What are Sitemaps
A site map or sitemap is a visual or textually organized model of a lost of pages of Web site’s content that allows the users to navigate through the site to find the information they are looking for, just as a traditional geographical map helps people find places they are looking for in the real world. It can be either a document in any form used as a planning tool for Web design, or a Web page that lists the pages on a Web site, typically organized in hierarchical fashion. “ Why is that important? ” Three reasons. It tells Google:
- How your website is organized.
- How your website functions.
- How to sort and categorize your traffic.
How to Tell Search Engines About Sitemaps?
Sitemaps supplement and do not replace the existing crawl-based mechanisms that search engines already use to discover URLs. Using this protocol does not guarantee that web pages will be included in search indexes, nor does it influence the way that pages are ranked in search results. Specific examples are provided below.
- Google – Webmaster Support on Sitemaps: “Google doesn’t guarantee that we’ll crawl or index all of your URLs. However, we use the data in your Sitemap to learn about your site’s structure, which will allow us to improve our crawler schedule and do a better job crawling your site in the future. In most cases, webmasters will benefit from Sitemap submission, and in no case will you be penalized for it.”
- Bing – Bing uses the standard sitemaps.org protocol and is very similar to the one mentioned below.
- Yahoo – After the search deal commenced between Yahoo! Inc. and Microsoft, Yahoo! Site Explorer has merged with Bing Webmaster Tools
Why You Need an XML Sitemap
From a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) point of view sitemaps are extremely important. First we would like to clearly state that adding a sitemap does not affect search rankings. However, if there is some page on your site that is not indexed, then sitemap provide you a way to let search engines know about that page, so it can be indexed properly.
Sitemaps are very useful for new websites and blogs. As most new blogs usually don’t get many backlinks to their individual posts, it becomes harder for search engines to discover all of their posts and pages. Sitemaps allow those websites to help search engines crawl their sites more efficiently.
For popular websites, sitemaps allow your website to interact with search engines more effectively. Search engines can guess how often your site is updated, which parts of your website are more frequently updated than others, set crawl rate for your site, etc. This improves the overall visibility of your site to search engines.
There are a number of free XML sitemap creators on the web, one that we like to use is, http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/. These free sitemaps have most of the features that you need to have on your sitemap, although the one listed above will limit the sitemap to 500 pages.
More than one sitemap
If your site is huge (over 50,000 pages), it’s best to split your sitemaps into a series of sitemaps, which is a straightforward process.
Let’s say your site has 10 categories – eg, www.yoursite.com/category1, www.yoursite.com/category2, www.yoursite.com/category3, and so on up to www.yoursite.com/category10.
1) Create sitemaps for each of the 10 categories by putting each URL into the required field of the tool and downloading them when they’re ready. You’ll then get 10 mini sitemaps.
2) Create a sitemap of the sitemaps. This you can do manually by opening up one of your recently created sitemaps, copying it into an Excel document, then replacing each URL with the relevant one