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SEO Tip – Create a Sitemap For Your Real Estate Web Site

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Hundred Acre Wood Map  (AKA Chritopher Robin's site map)Sitemaps help make your 100 acres easier to navigate

Welcome back.  My series of SEO Tips is winding down; I hope you have gotten a lot out of them.  If you have questions about this, the earlier tips or something I have yet to cover, please don’t hesitate to ask.

How could Christopher Robin ever find Pooh or Tigger’s place without his map of the 100 acre woods?  Without a map, how easily could you get around in a town you’ve never been to before?  Sure, you could drive up and down every street until you found your destination, but that map sure does make things a lot easier.  Sitemaps do the same thing for your Web site, they help google and the others get through your site more easily.

Sitemaps are special pages, or files, created to help visitors and search spiders more easily navigate to all of the pages on your Web site.  Sitemaps can be created in a couple different ways, either as traditional HTML files, or as XML files.  Naturally, each has its own pros and cons.

HTML Sitemaps

Sitemaps created using traditional HTML (or other standard code) layout methods can be a life ring to stranded visitors.  Done correctly they are an opportunity for you to use your preferred keywords as the anchor text (you remember how important anchor text is, right?), directing visitors and search engines in a way that most benefits you.  The sitemap at apple.com is a great example of how to build one in this style.  Take a peek….I’ll wait a minute.  You can see that they gave careful thought about how to lay out the page and the text to use for the links.  It fits the overall design of the site, making you feel welcome – not lost.

Unfortunately though, sitemaps are often treated as a necessary evil and not given the proper attention and respect.  Take a look at this sitemap for a California pizza shop…not quite so nice.  True, it does serve its purpose, but just barely.  The biggest disadvantage to sitemaps like this is that as your site grows they can become difficult to manage over time.  Keeping track of new files, files to remove or when each gets updated takes a lot of work.  Additionally, if you have a large site, listing every page on your sitemap is just not practical, forcing you to decide what pages to include.

XML Sitemaps

Creating your sitemap as an XML file almost always makes it easier to create and maintain, especially if you run your site with WordPress or another content management system (CMS). There are several plugins available for WordPress that will automatically generate and update your sitemap whenever you add to or change the content on your your site – how easy is that?

The formatting of XML files is not pretty to look at (Take a look at the one on my site). Because of this, they are not intended to be browsed by your visitors, just the spiders.  Since you don’t need to worry about how the files look to visitors, you are able to include every page on your site.  That’s good for the spiders, very good.  Some tests have shown sites that use an XML sitemap get indexed deeper, faster and more frequently than those that do not.  The obvious downside to using this style of sitemap is that you have no life ring to offer your visitors if/when they get lost in your site.  Thankfully though, WordPress (and other CMS) sites are generally pretty easy to navigate.

Two maps better than one?

If you have a particularly large site and are concerned your visitors might get lost, but you still want the search spiders to find all your pages, there’s no reason to not have both types of sitemaps – well, other than it’s twice the work for you.  But, your visitors and traffic is worth it, right?

OK – time for you to get busy creating your own sitemap so that when the Google bot visits your site it doesn’t get trapped in Eeyores gloomy place.

Jack Leblond is a SEO/SEM professional working for a large corporation full time in Austin, TX. He is not a Realtor, he is our in-house SEO expert. Jack is the Director of Internet Strategy and Operations for TG (www.tgslc.org). In addition to managing the team that develops and maintains the company's multiple Web sites, he focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-marketing and Social Media. Jack's background ranges from Submarine Sonar Technician/Instructor for the United States Navy, technical writer, pioneer in internet/intranet creation for McGraw-Hill and Times Mirror Higher Education, former Adjunct Professor for two Universities teaching web-related courses, has served as a city council member and co-founded Net-Smart, a web design and hosting company, where he managed networks and oversaw the development of hundreds of Web sites. As a free-lance SEO consultant, Jack performs SEO Site Audits for small/medium businesses that want their web sites to perform better in the search engine listings.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Doug Francis

    November 16, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Again you had me sweating technology, especially as I went through the post and looked at the sitemap examples. I quickly went to dougfrancis.com/sitemap.xml to see what I had hoping it did not look like the pizza place. It ain’t Apple, but it looks just like yours, Jack!

