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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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Business Finance

Will cash still be king after COVID-19?

(EDITORIAL) Physical cash has been a preferred mode of payment for many, but will COVID-19 push us to a cashless future at an even faster rate?

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No more Cash

Say goodbye to the almighty dollar, at least the paper version. Cashless is where it’s at, and COVID-19 is at least partially to thank–or blame, depending on your perspective.

Let’s face it, we were already headed that direction. Apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay making cashless transactions painless enough that even stubborn luddites were beginning to migrate to these convenient payment methods. Then COVID-19 hit the world and suddenly, handling cash is a potential danger.

In 2020, the era of COVID-19, the thought of all the possible contaminants, traveling around on an old dollar bill makes most of us cringe. Keep your nasty sock money, boob money, and even your pocket money to yourself, sir or madam, because I’ll have none of it! Nobody knows or wants to know where your money has been. We like the idea of taking your money, sure, but not the idea of actually touching it…ewww, David. Just ewww.

There is no hard evidence that cash can transmit COVID-19 from one person to the other, but perception is a powerful agent for changing our behavior. It seems plausible, considering the alarming rate this awful disease is moving through the world. Nobody has proven it can’t move with money.

There was a time when cash was King. Everyone took cash; everyone preferred it. Of course, credit cards have been around forever, but they’ve always been just as problematic as they are convenient. Like GrubHub and similar third party food delivery apps, banks end up charging both the business and the consumer with credit cards. It’s a trap. Cash cut out the (greedy) middle man.

Plus, paying with a credit card could be a pain. Try paying a taxi driver with a credit card prior to, oh, about 2014 when Uber hit the scene big time. Most drivers refused to take cash, because credit cards take a percentage off the top. Enter rideshare companies like Uber. Then in walks Square. Next PayPal, Venmo, and Apple Pay enter the scene. Suddenly, cabbies would like you to know they now take alternate forms of payment, and with a smile.

It’s good in a way, but it may end up hurting small businesses even more in the long run. The harsh reality of this current moment is that you shouldn’t be handling cash. No less an authority than the CDC recommends contactless forms of payment whenever possible. However, those cabbies weren’t wrong.

The banking industry has been pushing for a reduced reliance on cash since the 1950s, when they came up with the idea of credit cards. It was a stroke of evil genius to come up with more ways to expedite our lifelong journey into crushing debt.

The financial titans are very, very good at what they do, at the expense of all the rest of us. The New York Times reported on the trend, noting:

“In Britain alone, retailers paid 1.3 billion pounds (about $1.7 billion) in third-party fees in 2018, up £70 million from the year before, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Payment and processing companies such as PayPal (whose stock is up about 55 percent this year) and Adyen, based in the Netherlands (up 72 percent), also stand to gain.”

All kinds of related banking-related industries stand to benefit as well. Maybe we’ll go back to spending physical cash one day, but I don’t think there’s any hurry. Fewer old grandpas are hiding their cash in their proverbial mattresses, and the younger, most tech-savvy generation seems perfectly content to use their smart phones for everything.

We get it. Convenience plus cleanliness is a sweet combo. I only wish it weren’t such a racket.

If this trend towards a cashless future continues, there may be a possibility that travelers in the future may not experience what it’s like to fumble with foreign currency, to smile and shrug and hand over a handful of bills because they have no idea how many baht, pesos, or rand those snacks are. They may not experience the realization that other countries’ bills come in different shapes and sizes, and they may not come home with the most affordable souvenirs (coins and bills).

We shall see what the future holds. Odds are, it may not be cash money, at least in the U.S. I hope the cashless movement makes room for everyone to participate without being penalized. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, people. We need to find more ways to ease the path for people, not callously profit off of them.

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Tech News

Google Maps will soon display traffic lights

(TECH NEWS) The addition of traffic light positions to Google Maps promises to boost navigation accuracy. Now you won’t run a light while looking at navigation.

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google maps traffic lights

At over 150 million monthly users, Google Maps’ value is not to be understated. With a new feature that shows traffic light positions rolling out to select devices and locations soon, one can expect that trend to continue.

A common issue with navigation via an app–especially when navigating solo–is a lack of precision that can lead to confusion, missed exits, potentially dangerous driving, and, worst of all, spilled coffee. By adding the location of traffic lights, Google Maps will improve both landmark recognition and automated navigation by providing drivers with more accessible information.

