Index first, rank later!

Part of any comprehensive web strategy is a healthy dose of SEO considerations. There are two major components to SEO – yet one of them is often ignored or an afterthought.

Many SEO consultants and pundits will chatter on incessantly about how to improve your search engine rankings. Thousands of dollars are spent on what are largely single-digit incremental improvements in rankings. Improving your site’s rankings, however, is not nearly as important as making each and every possible page of your site is in the index – and that nothing is in the index that shouldn’t be. It may seem basic, but it’s often overlooked that a page can’t rank unless it’s in the index.

There are two basic approaches to making sure that Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. can find every page on your site. First is a solid and comprehensive navigation architecture with all of appropriate links. A crawler should be able to navigate to your site the same way that your visitors do. In cases where this isn’t possible (search results, mashups, form submission), it’s advisable to have an XML sitemap that conforms to the spec agreed upon by the major engines. This sitemap gives the search engine bots direct access to the full list of available pages on your site. Even if there are tens of thousands of dynamically generated pages possible on your site, these can be included in the sitemap.xml file, provided each has a unique URL.

The Strategy:

There are no ‘silver-bullet’ SEO techniques that will take you from page 10 to the top of page 1… but if your pages are not in the index, they’ll never rank at all.

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