3, 2006 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t released my tag cloud software because it’s “not fit for general consumption” :)

    The trick with getting CSS to work is that you go to the raw HTML editor, upload your CSS and then hit save. It’s the Visual editor that strips stuff out. As long as you save without using the visual editor (tiny MCE) you’re good.

  12. Posted December 3, 2006 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    Really? I’ve rarely ever used the WYSIWYG Rich Text Editor in any of my WordPress blogs. Only for beta testing. I use only the text version. WordPress.com ALWAYS strips anything with CSS for me, including SPAN, DIV, and so on. I haven’t tried it in a while, though, so I’ll test it again. Thanks!

  13. Posted January 14, 2007 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    SPAN tags don’t get stripped when I use the text editor.

    I think DIV does, though.

  14. Posted January 14, 2007 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    For a site map, I use a page with links to the sidebar, to site search term results, and to mega-posts (introductory posts) at ykalaska.wordpress.com Sometimes the sidebar links are to site search term results.

    But, it sure would be nice to have something like the site search greasemonkey or some sort of easier way to make an index (I never get lost but sometimes don’t know where I, or my reader, am) Or maybe something that would track which site-search terms I use?

    SPAN will work for font colors. I’ve always had trouble with DIV (I don’t use the RTF editor)

  15. Posted January 14, 2007 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    SPAN might not be stripped but what can you do with SPAN when you can’t put a class, ID, or styles within it? SPAN is just SPAN unless you can give it more flavor and style.

  16. Posted February 14, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    I have a site map focused on arranging the entries into subcategories within categories. Since I try to use my wordpress blog like a CMS with science and science related information, it is quite easy, such as Biology -> Evolution or Mathematics -> Calculus.

    It is made manually and I am just glad that I started this early. After a while, there would be a lot more posts to order.

    Lorelle, you have done an amazing job on yours. :)


8 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Lorelle chimes in on an article by Jim Westergren who has created a tutorial on the various ways of making a site map for your blog. We are not talking about the XML sitemaps, but instead a list of posts and pages throughout the site. [...]

  2. [...] Whither Site Maps? Today Lorelle talks about The Art of a Good Site Map, discussing what is an often-neglected component on blogs (including this one). Putting together a good subject-based site map is something I’ve been pondering for a while, but have wondered if folks would use it any more than the tagging system. [...]

  3. [...] The Art of a Good Site Map convinced us to get a sitemap going. [...]

  4. [...] a decent site map, and I think we need to go back to the good old days and put more energy into creating a good site map and table of contents for our blogs. A good site map features blog posts by category, grouping like content together to help the [...]

  5. [...] The Art of a Good Site Map and Help Visitors Navigate Your Site: Make a Site Index by Lorelle [...]

  6. [...] blogs that want their blog posts read in chronological order, from the first the most recent, then create a Site Map that lists your blog posts in chronological order for reading. There are WordPress Plugins that may [...]

  7. [...] The Art of a Good Site Map [...]

  8. […] I’d be willing to pay to get a Site Map that automatically generates a good table of contents by category and/or tag on my blog. How about […]

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