Why Use Google Sitemaps?

March 15th, 2008

google sitemapsFirst off, let’s not confuse Google Sitemaps (sitemap.xml) with a sitemap.htm page on your website, which is usually viewed by your site visitors when they’re lost on your site.

Google Sitemap is an XML Sitemap – it is a way for you to give Google information about your site. In its simplest terms, a site map is a list of the pages on your website on one or multiple xml pages. Creating and submitting a site map helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process.

You will have to submit your xml sitemap and open an account in Google webmaster tools area (which is free, btw). Your account also allows you to visit and review reports such as the last time Google’s robot indexed (actually read or visited) your site, what keywords are giving you traffic and any error messages (for example: dead links or if your site is not being indexed if you tried some illegal tactics to trick Google)

Sitemaps are particularly helpful if:

  • Your site has dynamic content.
  • Your site has pages that aren’t easily discovered by Googlebot during the crawl process – for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or Flash.
  • Your site is new and has few links to it. (Googlebot crawls the web by following links from one page to another, so if your site isn’t well linked, it may be hard for us to discover it.)
  • Your site has a large archive of content pages (deep pages) that are not well linked to each other, or are not linked at all.

You can also use a site map to provide Google with additional information about your pages, including:

  • 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.
  • The relative importance of pages on your site. For example, 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 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.

You can read more about Google Sitemaps at: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=40318

From my experience, though, getting the above set-up is a little painful. First you have to manually create your sitemap page in a text editor and follow Google’s xml conventions, then upload it to your web server. Second, you go back to your Google Sitemap account and log in to authenticate that it is your site. Third, Google wants you to take a step further and put up an additional page (they state the page name) on your web server or embed a header tag in your home page – so it’s back to uploading a second file via your ftp client software. And finally, if you make changes to your site you have to manually update the sitemap page every time.

Some advanced web gurus actually install a perl script that does it automatically and alleviates the manual process mentioned above, but that can be too advanced for some web designers and marketers like me. I find this whole process a pain in the butt!

Looking Forward – Someone feels the same pain I feel!
Some web content management solutions (CMS), like Wordpress and  Sitemasher (not to be biased, but that is where I worked as the Online Marketer!) are now auto generating the Google Sitemap for you within your web directory, stamping a date on the last revision in the xml and also allowing you to define the rank within the WYSIWYG editor.

Yes! Someone is listening to the pain I am having – thank you!

If you want to share similar experiences on this topic, I encourage you to leave a comment!

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3 Responses to “Why Use Google Sitemaps?”

  1. What to look for in a search engine friendly platform | Seed The Web on September 15, 2009 8:40 am

    [...] (importance), and will also allow you to update the file in a WYSIWYG editor. Read more in the “Why Use Google Sitemaps” post on my [...]

  2. What is Search Engine Optimization | Seed The Web on September 16, 2009 9:54 am

    [...] word tags, image alt tags that match or complement the content within that page. Read my blog on “Why Use Google Sitemaps?”. (also, check out Danny Dover’s SEO Cheat Sheet – I think it is quite [...]

  3. Search Engine Submission Budget for Small Business | Seed The Web on September 16, 2009 9:59 am

    [...] 1) Submit to the Freebie Search Engines Free search engine submissions are out there and you should take advantage of the ones that are applicable to your business and demographics/location. The big search engines may crawl your site at one point (sooner or even later), but you can speed up the process in some situations. Look at links at the bottom of the search engines that may read “submit site”- I also recommend that you go to Google Webmasters area and submit a Sitemap to Google and to Yahoo Submit for a URL list. Read more about “Why Use Google Sitemaps“. [...]

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