What is a Sitemap?

A Sitemap is an XML file that lists all the URLs of your website with additional metadata about each URL. It is useful for every site (or blog) to have a sitemap because it is an easy way to keep the search engines informed on when a page was last updated, how often it is updated, and how important it is in relation to the other URLs of your site.

Google first introduced Sitemaps in June 2005 so web publishers could publish lists of links from their sites. Shortly afterward, MSN and Yahoo announced joint support for the Sitemaps protocol along with Google. Sitemaps are now everywhere on the net, not just on the corporate business site.

Benefits of a Sitemap

1. Sitemaps make your site more search engine friendly.

The more friendly your site is to the search engines, the more visible your site becomes. When you create new content, the search engine crawlers (also known as spiders) can discover that content more rapidly through the use of a sitemap.

2. Sitemaps help make your bandwidth usage more efficient.

When new content is created, search engines can find it more rapidly with a Sitemap and avoid having to crawl unchanged pages. This is especially useful for large sites with dynamic content. Search engine spiders will be able to quickly discover what is new and what hasnt changed without scanning thousands of pages.

3. Help index large sites.

For sites that have a large archive or a database of resources, it is sometimes very difficult to return quality search results for deep pages. If your pages are not well linked to one another, or your site uses AJAX or Flash that is not visible to the search engines, a Sitemap will help the search engines find the content.

4. Find new sites sooner.

If your site is new and has few links to it, submitting a Sitemap will help the search engines discover it faster.
Please note that submitting and/or using a Sitemap does not guarantee inclusion in any search engine, it is just a way to help the web crawlers find all your site pages.

The XML Sitemap Format

The Sitemap protocol uses XML tags and must be UTF-8 encoded.

The following is an example XML sitemap with all optional tags and one URL.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
<url>
<loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>
<lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod>
<changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
<priority>0.8</priority>
</url>
</urlset>

How to Make a SiteMap

Without knowing how to write XML from scratch, or learning some basics, there are many ways to create a Sitemap for your site.

Google Sitemap Generator " a downloadable script that analyzes your web server and generates one or more Sitemap files. The how to page for using the Google Sitemap Generator is here.

WordPress Sitemap Plugin " When you edit or create a post or page in WordPress, your Sitemap is updated. It then notifies all major search engines that support the Sitemap protocol.

SiteMaps Pal " Is a good example of an online Sitemap generator. It allows you to type in your domain URL and press submit to generate your Sitemap code. Just copy and paste to create your sitemap.xml file.

Many software platforms offer plugins for a Sitemap. Google has a great list of third-party programs and websites for Sitemaps here.

Now that you have your sitemap.xml file, you need to submit it to search engines.

How To Submit a Sitemap to the Search Engines

1. You can submit your Sitemap via the search engines submission interface.

Google Sitemap Submission
- log into your Google sitemaps account
- add and/or verify your site
- submit the sitemap

Yahoo Site Explorer Site Map Submission
- submit your sitemap xml file URL
- also see

Ask.com Sitemaps Submission
- Type into the browser :
http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=http://www.YourWebSite.com/sitemap.xml
Replace www.YourWebSite.com with your URL

MSN Sitemap Submission
- Type into your browser:
http://api.moreover.com/ping?u=http://www.YourWebSite.com/sitemap.xml
Replace www.YourWebSite.com with your URL

2. You can use a robot.txt file to specify where your sitemap is. To do this, add the following line:
Sitemap: <sitemap_location>

Where the <sitemap_location> is the complete URL to your sitemap.

3. Via HTTP request. To do this, add use the following:
<searchengine_URL>/ping?sitemap=sitemap_url

Example:

<searchengine_URL>/ping?sitemap=http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml

Other Kinds of Sitemaps

In addition to the general Sitemap one uses to list pages on your website, there are several other types of Sitemaps that you can use for various purposes. Google has recently implemented specialized Sitemaps for certain types of content. These Sitemaps are specific to Google and are not supported by other search engines.

1. Video Sitemaps " enables you to publish and syndicate online content and its relevant meta data to Google in order to make is searchable in the Google Video index.
2. Mobile Sitemaps " enables you to create a mobile Sitemap for mobile friendly URLs
3. News Sitemaps - allows publishers to give Google information that can appear in Google News search results
4. Code Search Sitemaps " helps users find function definitions and sample code
5. Geo Sitemaps " enables you to publish geospatial content (geo content) to Google so it can be searchable in Google Earth and on Google Maps.

Sitemap FAQs from Google

If youve got content, you should use a Sitemap to make your site as search engine friendly as possible. The web crawlers will have an easier time crawling your site, and while a Sitemap does not guarantee inclusion in any search engine, you will have a better chance of getting all your site pages indexed. So keep the search engines happy and give them a Sitemap!