Google, Yahoo, Live Search as well as other search engines agreed in 2006 to adhere to the same sitemap protocol, which made things simpler for webmasters. Basically you add a link to a sitemap.xml file in the robots.txt file (a simple line like Sitemap: <sitemap1_location>) and the search engines will download your sitemap and crawl (some of) the links mentioned in there. This is a better way to have your site indexed by search engines without relying only on them finding all the links of your website. You can see usage examples and read more about the Sitemap protocol here: sitemaps.org
Of course that the only problem is creating the sitemap.xml file according to that protocol. There are a lot of downloadable sitemaps generators out there, commercial and free ones, as well as online sitemap generators. A more complicated way is to use and install scripts that generate the sitemap directly from your website, the advantage of doing so being the fact that the sitemap will be updated dynamically. If you have Python knowledge, Google offers such a script itself: Google Sitemap Generator.
However, if you'd feel more comfortable using a program that installs on your computer (or if you don't have the knowledge to install such a script) you can choose one of the free sitemaps generators (for Windows) that are available:
- GSiteCrawler - a free sitemap generator for Windows, is the one I use too. Offers several options, useful ones being: ability to filter out URLs based on specific keywords, it can upload the sitemap.xml file automatically via FTP to your website, runs multiple crawlers at once.
- Endsheet - Free Windows desktop web crawler that creates Google, Windows Live and Yahoo! Sitemaps. This ones requires .NET to be installed too.
- Diadematus - Free sitemap generator, requires .NET installed too.
- Devintelligence Sitemap Generator - Free sitemap generator, it will crawl for links and automatically remove the dead ones, as well as uploads the sitemap file via FTP when it finishes.
- G-Mapper - Google/Yahoo sitemap generator, which also supports crawling atom, rss and podcast links. You can customize which types of files to include in the sitemap and also uploads it via FTP when finished.
- Site Magellan - Site Magellan is a free sitemap generator and sitemap editor. This generator also finds broken links and allows you to visualize the structure of your website.
- Sorrowmans Google Sitemap Tools - free sitemap generator but outdated. It can filter files/links from your sitemap and upload it via FTP when it finishes.
- Gsitemap - Less featured sitemap generator and kind of outdated (last update in 2005), but should still work fine.
The disadvantage of installable sitemap generators is that it will take longer to create the list of links if you have a website with a large number of pages (say over 5000). However, most websites don't have that many links and the process of crawling and creating the sitemap shouldn't take that long.
There are a number of free online sitemaps generators too. While the more popular ones offer paid services too, the free sitemap generation could be a solution for websites with limited numbers of pages. I say limited because the online sitemap generators usually have a limit of URLs they can crawl, a clear disadvantage towards the installable generators:
- XML-Sitemaps Generator - this is one of the free online sitemaps generators I used and recommend if you have less than 500 crawlable links (this is their maximum limit)
- Sitemapspal - this one offers up to indexed 2000 URLs.
- PortalApp Generator - has a 300 URL limit.
- Pingoat Sitemap Creator - they don't mention the URL limit but I doubt it's over 300 URLS. Pingoat has a free blog ping service too that it's good.
- Tarrant.it Sitemap Generator - Italian online sitemap generator with a 500 URL limit.
- Hockeygods Online Sitemap Generator - 100url limit
- Peterz.de (German) - Site is in German but it's pretty obvious where you have to put in the starting URL for the crawl (200 URL limit?).
- Autositemap - this sitemap generator requires installing an image on every page of your website, has a paid version too.
Quite some generators to choose from. Important is to create and put the sitemap.xml file on your website, because this makes yours more friendly with the search engines crawlers.