What are Sitemaps?
GPS for Google :)
Sitemaps are files added to / linked to / attached to your website that tells Google all it needs to know about the website. More specifically it lists all the pages that form part of the site. Why would / should one waste time and effort on this? A Sitemap can “explain” your site to Google (and other Search Engines) when the ‘crawlers’ won’t necessarily find all the information for themselves. This can easily be the case when you use dynamic content, AJAX files, pages that are not clearly linked to each other, complex page hierarchy and back-link system.
Sitemaps can also be used to share metadata about specific types of files. “For example, a video Sitemap entry can specify the running time, category, and family-friendly status of a video; an image Sitemap entry can provide information about an image’s subject matter, type, and license.” (About Sitemaps – Google Webmaster Tools)
How do I create my Sitemap?
Google uses the Sitemap 0.9 protocol and the same file can easily be submitted to Bing and Yahoo. When you create your Sitemap:
- Make sure your website has an active, updated Sitemap that lists all the pages on your website.
- Don’t list more than 50 000 URL’s (seriously) in one document. If your site has more links / pages to list, you will have to consider submitting multiple Sitemaps.
- Check how to specify your URL’s and use the same (approved / prefered) format consistently through-out the site.
- Specify how often your page is likely to be updated as well as when it was last updated.
So what should you do now?
When your Sitemap is ready and up-to-date, you can submit to Google, Yahoo, Bing etc etc. None of the Search Engines guarantee placement based on the fact that your site has a Sitemap but it definitely helps their crawlers to wrap themselves around your website and get to grips with the full extent of it.
The way I see it, the more the Search Engine can find about you, the better for your overall Search Engine results.
If all of this still appears to be an alien dialect to you and you desperately want to wrap your head around SEO, Online Marketing, Search Engines and Sitemaps, feel free to speak to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) today!
Ciao for now.