It’s worth noting a couple of arguing points, the first of which is the assertion that Google is starting from scratch on this feature. They aren’t. In fact, Japan-based Google Maps users have had access to traffic light positioning for years; Google is simply expanding the feature to include a larger number of cities and population density.

In a similar vein, Google also isn’t the first company to implement an ease-of-access feature such as this. Apple Maps has incorporated traffic light recognition since the release of iOS 13, and while its use is hit-or-miss (my iPhone 11 fails to pick up most traffic lights in my admittedly rural town of residence), the option to have Siri direct users to the nearest traffic light rather than saying “in 213.7 feet, turn left” is helpful.

That said, Apple Maps is a service which sees a little over 20 million monthly users–a far cry from Google Maps’ monthly base. For Google, accuracy and speed of updates will be paramount for a successful, routinely helpful launch.

At the time of this writing, Google plans to release the traffic light feature in New York, San Francisco, and a few other United States cities. The feature will be available on Android devices–sorry for now, Apple users–and will ideally expand to encompass most of the country if the initial release is successful.

It will be interesting to see how comprehensive Google’s coverage is and how quick the company is to adjust positioning of lights as cities do what cities do best. For now, if you have an Android device, keep an eye on your Maps app–good things are coming your way.

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Business News

Plastic bags are making a comeback, thanks to COVID-19

(BUSINESS NEWS) Plastic bags are back, whether you like it or not – at least for now.

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Plastic bags

Single use plastic bags are rising like a phoenix from the ashes of illegality all over the country, from California to New York. Reusable bags are falling out of favor in an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19. It’s a logical step: the less something is handled, generally, the safer it is going to be. And porous paper bags are thought to have a higher potential to spread the virus through contact.

It’s worth mentioning that single use plastic bags are considerably more
environmentally efficient to manufacture compared to paper, cloth, and reusable plastic bags. Per unit, they require very little material to make and are easily mass produced. It also goes without saying that they have a very short lifespan, after which they end up sitting in landfills, littering streets, or drifting through oceans.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s hard to deny that single use plastics have the potential to be as dangerous to humans as COVID-19. Coronavirus is a very immediate existential threat to us in the United States, but the scale of the global crises that stem from the irresponsible consumption of cheap disposable goods, also cannot be overstated. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn’t going anywhere. (And did you know that it’s just one of many huge garbage patches around the world?)

So… what exactly are we going to do about the comeback of plastic bags? Because to be honest, I used to work in grocery retail, and it is difficult and often unrewarding. So, I wouldn’t exactly love handling potentially contaminated tote bags all day in the midst of a pandemic if I were still a supermarket employee. You couldn’t pay me enough to feel comfortable with that – forget minimum wage!

I used to have a plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags sitting in my kitchen, like American nesting dolls, before disposable plastics fell from grace. (I’m sure some of y’all know exactly what I’m talking about.) This bag of bags was never a point of pride. It got really annoying because it just kept growing. There are only so many practical home uses for the standard throw-away plastic shopping bag. Very small trash can liners; holding snarls of unused cables, another thing I accumulate for no reason; extremely low-budget packing material; one could get crafty and somehow weave them into a horrible sweater, I guess.

I don’t miss my bag of bags. I don’t want to have to deal with another. Hey, Silicon Valley? Got any disruptive ideas for this one?

Even if we concede that disposable plastics are a necessary evil in the fight against COVID-19, the fact remains that they stick around long after you’re done with them. That’s true whether you throw them out or not.

I’m not trying to direct blame anywhere. Of course businesses should do their best to keep their customers and staff safe, and if that means using plastic bags, so be it. Without clear guidance from our federal government, every part of society has been fumbling and figuring out how to keep one another healthy with the tools they’ve got at hand. (…Well, almost every part.)

The changes to the state bag bans have been cautious and temporary so far, which is a small relief. But nobody really knows how much longer the pandemic will rage on and necessitate the relaxations.

I won’t pretend that I have a sure solution. All I can really ask is that we all be extra mindful of our usage of these disposable plastic products. Let’s think creatively about what we might otherwise throw away. We must not trade one apocalypse for another.

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