    Hey, that’s a “48-Hours” reference…

    I do use the plug-in for my WordPress blog and really had not thought about it. A few weeks ago I started to use a “Spider Tracker” plug-in and I see they show up twice a day to index but the Googlebot seems to do 49%, Yahoo Slurp 43%, and MSN Bot 16%.

    Why do they show up twice a day? And any thoughts on the % amounts?

  2. Noel Wiggins

    November 16, 2009 at 10:29 am

    I have always thought the purpose to a site map was solely for search engines to link to all the pages. But even with that said my 2010 version of my site will be done in wordpress and I realized that the site map wasn’t linked from the home page, and I like the wordpress plug in that shows the stats of which bots are at the site.

    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for Nopun.com

  3. Portland Condo Auctions

    November 17, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Great tips and examples, thanks for the information. I have an XML sitemap already, but that is because I had a good SEO guy and WordPress.

  4. Mike

    December 29, 2009 at 7:59 am

    Thanks for the interesting article, myself have website built on pg real estate solution, they already have this realized as well.

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Opinion Editorials

AT&T hit with age discrimination lawsuit over using the word “tenured”

(EDITORIAL) 78% of workers are victims of age discrimination. As awareness arises, lawsuits show what may constitute discrimination, including verbiage.

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Older man at cafe representing age discrimination

According to the AARP, 78% of older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace. As awareness of ageism increases, lawsuits that allege age bias can help employers understand what constitutes discrimination. A recent case from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, Smith v. AT&T Mobility Services, L.L.C., No. 21-20366 (5th Cir. May 17, 2022), should give employers pause about using other words that could potentially be a euphemism for “older worker.”

What the lawsuit was about

Smith, a customer service representative at AT&T, alleged that he was denied a promotion because of his age. His manager told him that she was not going to hire any tenured employees. The manager wanted innovative employees in the management positions. Smith took this to mean that he was being denied the promotion because of his age. He sued under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and Texas law.

The district court found that Smith failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to one claim and failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination as to the other two claims. Smith appealed. The Appellate court affirmed the district court’s decision, but they did say it was “close.” AT&T did not discriminate against Smith by using the word tenured, because there were other employees of the same age as Smith who were promoted to customer service management positions.

Be aware of the verbiage used to speak to employees

This case is another example of how careful employers need to be about age discrimination, not only in job postings. It’s imperative to train managers about the vagaries of ageism in the workplace to avoid a costly lawsuit. Even though AT&T prevailed, the company still had a pretty hefty legal tab. Don’t try to get around the ADEA by using terminology that could screen out older workers, such as “digital native,” or “recent college grad.” Remind employees and managers about ageism. Document everything. Pay attention to other cases about age discrimination, such as the iTutor case or this case about retirement-driven talk. You may not be able to prevent an employee from feeling discriminated against, but you can certainly protect your business by doing what you can to avoid ageism.

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Opinion Editorials

Writing with pen and paper may mean your smarter than your digital peers

(EDITORIAL) Can writing old fashioned make you smarter? Once considered and art form, handwriting is becoming a thing of the past, but should it be?

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Writing on paper job titles.

When I was in college, in 2002, laptops weren’t really commonplace yet. Most students took notes by writing with pen and paper. Today, most students take notes with laptops, tablets, cell phones, or other electronic devices. The days of pen and paper seem to be fading. Some students even wait until the end of class and use their cell phones to take a picture of the whiteboard, so in effect, they are not absorbing any of the information because they “can just take a picture of it and look at it later.”

Is it easier to take notes on an electronic device? I think that largely depends on preference. I type faster than I write, but I still prefer to take notes on paper.

According to researchers at Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, students who take handwritten notes generally outperform students who typed them.

Writing notes help students learn better, retain information longer, and more readily grasp new ideas, according to experiments by other researchers who also compared note-taking techniques.

While most students can type faster than they write, this advantage is short-term. As the WSJ points out, “after just 24 hours, the computer note takers typically forgot material they’ve transcribed, several studies said. Nor were their copious notes much help in refreshing their memory because they were so superficial.” So while it may take a bit longer to capture the notes by hand, more likely than not, you will retain the information longer if you put pen to paper.

As I teach English Composition at the University of Oklahoma, I would also like to say that while I find this to be true for myself, every student has a different learning style. Typed notes are much better than no notes at all. Some students detest writing by hand and I understand that. Everything in our world has gone digital from phones to cable television so it makes sense, even if I don’t like it, that students gravitate more towards electronic note taking than pen and paper.

