Most people with a website realise that a crucial part of their Search Engine Optimisation strategy is to include a sitemap of the website and submit it to the major search engines. There are many automated tools which will create these maps for you; many hosting providers will include a free Google site map generator for their customers, and Google itself has a link to a free tool within its Webmaster tools page.
XML versus HTML files
Site maps created automatically in this manner are XML documents, which makes them extremely useful for search engines that difficult to read for human beings. Using a visual sitemap created in HTML is much easier for people to understand, so many Webmasters nowadays have a link to an XML map for the search engines and another link to a more user-friendly version for visitors to the site.
Create your own Sitemap
You can create your own website map if you wish, or use an HTML editor such as Microsoft’s Expression Web or Adobe’s Dreamweaver to do the job for you. Users of Visio 2007 Professional, however have access to a tool that will not only visit your site and create a drawing based on the links it finds there, but will also highlight any broken links that may be present.
Let Visio do the donkey work for you
In order to use this tool choose the Software and Database category from the Template Categories panel on the getting started pane and then select Website Map from the alternatives offered. Click Create under the preview on the right hand side to open a new drawing. A Generate Site Map wizard will open with a window in which you can type a URL and a Browse button alongside that allows you to navigate to an address you want Visio to search. I have often found it better to enter the actual address of a page rather than a top-level domain — so entering “http://www.mysite.com/index.htm” will often generate better results than just entering “http://www.mysite.com/”.
At the bottom of the dialogue box is a settings button that allows you to change the number of levels search, the layout style and the format of the shapes and their text labels. When you’re ready click okay to start the wizard. Visio will visit your site and create a visual site map listing all the linked pages and external links. It will also graphically illustrate any links that are broken — a very useful visual indicator that some maintenance needs to be undertaken.
Visio also opens a Pan and Zoom window, a List window and a Filter window to help you investigate the site map and trace any problems. It also creates a tool tip containing the URL of the page when the shape is hovered over.
Saving the site map
The Visio document created can be saved as a web page and uploaded to your website, where it can be linked from any other page — this is commonly included in footer text.