Sitemaps are used to tell the search engines about pages on your website that may not otherwise be discovered by the search engines. Generally there are two types of Sitemaps – a HTML Sitemap or a XML Sitemap. Both types will contain a list of the URL’s that lead to pages within your website.
The HTML Sitemap will contain an organized list of HTML coded text links pointing to the important pages on your website. See an example of what a HTML Sitemap looks like at:
The XML Sitemap will contain a XML structured list of URL’s pointing to all pages on your website which you want the search engines to know about. See an example of what a XML Sitemap looks like at:
If you are knowledgeable about HTML and you know how to hand code, you can create your HTML Sitemap file using a text editor such as Notepad. If you want to spend less time creating the file then use Adobe Dreamweaver or another HTML editor to assist you.
Creating a XML Sitemap file for your website is considered an SEO best practice. You can create a XML Sitemap file based on the Sitemap protocol either by manually hand coding the file or more efficiently by using a XML Sitemap generator. You can try my favorite XML Sitemap generator here.
XML Sitemaps are useful because you can include metadata for various types of content on your website, including video, images, mobile, News, and web page source code. You can also specify within your XML Sitemap the date on which a file on your website was last updated. This indicates to the search engines when they need to revisit your files and spider them. Additionally, you can specify the frequency at which you wish for your files to be revisited by the search engines. You can also assign varying levels of priority to each file listed within your XML Sitemap. Generally your homepage should have the highest priority assigned to it.
There are several important reasons that you should be using a XML Sitemap on your website:
* Your website uses AJAX, is image intensive or your content is not easily discoverable by the search engines.
* Your website hosts dynamic content and your URL’s have all kinds of funky characters or use session ID’s in them.
* Your website is brand new and has very little in the way of links from other websites pointing to it.
* Your website has lots of orphaned pages within it that are not linked to internally from your home page or other sub pages inside of your website.
Submitting Your XML Sitemap
We’re only going to address submitting to Google.com and to Bing.com. These are the engines that matter most at the present time. Yahoo uses Bing’s search index to power their own search results. So submitting to Bing will get you listed in Yahoo’s organic results.
Submit to Google.com
If you have not already done so, create an account for yourself at google.com/webmasters then login and add your website address to your Google Webmaster Tools account, then follow the on-screen instructions to verify your ownership of the website. On the Webmaster Tools main page, click the website that you wish to work with, then under Site Configuration, click Sitemaps. Click the Add/Test Sitemap button. In the text field paste or type the URL address to your Sitemap file – i.e.
Submit to Bing.com
Create an account for yourself at bing.com/toolbox/webmaster, if you have not already done so, then login. On the Home tab, add your websiteURL – i.e.
Pro Tip: if you have more than just a few XML Sitemap files to submit which all belong to the same domain name, we recommend that you create a single Sitemap index file that lists the other Sitemap files on your site, and then submit the index Sitemap file only and do not submit the XML Sitemap files that are lísted in the indéx file. Search engínes will discover and visit other XML Sitemap file URL’s within an index XML Sitemap file.
Another Pro Tip: After you have created your XML Sitemap file and have uploaded it to your website you should reference the location of your XML Sitemap file inside of your robots.txt file. For more about robots.txt see this article. The proper way in which you reference your XML Sitemap file inside of your robots.txt file is to simply append the following line into your robots.txt file –
Now that you know about Sitemaps, why they are important, how to create and use them – drop what you’re doing and go create your Sitemaps now, then watch for an growth in the number of pages that the search engines index on your website.
About The Author
Brendon Turner is Director of SEO / SEM at WebDevCompany.com. Feeling overwhelmed by all of this SEO stuff? Leave it to the Pro’s at Web Development Company Inc. Request a Free SEO Analysis and receive a detailed report of your website, including tips to improve your SE rankings and traffic.