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Context

I have a B2B spare parts website with around:

  • 25 parent categories (hierarchically organized)
  • 150 leaf categories (models)
  • 250 products (unique items, each with quantity = 1)

Targeted visitors are looking for a specific spare part. Typically, they won't hesitate between several brands and products like on the consumers segment.

The website is intended for specialists (niche market).

Despite several optimizations, the website remains poorly referenced in search results, as compared to those of competitors.

I must admit not being a fan of social networks, so that there are only few links to the site, which are coming from specialized forums.

Publishing many products on the home page may help referencing the site, but would also create duplicate content with the dedicated product pages.

In this thread, the general consensus is that there's no disadvantage using a txt sitemap instead of an xml one. However, I'm not sure of this in the context where the pages to index are buried deep in the hierarchy and search engines ignore intermediate levels.


How pages are currently indexed

Google was able to index the pages for leaf categories and products, which were provided through two text sitemaps (lists of URLs):

Sitemap with leaf categories:

https://example.com/A_model
https://example.com/Another_model
(...)

Sitemap with products:

https://example.com/A_product
https://example.com/Another_product

The products are mostly accessed through a search field, where the visitor enters the model that he want's to acquire for spare part(s). The model name is used as a friendly URL and .htaccess file directly redirects to the leaf category page.

# Currently no friendly URLs for intermediate (branch) categories.

# Friendly URL for leaf categories (Models)
RewriteRule ^A_model$ /index.php?cmd=category&cat_id=123 [L]
RewriteRule ^Another_model$ /index.php?cmd=category&cat_id=124 [L]

On the category pages are links to the unique spare parts.

Friendly URLs are also used there and redirection is done with .htaccess file.

# Friendly URL for unique products
RewriteRule ^A_product$ /index.php?cmd=products&prod_id=456
RewriteRule ^Another_product$ /index.php?cmd=products&prod_id=789

For the user comfort, if only one spare part is available for a given model, there is an automatic redirection from the leaf category page to the unique product page, so that the category address acts as tiny url (or a gateway if you prefer) to the product page.


If the visitor wants to browse categories, he can do it though an ajaxified tree whose expanded nodes are loading the sub-categories on the fly. (For this, the website uses dynatree.js with lazy loading.)

So, robots are aware of the pertinent destination pages for selling (leaf categories and product pages) but --because they don't have an XML sitemap--, the site may appear to them as unstructured (no hierarchical structure they know).


Why I've used .txt sitemaps rather than .xml ones so far:

  • Easier maintenance: I simply have to append a new link when a new product or category is published
  • Targeted visitors are experts in their field, which from start know which model/part they're looking for.
  • Intermediate categories (tree branches) are almost irrelevant -- apart from seeing the several product families available -- and hence do not need being referenced.

Questions:

  1. Should I create friendly URLs for intermediate categories and add them to the sitemap in order to make the site more structured, given that these pages would create some duplicate content with the leaf categories and product pages?
  2. In this particular case, should I switch from .txt sitemaps to xml ones? (altough maintenance would be much harder).
  3. I plan replacing ajaxified tree by ajaxified navigation based on tags (filters). Would this make the referencing even worse?
  4. The home page being more or less like thus of a search engine (i.e. with little content), would you advise adding some "bla bla bla" to it --even if useless for the visitor-- in order to attract more traffic?
  • What CMS or Application Framework are you using? With this information, I can give you a full and coherent answer. - To answer Question 4) Content is always good, however, optimise for users and not search engines. It may be better doing a KW Strategy that takes into account intent and link URLs with KWs and sends users to relevant pages. Each page with its very own Goal and CVR. – Georg Keferböck Jul 5 at 9:54

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