While I would like to see more students take notes by hand, I certainly won’t require it. Some students are navigating learning disabilities, anxieties, and other impediments that make taking notes digitally more advantageous.

I imagine the same is true for other areas as well: instead of typing meeting notes, what would happen if you wrote them by hand? Would you retain the information longer? Perhaps, and perhaps not; again, I think this depends on your individual learning style.

I would like to suggest that if you are one of the more “electronically-minded” writers, use a flashcard app, or other studying tool to help you review your classroom notes or meeting notes to make them “stick” a bit better. While I find this type of research intriguing, if you enjoy taking your notes electronically, I wouldn’t change my method based on this.

If it’s working for you, keep doing it. Don’t mind me, I’ll be over here, writing everything down with pen and paper.

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Opinion Editorials

5 reasons using a VPN is more important now than ever

(EDITORIAL) Virtual private networks (VPN), have always been valuable, but now, more than ever, entrepreneurs and businesses really should have them.

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VPN

Virtual private networks (VPN), have always been valuable, but some recent developments in technology, laws, and politics are making them even more important for entrepreneurs and businesses.

A VPN serves as an intermediary layer of anonymity and security between your computer and your internet connection. Your Wi-Fi signal is a radio wave that can ordinarily be intercepted, so any data you transmit back and forth could be taken and abused by interested parties. VPNs act as a kind of middleman, encrypting the data you transmit and protecting you from those prying eyes.

Top10BestVPN.com offers a selection of some of the best-reviewed VPN services on the market; there you can see the different approaches to security and anonymity that different brands take, and get a feel for the price points that are available. But why is it that VPNs are becoming even more important for business owners and entrepreneurs?

These are just five of the emerging influencers in the increasing importance of VPNs:

1. The rise of IoT. The Internet of Things (IoT) is already taking off, with a predicted 8.4 billion devices will be connected to the internet by the end of the year. All those extra connections mean extra points of vulnerability; hackers are skilled at finding tiny entry points, so every new channel you open up on your Wi-Fi connection is another opportunity they could potentially exploit. Using a VPN won’t make your network completely hack-proof—user errors, like giving your password away in a phishing scam, are still a potential threat—but VPNs will make your network more secure than it was before.

2. The popularity of ransomware. Ransomware is growing in popularity, seizing control of devices, sometimes for weeks or months before activating, then holding the device “hostage,” and demanding payment in exchange for releasing the files that are stored on it. These attacks are fast and efficient, making them ideal for hackers to use against small businesses. Again, using a VPN won’t make you immune from these types of attacks, but they will make you harder to target—and hackers tend to opt for the path of least resistance.

3. The escalation of attacks on small businesses. Speaking of small businesses, they happen to be some of the most frequent targets of cybercriminals. About 43 percent of all cyberattacks target small businesses, in part because they have fewer technological defenses but still have valuable assets. Protecting yourself from cyberattacks is a must if you want your business to survive.

4. Political attacks on net neutrality. Politicians have recently attempted to attack and eliminate net neutrality, which is the long-standing guarantee that internet providers can’t violate user privacy by collecting and/or reporting on certain types of data, and can’t create “slow lanes” that throttle certain types of traffic. If net neutrality is abolished, you could face slower internet traffic and decreased privacy on the web. A VPN could, in theory, protect you from these effects. First, your web traffic would be anonymized, so internet providers couldn’t gather as much data on you as other customers. Second, you’ll be routed through a private VPN server, which could help you get around some of the speed throttling you might otherwise see. It’s uncertain whether net neutrality will ultimately fall, but if it does, you’ll want a VPN in place to protect you.

5. The affordability and diversity of VPNs available. Finally, it’s worth considering that VPNs are more affordable and more available than ever before. There are specific VPNs for all manner of businesses and individuals, and they’re all reasonably affordable. Inexpensive options can be yours for as little as a few dollars per month, and more robust, secure options are still affordable, even for frugal businesses. If you try a VPN provider you don’t like, you can always cancel and switch to another provider. This availability makes it easier to find exactly what you need.

If you’ve never used a VPN before and you’re confused, try not to be intimidated. VPNs sound complex, but connecting to one is a simple login process you can use on practically any device. The hardest part is choosing a reliable provider that suits your business’s need. With the influx of coming changes, it’s a good idea to get your VPN in place sooner rather than later.

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