Google calls Sitemaps “an experiment in web crawling”. In general, you place a sitemap on to your web server. This helps the crawlers identify the pages you have and add it to the search index. And when you update your site map (after changing a page or adding new content), it also marks the pages you’ve changed and makes a note of what order to review it.
It’s a lot more systematic and efficient than random crawling, where there are no guarantees that the web crawlers will pick up on the most important pages. So even if it requires an additional step for web developers, it’s greater assurance that all the hard work you put into your content actually shows up in the searches.
Google Sitemaps was developed partly to resolve the problem encountered by big websites, wherein web crawlers would skip over some pages and fail to index some of the content. Considering the effect this can have on your search engine optimization efforts, that glitch can have a big impact on your ranking. And for websites that regularly change content (like product sites), you’d want your new stock to actually register–especially when you’re promoting a hot, trendy item.
So in short, to get your site into Google, you’ve got to make it easier for Google to find you–via their map. It’s not as complicated as it sounds. You just need to use a software tool to create a sitemap in Google’s chosen XML format, upload that to your site, and then send a URL notification to Google. And since you’re doing that anyway, make an HTML sitemap for the other search engines (Yahoo, MSN, etc.) and then include a link to it in an unobtrusive corner of your website. Many of those software tools can do that for you.
Is it expensive? Not really. For smaller sites (less than 500 pages) you can find several free Google Sitemap Generators. Look for those that allow you to restrict the directories that are being searched, and give instructions as to which files to index and which to avoid. This can be programmed through the filters and settings. For your convenience, you’ll also want one that lets you include PDF, .doc, .xls, and .zip documents.
Larger sites may require a trained webmaster, who can install a program on the site to help you index it and generate a sitemap. Of course, you can do it on your own (and again, you’ll find many XML sitemap tutorials and software on the Internet), but with 800 pages to handle you probably have other web administration worries to think about. It’s just easier to pass it on to a professional. Or at least, invest in a very efficient XML software that will take care of most of the details and has several tools and functions at its disposal.
Once you’ve chosen a program (or hired someone to set it up for you), you’ll have to create a Google account. They don’t charge for the service, and you’ll want to get features like tracking the status of your Sitemaps and reviewing the diagnostic information for your sites.
Now, you’re ready to conquer Google.