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Inside Google Sitemaps: Back from BlogHer

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Back from BlogHer

I just got back from BlogHer, a conference primarily for women about the technical and community aspects of blogging. As a woman who blogs, I had a wonderful time. As a woman who blogs about topics of interest to site owners, I gained some new perspectives.

These bloggers tend to already put into practice a lot of the things we tell site owners who ask how to get more of their context indexed and make it easier to find through Google searches. As group, they:
  • Provide unique perspectives and content on topics
  • Think about their visitors, making sure the sites meet their visitors' needs
  • Give visitors reasons to come back, and other sites reasons to link to them (they update content regularly, and most offer in-depth information, such as tutorials, reviews, or in-depth explanations).
The panelists understood visitor awareness. They told the crowd to look closely at their sites to determine how unique they were from other sites out there. They talked about getting visitors to care. This thoughtfulness leads to great sites, which in turn can lead to great search results.

Given all of the dedication these bloggers put into their sites, they are of course interested in attracting visitors. Some want the joy of sharing; others are interested in making money from their writing. Here are a few tips to help make your site easier to find, whatever your motivation:

1) High-quality links from other sites help bring visitors to your site and can help your site get indexed and well-ranked in Google. The number one question asked at this conference was "What is your site?" People want to know so they can go read it, and if they like it, link to it. But the number one answer to this question was the name of the site, not the URL. Bloggers had T-shirts of their sites available, and many of those didn't have URLs. Tell people your URL so they can find you, read you, and link to you!

2) Make sure Google can crawl your site. We use an automated system (called "Googlebot") to visit pages on the web, determine their contents, and index them. Sometimes, Googlebot isn't able to view pages of a site, and therefore can't index those pages. There are two primary things you can do to check your site.

a. Read our webmaster guidelines to learn about how we crawl sites and what can make that easier.

b. Sign up for a Google Sitemaps account to see a list of errors we encountered when we tried to crawl your site. This way you can find out if we can't reach your site, and why. Once you sign up for a Google Sitemaps account and add your site URL, you need to verify site ownership before you can see diagnostic information. To do this, simply click the Verify link and follow the steps outlined on the Verify page.

You can verify site ownership in one of two ways:
  • Upload an HTML file with a specific name to your site
  • Add a <meta> tag to your site's home page
Once you verify site ownership, you can see other details about your site in addition to errors. For instance, you can see what visitors are searching for when they click in the Google search results. You can see this for visitors searching our web index as well as blogsearch. You can also see what searches visitors do to find your images.

You can also see what words other sites use to link to you (which helps explain why your site might show up for searches that you think are unrelated to your site).

3) Submit an RSS feed of your site to quickly tell us about all of your pages, so we know to crawl and index them.

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