A Comparitive and Detailed Review of CoffeeCup’s Sitemapper and InSpyders Sitemap Creator
It’s a bit difficult to say just how crucial sitemaps are in search engine algorithms and how much of an increase of indexed pages and crawl rate, if any, you’ll receive by uploading and pinging an xml sitemap to the major players. (Google, Yahoo, Bing) What is definite is that it can’t hurt your site unless it’s done completely wrong (formatting), you delist too many url’s, or you leave too many urls on the list.
Before jumping into the comparative review of SiteMapper and Sitemap Creator I want to give a layman’s term definition to what a sitemap is and what it may or may not do for your website or blog. It is indeed a map but it’s more than that; a good way to explain it would be to say it’s a hybrid map, more like a GPS (Unit that gives directions) set to the shortest and most efficient distance. Let’s say you have a ton of irrelevant or duplicate content urls on your site, to add to the analogy above, these urls could be considered freeway traffic or ice cream stores; things you want to avoid when traveling because it eats up your time.
Let’s think of search engine bots(Those that crawl your website) as impatient kids in the back seat of the family’s station wagon (Does anyone actually still own a station wagon?) on a long family road trip across the country (Country=Your Website). Now wouldn’t it make sense for your GPS (Sitemap) to get you to your destination as quick and efficient as possible so you don’t lose your mind? Yes it would. While a Sitemap is considered to be a suggestion to the search engines I’d be inclined to think they take them fairly seriously, especially when it’s well formatted and the most useful content of your website is added to it. The beautiful thing about sitemaps is that unlike your gps unit on the road trip you can actually remove traffic/obstacles in the road instead of just attempting to avoid them (Suggestively that is because it is up to the search engine on whether it follows the Sitemap path).
There are two types of sitemaps, html and xml. Html is primarily for the benefit of your website visitors while xml (xml’s can be zipped and indexed) is purely for the use of search engine bots. (There are evil bots too)
Now that we have a basic understanding of the sitemaps let look at two pieces of software I purchased and used within the last three weeks.
CoffeeCup SiteMapper was the first program I purchased and at just $29.00 ($26.10 with coupon code: 226STS) it was definitely an easy choice to make the investment. Visually speaking SiteMapper is a beautiful piece of software; functionality wise was a completely different story. It comes packed with a lot of convenient features such as scheduling to automatically update and ping the search engines, built in preview of the sitemap, and of course the ability to create both html and xml sitemaps.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to test the scheduling and pinging features of this program because after five days of attempting to crawl a website I finally gave up. The crawl would start out fine but before too long the software would lock up forcing me to open the task manager to shut it down(I read similar complaints of this on their Support Forum). Now before you think this was computer related, I installed SiteMapper on my desktop and two laptops just to be certain. (All running Vista Home Premium so there is a small chance it was OS related but not likely)
For five days I attempted using the options available to remove certain areas of the website from the crawl but this software doesn’t allow for text specific exclusions (wildcard) and it doesn’t appear to respect the commands in robots.txt as advertised (Option was enabled) or there would have been little problem with getting their bot to avoid certain areas of the website. On the positive side, CoffeCup has a support forum for all of their software programs with forums for suggestions; bad news is that they are obviously selective with who they reply to. I left a well written suggestion/question (Find it here) in their forum and was ignored while they happily addressed a question from a user immediately after me. To this day, over two weeks later I have yet to be acknowledged. I even submitted a support ticket but only waited two days for a response that never came before closing it on my own out of frustration.
While SiteMapper is visually appealing and rather easy to use, it’s not quite there functionality wise. If you’re running a small blog or simple website it may work for you but I wouldn’t suggest it for anyone with a complex website with a lot of dynamic content, you will likely be very disappointed. I would suggest downloading and installing the trial version of their software long before purchasing it. I have no doubts that this software will be great in the future but right now, not so much.
After growing very tired of failed crawl attempts with SiteMapper I scoured the internet trying a multitude of free and trial sitemapping software and about gave up (From being disappointed) until I came across a Sitemap Creator made by InSpyder. I downloaded the trial version and loved it, while not as visually appealing (close) as SiteMapper its functionality wise it was rock solid.
At $39.95 it’s a little more pricy but worth every penny, trust me. (I contacted InSpyder and they were nice enough to provide JealousBrother readers with a 10% Discount on Sitemap Creator: 10% Discount and enter: YRJKPR )(Coupon will expire 58 days beyond the publish date of this post) First and foremost, after nearly two weeks of use I have yet to have the software lock up and it has never failed a crawl. One of the best features is the easy import of robots.txt restrictions and their bot will obey the excluded command which includes wild cards that exclude url’s with certain characters. InSpyders offering also comes with a scheduling and pinging system which may be a bit confusing at first (When you have multiple sitemaps and formats) but makes sense after a couple of times working with it. There scheduling system will even run while you’re not logged into your computer. Sitemap Creator comes with a majority of the same features SiteMapper offers but has a lot more flexibility with prioritizing, exclusions (previously mentioned), and overall functionality.
The bottom line is that when it comes to sitemapping software above all else, it has to work and InSpyder Sitemap Creator does just that. It is very consistent and if It can crawl JealousBrother (A lot of Dynamic Content) then it will probably handle your site with ease. For the money I’d say buy this product and if it’s this stable now imagine how stable and functional (And maybe even more visually appealing) it will be a few years from now.
