Sitemaps Make Your Site Search Engine Friendly

by Shannon Hutcheson September 30th, 2008 

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!

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19 Responses to “Sitemaps Make Your Site Search Engine Friendly”

  1. Thank you for clearing up a lot of misgivings I had about this subject. I now know how to go about getting my site map done.

  2. Utah SEO says:

    Great article but I would have like to read about people's concerns and the cons of having a sitemap.

  3. I've tried making my own sitemap (by hand) but it is so tedious and totally not worth it. Thank goodness for plugins!

  4. SoLinkable says:

    There are also other ways of creating a sitemap. One of the best is to have a dynamically created sitemap done through php. Apart from automatically updating whenever a new post is created, they can be made to automatically ping google/yahoo when a new post is detected. Very useful things indeed.

  5. kouji says:

    i've thought about doing this. but i read somewhere that blogger blogs don't usually require a sitemap because of their structure.

  6. I'm all for sitemaps – I think they only benefit a site.

    Frank Polenose

  7. monik says:

    Can you help me out and tell me how to make a sitemap for blogger blog.
    my blog is http://www.etiole.com

  8. A very impressive post with neatly explained steps to be followed. Its true that sitemaps helps your site to get indexed.

  9. Sitemap plus robots txt is like a combination move that helps crawlers to index content easily. Guide the crawlers.
    Rif Chia

  10. Chetan says:

    Good article and resources for sitemaps.

    I have never seen any disadvantage of using a sitemap but people often mention about some errors and problems, so everyone should take care while installing sitemaps for their websites and blogs.

  11. Shannon Hutcheson says:

    @Comparison Shopping glad you enjoyed the post.

    @UtahSEO that's an interesting idea as well. Perhaps for a future post.

    @Solinkable I love the WordPress plugin for that fact.

    @kouji I'm not very familiar with Blogger blogs, I've always owned my own domain with hosting. Hosting is so cheap now days :D

  12. thanks for the list link of the sitemap plugin. actually, i dont have sitemap right now on my blog, may i will install it.

  13. Michael D says:

    This may be an obvious question but would you be submitting a separate sitemap for blog.searchenginepeople.com vs. http://www.searchenginepeople.com sites or is one map adequate for the entire domain?

  14. Danny Cooper says:

    I've never thought of it in terms of bandwith, but now you've mentioned it, it seems obvious =P. Is the usage really that substantial though?

  15. Shannon Hutcheson says:

    @MichaelD you can use as many sitemaps as you want or require by using the siteindex tag. See http://www.sitemaps.org/protocol.php for more information. Though you do not have to use multiple sitemaps, you may want to for various reasons, including how many URLs you are using (there is a limit of 50,000 urls per Sitemap), or because you are running various software that creates multiple sitemaps (like WordPress). You can include all the sitemaps your site uses in the siteindex.

    @Danny Cooper for very large corporate websites with thousands of pages, this could mean substantial bandwidth savings. But keep in mind, a Sitemap is a tool that could be used as a free and fairly time effective solution. Rather than spending thousands of dollars on a remake of your entire site and all its navigation, you might consider implementing a Sitemap. Then again, it may be that redoing the site navigation is less time intensive and cost effective. It's really going to depend on a per case situation.

  16. Great thoughts on sitemaps! I use the WordPress sitemap generator plugin on all the sites I setup. I think it's a critical component for getting sites indexed accurately and quickly. And it's painless!

  17. Google picked up my site within an hour yesterday :D
    Not on yahoo yet though

  18. Thank you so much for this article. We are a Health Retreat with a limited budget and tutorials like these really help us improve our SEO.Thank you kindly :)

  19. JR Kavanagh says:

    great tutorial, good list of ways to submit your website.