Link-Building, Sitemaps, & Languages

SEO Blog > linking, sitemaps, languages

Last time, we talked about effectively tagging your content to be found on Google and other search engines. Today, let’s focus on how link-building, creating a sitemap, and language translation can impact your SEO.

Links to Your Site, Link Building, and PageRank

In the beginning, Google counted the number of inbound links to your webpage to determine your page’s rank: the more links, the higher you ranked. This set off a race to collect links. Webmasters used all sorts of methods to get thousands, even tens of thousands, of links. People asked for links, swapped links, and bought links. Fraudulent SEO services sold links.

When Google realized people were collecting links, they changed the rules. Low quality links don’t matter anymore. Google uses their team of Quality Raters, holistic matching, and social signals to determine rank. Write useful content and make sure it is indexable.

However, many scams still offer link building. You’ve seen the offer “Have your website submitted to 600 search engines for only $20!” These are scams.

You don’t need link building.

When you create authoritative, informational, or useful pages, people will link to your page. If someone has to buy links instead, that means the page isn’t good.

Sitemaps

Sitemaps list the pages at a website. There are two types of sitemaps: HTML and XML.

  • HTML sitemaps are for people. They can get an overview of the site and find the pages they need, just like maps help you find your way around town. HTML sitemaps once were important for SEO, but they have been replaced by XML sitemaps. In terms of SEO, don’t worry too much about the HTML sitemap. Just make it useful for visitors. Create a plain-text sitemap that lists the significant pages at your site. You don’t need to list every page, just the main pages. Place a plain-text link to the sitemap on the index page.
  • XML sitemaps are also a list of files in XML format. XML sitemaps include sitemaps, global sitemaps, image sitemaps, and video sitemaps.

XML sitemaps were developed to solve several problems. When websites began using roll-down menus, images for links, and Java, Ajax, or Flash for navigation, search engines often couldn’t follow the links, so those websites weren’t indexed. HTML sitemaps were fine for small sites with a few dozen pages, but it wasn’t feasible to make HTML sitemaps for sites with 500,000 pages. XML solved these problems. Webmasters can create an XML file that contains a list of all links and feed that directly to the search engine’s index.

The major search engines agreed on a standard format for XML sitemaps. You can use the same XML sitemap for all major search engines, including Ask.com and Moreover.com. A number of tools can be used to create XML sitemaps. If you have fewer than 500 pages, use the free tool at XML-Sitemaps.com. For larger sitemaps, try the one by Johannes Mueller (http://gsitecrawler.com/). You can find a list of XML tools at Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools).

Once you’ve created the XML sitemap, submit it to the search engines with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

XML sitemaps can hold up to 50,000 URLs in one file (and not more than 10MB in size). For very large sites, you can create an XML sitemap index file that points to subpages. The limit is 2.5 billion URLs. I’ve created sitemaps with 50 million URLs. To learn how to build sitemap index files, visit Google Search Console and search for “Build and Submit a Sitemap”.

Which Language Do You Use?

Search results are sorted by language. Search engines can identify 43 languages such as German, Chinese, Arabic, and so on.

Google shows search results in the language used to perform the search. Therefore, someone searching in China will see results in Chinese, not Japanese, Italian, and so on. The search engine knows this because the user is in Nanchong, China (location), has their browser set to Chinese (browser settings), and is using Chinese search terms (language).

The exception is English. The European Union uses English as the common language. Nearly all colleges and universities in Asia and the Arabic world use English to teach courses in technical and scientific subjects as well as economics and business. Therefore, Google always shows pages in English for the results of a search in another language. Someone in Holland or Vietnam will see results in English, along with their results in Dutch or Vietnamese.

Write a page in your language and add a copy of the page in English for the rest of the world. If you are in Denmark, write your pages in both Danish and English.

What about Chinese and Russian?

If China is important to you, you must make sure your site shows up in Baidu, the search engine of China. Google has only 1% market share in China. As for Russia, you must appear in Yandex, the search engine of Russia. Both of these can index their language better than Google. They also have features that don’t exist in Google. Work with people who understand Yandex and Baidu. A translation won’t be enough.

That’s it for today. If you want to read more SEO tips:

Read my last blog, on Effectively Tagging your Content for SEO.

Read my next blog, where we wrap up Technical SEO topics before moving on to Quality SEO.

Visit my guide: Content Marketing Central, full of insight and actionable tips to improve your content marketing strategy.

Andreas Ramos

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