Everything You Need To Know About Sitemaps

What is a Sitemap?

In simple terms, Sitemaps are like address book of your website. It is referenced by the search engines to index your content. It is an XML file which can be generated automatically using freely available tools. Google introduced Google Sitemaps, so web developers can publish lists of links from across their sites.

Importance of Sitemaps in Search Engine Optimization

In earlier days, it was difficult to get the content indexed for dynamic websites. Also, the crawlers found it difficult to find the deep-linked contents. Sitemaps were introduced to remove this bottleneck.  If your website has a sitemap, it is very easy to get your content indexed at a faster rate, if your content is worth to the search users.

Structure of a Simple Sitemap

The basic structure of a sitemap is as follows.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> 
   <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"> 
     <url>       
        <loc>http://www.allthewebsites.org/</loc>
        <lastmod>2011-01-01</lastmod>
        <changefreq>daily</changefreq>
        <priority>1.0</priority> 
     </url>
   </urlset> 

Each sitemap must start with tag and content encoding should be UTF-8. URLs are enclosed within the tag. And, each url must be contained within tag.

  1. <loc> stands for location, which is your website URL.
  2. <lastmod> defines the last modified date and time for the URL
  3. <changefreq> tag is for denoting how often the content changes.
    Available options are ...
    • never
    • always
    • hourly
    • daily
    • weekly
    • monthly
    • yearly
  4. <priority> denotes the content priority among the list of available URLs. The most important content should be denoted with 1.0, the next with 0.9 and so on.

As you can see, generating the sitemaps using simple XML tags helps the crawlers to identify the content very fast and speeds up indexing your website.

Tools for generating Sitemaps

You do not have to generate the sitemap by hand. There are lot of tools available on the Internet to generate the sitemaps for your website.

For a complete list of tools, please check the Google Code page.

How to Publish your Sitemap

Once you have generated your sitemap, you should upload the xml file to your website using an FTP tool like Filezilla or CuteFTP. Ensure that your sitemap is accessible online (like http://www.YOURWEBSITE.com/sitemap.xml)

If you feel that the sitemap size is very large, you can compress the xml file using gzip utility. Effectively, the file becomes http://www.YOURWEBSITE.com/sitemap.xml.gz

How to add your sitemaps to Google.

Login to Google Webmasters Tool and go to Sitemaps on the menu. If you don't have a google account, you will need to create one.

Submit your sitemap to google and verify the ownership. After few hours or days, you can check the status online. If you need any help on indexing and crawling, contact google webmaster support.

How to add your sitemaps to Bing

For navigating Bing Webmaster tools, your browser requires Silverlight plugin. Signin to Bing Webmaster tools

  • Add your website and verify the ownership.
  • Then, click on the Crawl tab and add your sitemap.

How to add the sitemaps to robots.txt

Go to robots.txt file ( If you do not have that file, you need to create one) and add the following line at the beginning of the file.

Sitemap: http://www.YOURWEBSITE.com/sitemap.xml.gz

Replace, YOURWEBSITE with your domain name.

Summary:

In this article, we have explained you about sitemaps and introduced the tools for generating your sitemaps. We have included the steps to add your sitemaps to Google Webmaster tools and Bing Webmaster tools. And also, you now know how to add the sitemaps to the robots.txt

References

  • Sitemaps.org
  • Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools.

 

Network Sites