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XML Sitemaps: Benefits as to Why You Should Use Them
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
I've been asked by a number of people for tips on using and submitting XML sitemaps to the search engines. So I thought that I would revisit XML sitemaps and the importance of them for site owners and webmasters.

What is an XML Sitemap?

An XML sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site, along with additional information about each URL. XML sitemaps give Google and other search engines important information about your website, including things such as:
  • A complete list of all URLs on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by the search engine's normal crawling process (for example, non-text pages or URLs containing several parameters.)

  • How often the pages on your site change. For example, you might update your product page daily, but update your "About Me" page only once every few months.

  • The date each page was last modified. - Remember the search engines like fresh content.

  • The relative importance of pages on your site. For example as mentioned by Google via Webmaster Tools, your home page might have a relative importance of 1.0, category pages have an importance of 0.8, and individual blog entries or product pages have an importance of 0.5. This priority ranking only indicates the importance of a particular URL relative to other URLs on your site, and doesn't impact the ranking of your pages in search results
Google Webmaster Tools has a ton of great information on XML sitemaps including how to create them, proper XML sitemap protocol and how to submit them to Google. The thing with XML sitemaps is that they're not just for Google anymore. The sitemaps can benefit your site by helping the search engine cralwers find your web pages in a more efficient manner.

XML sitemaps are particularly helpful if:
  • Your site has dynamic content.

  • Your site has pages that aren't easily discovered by search engine spiders such as Slurp, Googlebot or MSNbot during the crawl process - for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or Flash.

  • Your site is new and has few links to it.

  • Your site has a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to each other, or are not linked at all.
General Guideline for XML Sitemap Creation

Here are some helpful tips to consider when creating your XML sitemaps.
  1. Compile a list of your existing site URLs

  2. Be sure to include URLs that are deep within your site’s folder structure as these are often the pages that the search engine spiders have trouble crawling

  3. A sitemap can contain a list of URLs or a list of sitemaps

  4. If your Sitemap contains a list of other sitemaps, you should save it as a sitemap index file and use the XML format provided for that file type. A sitemap index file cannot list more than 1,000 sitemaps.

  5. A sitemap file can contain no more than 50,000 URLs and be no larger than 10MB when uncompressed. If your sitemap is larger than this, break it into several smaller sitemaps.

  6. Specify all URLs using the same syntax. For instance, if you specify your site location as http://www.example.com/, your URL list should not contain URLs that begin with http://example.com/. And if you specify your site location as http://example.com/, your URL list should not contain URLs that begin with http://www.example.com/

  7. Do not include session IDs in URLs.

  8. The sitemap can contain only ASCII characters. It can't contain upper ASCII characters or certain control codes or special characters such as * and {}. If your sitemap URL contains these characters, you'll receive an error when you try to add it.
Work with the search engines to ensure that your content is made available to those who are searching to find your content via the Web.


posted by Jody @ Tuesday, December 04, 2007  
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About Me
Name: Jody
Home: Kelowna, BC, Canada
About Me: SEO guy by day, family man 24/7.
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