ROR Sitemaps: Resources of a Resource

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Hear about ROR sitemaps?  If you haven’t, it’s about time that this entered your SEO lexicon.  I’ve written here before about how the dynamics of web pages are changing.  In the past, meta tags, for example, were mainly used for written content.  However, now that websites put video, graphs, images, and other visual information in the site, site owners should help ensure that every piece of content on the site is indexed by every search engine.

ROR sitemaps make sure this is possible.  ROR sitemaps are an XML-based sitemap that indexes all the content on your site: articles, reviews, comments, products, images, events, podcasts…basically, it’s on your site, it will be indexed.  By combining this with meta-tagging some of the above content (not all, because you can’t put meta-tags on comments) you will significantly increase the likelihood that a search engine doesn’t just rank your site, but understands your site.

What Spiders Do with Content

The concept of understanding a site is too-often overlooked.  A spider’s job is not just to rank a site in search engines, but to ensure that the sites accurately reflect search queries.  Search engines want to display the most relevant sites possible, because if they don’t, people will just hop to another search engine that provides better results.  So when someone makes a query in a search engine, the spider needs to have a good idea of what your site has to offer.

Say someone searches for reviews on a product.  Suppose then that you have no article-based reviews on your site, but those reviews exist under products, ala Amazon.  If those reviews are not properly indexed, a spider could pass these over.  The result: your site does not rank highly for this very important search term.  It’s not enough to just provide reviews and assume that these reviews will be indexed.  The review very well may make it into search results: but it could be the difference between ranking high in search results or 30 pages back.

Why?  Because the spider will have not crawled your entire site, and there’s nothing in the sitemap delineating everything your site provides.  Remember, it’s entirely possible that entire sections of your site will not be indexed, even if your homepage has a decent rank.  An enhanced sitemap will ensure that your site shows up in relevant searches.

What’s Different About ROR Sitemaps

One of the major advantages with ROR sitemaps is that it is searchable by all search engines.  Many site owners employ Google Base sitemaps because Google’s the head honcho.  Problem is that Google sitemaps are not indexed correctly by other search engines.  Given the fact that Google also indexes other search engines as well, this could affect your ranking overall in Google.

A standard HTML sitemap is the other option, and though this be indexed by all search engines, it is limited to only certain types of a site’s content.  An HTML map of everything – including reviews, comments, etc. – would be virtually unreadable.  The verdict is to use both: an HTML sitemap to help users find the most pertinent information on the site, and a ROR sitemap to help Google et al. find everything else.

It’s easy to use an ROR site feed: just use an ROR feed generator and put the resulting code between <head> tags. It is possible to keep this information hidden only to be crawled by spiders, not surfers.  Keep in mind that an ROR sitemap feed will display content as a collection of code: as if someone clicked on “Page Source.”  It is not a way for humans to navigate the site by seeing a clickable list of different articles.  See here for complete specifications about how ROR sitemaps work.

ROR and Other Feeds

There’s no reason to not include other types of feeds on your site.  Including standard XML and RSS feeds should be mandatory as well, as these feeds can be put in feed readers  – i.e. they’re people-based, not spider-based.  Additionally an RSS feed can be added to the litany of RSS search engines, expanding your linking capacity.  Don’t think that providing more than one feed is going to confuse spiders into not knowing which feed should be crawled.

Just as people provide an RSS button on their sites, more and more you’re seeing a ROR button as well.  Be certain this is the new wave of site indexing.  It’s not quite the revolution to the web of social networking, but for your everyday site owner – especially those site owners with websites that contain a lot of products and product images – this is a simple way to ensure some ranking respectability.  It’s recommended that you do add an ROR button because this offers another doorway through which spiders will crawl the entire site.

ROR and SEO

Obviously, ROR has great implications for SEO, though surprisingly it’s not being employed by a majority of sites.  However, many search engine marketers are now including ROR sitemaps as part of a marketing package.  It’s not really necessary to hire a search engine marketer to implement an ROR feed, as it’s fairly simple to use.  But if you feel like you’re tapped out with your current SEO strategy, adding this type of structured feed to your site could effectively help your ranking.

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