InSpyder isn’t without some down falls though (Although they pale in comparison to SiteMapper), the layout of the crawled url’s is a bit clustered and not broken down into a hierarchical display, SiteMapper certainly wins in this department as they break down the urls crawled into expandable and closable file folders much like you’d be used to seeing in Windows file manager. SiteMapper also has the advantage with Title Editing; they allow the title of a url or category to be altered while InSpyder does not. While I don’t know if this is a positive as it may confuse the search engines seeing how the title within the Sitemap will vary from that which is actually crawled. I still like the flexibility of being able to do so.
While I wasn’t able to test (Could never finish a crawl) CoffeeCup’s html output for sitemaps I’d imagine they would be significantly better looking than that of the out of the box settings from InSpyder, however InSpyder has a template system that allows you to modify the appearance of the html version of the sitemap. (Of course html, css, coding experience is required)
Something that both programs lack that I would love to see is the ability to better organize the content of the sitemap (More beneficial for the HTML sitemaps as it’s for the website visitors benefit). What I mean by this is the ability to create catagories/titles to make it easier to organize(drag and drop) the content. I know the argument would be that should be on the website design end but sometimes that’s not possible or there is entirely too much content to make it fluid. While it is a mystery as to how some sites have sitelinks on Google search results, one has to imagine it has something to do with fluidity of how the google bot views your content. I’d imagine a perfectly organized/labeled sitemap wouldn’t hurt your chances.
Since I’ve opted to use InSpyders Sitemap Creator on a regular basis I do have a couple of isolated suggestions for future upgrade consideration.
1.) Allow for the option to exclude the listing of the root domain without forcing all of the content to be de-listed. Why you might ask? Well, if someone was inclined to build a multi-sitemap setup for a single website this creates a problem. When creating a sitemap for a certain area/folder of a website the sitemap is supposed to be placed within the same folder the content resides in. The root address causes a problem as it will likely be returned as a broken link(guessing) or at a bare minimum duplicate content.
2.) Expand the functionality of indexes. Currently the only way a user can utilize the index system is if they have over 50k links. What if someone doesn’t have that many links but wants to break their site down into multiple sitemaps? This could be for better index tracking, optimizing the way the bots see the site, or for a overall cleaner sitemap setup.
3.) Sorting deficiencies with numbers. In url’s that end in numbers let’s say (?exampleID=1). When attempting to sort the url list numerically this will occur: ?exampleID=99…?exampleID=10…?exampleID=100…?exampleID=101… Notice the ID=10 is not numerically sorted. This goes hand in hand with the need for increased organization mentioned above in reference to both pieces of software.
4.) Copy and paste excluded page list. Self explanatory but when you’re dealing with a wide range of dynamic url’s this could be very useful rather than having to add them individually.
The last thing I’ll touch on is support. CoffeCup has the elements for a terrific support structure, email, support forums, ticket system, video tutorials, etc… but they unfortunately fell flat in how they interacted with me on their site. However, InSpyder only offers a phone number for sales and lacks support forums but they have replied to two of my emails within 24 hours each time and they do have a FAQ and User Manual section. Support tools are only good if they’re adequately provided to the end user. I’d certainly love to see more support options from InSpyder and more support interaction from CoffeeCup in the future.
I want it to be known that I don’t resent CoffeeCup, I use their free html editor on occasions and it works wonderful. I wanted this review to be as honest and straight-forward as possible. The reality is that a significant amount (Extremely large amount of work) of work goes into the production of any piece of software and I don’t want to down play just how hard it is to do. I wish both companies the best and hope to see continued growth in both sitemapping products.
UPDATE: As you’ll notice by the comment below Mr. Swedorski from CoffeeCup software promptly contacted me after reading this review. A couple of developments that have altered my previous opinion of their software have occurred. If you are having the same issue with their SiteMapper program freezing up you’ll want to read this.
1.)The freezing issue seems to have been a software conflict with Windows Vista. (I’ll detail a workaround Mr. Swedorki provided that did the trick if you’re having issues with SiteMapper freezing up)
2.) While I do feel CoffeeCup dropped the ball on how they handled my inquiry on their forum they have certainly made up for it with the service I have received throughout the last couple of days.
Now onto the details of how to fix the freezing issues within Windows Vista:
1.) Right-click the shortcut icon and click Properties.
2.) Click the Compatibility tab.
3.) Put a check mark by Run This Program as an Administrator.
4.) Put a check mark by Run This Program in Compatibility Mode For: and ensure Windows XP Pro Service Pack 2 is selected.
5.) Click OK. (This fix seems to have corrected the freezing issue on my computer)
“If you continue having problems you may also need to set the application as an exception to Vista’s Data Execution Prevention (DEP) feature. Normally if this is the culprit, you’ll get a little bubble along the taskbar notifying you, which will allow you to set the offender as an exception. One last option that could be the cause of this, and related to the DEP feature, is User Account Controls. This is the large window that appears in Vista asking you to “Allow” or “Deny” access to functions within programs. You can turn this off within your Control Panel > User Accounts window, along the left-hand pane.”
CoffeeCup still lacks some of the control features that InSpyder has but Mr. Swedorski has informed me that he will be submitting a request to enhance the way “wild cards” are handled by their software which will greatly improve the control you’ll have over the crawling of your site. This is great news for those of you who own SiteMapper. I would like to thank CoffeeCup for handling this whole situation in a professional and prompt manor.