Monday, January 12, 2009

More useful tools: generating sitemaps, HTML checking and link validation

Here are some useful tools I use to perform sitemap generation, HTML validation and link checking on our site:

Generating Site Maps

Sitemaps are critical to having all you content indexed by the search engine spiders. By submitting a sitemap you are doing everything you can to help a search engine know what you regard as important to index and what is not. 

Fortunately you can generate a sitemap easily and automatically using online tools. Once generated you can download the XML document and upload it to Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer and Live Search Webmaster Tools.

I use XML-Sitemaps (screen shot below). All you need to specify is some simple information and your sitemap is generated in a few seconds.

Sometimes it is necessary for you to hand edit the XML for example if for some reason all your pages cannot be found from your main page or if you wish for the search engine not to index a particular page. You can easily read (and edit) the XML generated if you need to. The format and data fields are relatively simple.

Validating Pages

Checking that your pages have valid HTML is important so that not only will your page load correctly for human viewing on a range of browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc) but also that robots, spiders and other automated processes who may not be as forgiving can achieve their purposes. For further detail on the importance of correct HTML see this article.

You can validate your site's HTML online using various tools. The strictest interpretation not surprisingly seems to come from the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), who maintain the HTML standards - Specify your URL and off you go.

HTML Tidy is also useful and comes in an offline and online version. Both will attempt to correct your HTML errors for you. I prefer an implementation that also doubles as a HTML editor - HTML-Kit.

Checking Links

Checking whether your links are valid is important not only from the perspective of maintaining a useful website but also a professional one. Nothing is worse for a user than to visit a site where everything you want to click on doesn't work! It indicates a lack of attention to detail and that perhaps you don't care about your site and users as much as they expect.

W3C also provides a handy online link checker at

The Webmaster tools services of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft also provide this checking functionality although you may have to wait some time to be told whether any links are broken as it depends on when the search engine spider comes past to do the test.


Submit a sitemap, validate your HTML and check your links. The end result will be happier users and search engines.

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  1. Hi Ben

    Google have just released their own sitemap generator which you can install on your web host to automatically generate your sitemap dynamically as things change.

    Read the article from the Google Webmaster blog for more detail and commentary.


  2. Thanks

    If you have a Blogger (Google) blog, like I am, it will automatically generate a sitemap so generating one is unnecessary for Webmaster Tools. You need to be careful what you submit to search engines etc as the default sitemap won't necessary index all your content.

    More here.

  3. Hi there! Quick question that's entirely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My web site looks weird when viewing from my iphone 4. I'm trying to find a
    theme or plugin that might be able to resolve this problem.
    If you have any recommendations, please share. Many thanks!

    my page ... Lilia

  4. Hi

    There are a range of different tools to create a mobile website. Have a look at this:

    We use which is a solution that sucks up your existing website and automatically generates a mobile version that then stays in sync with the main website. It also supports buttons like click to call and click for directions.

    Good luck.