Thursday, 31 January 2008

Google Sitemaps - The Benefits & How to set up

What are XML sitemaps

XML Sitemaps are the best format to use to record and montior pages on your site, benefits include:

* Supported by Google, Yahoo & MSN see:

* Up-gradable (can add extra info at later dates)

* Can separate website blogs into separate site maps or jumble together

* Where have more than one domain, make it possible to tell the search engine the preferred URL.

* Search Engines will use the sitemaps to enhance their crawl and discovery process, it does not however guarantee that those pages/URLs will get indexed.

* See:

NB: There is a limit of 50K pages, although nested sitemaps can be submitted to get around this.

Why Submit

Submitting a Google sitemap – lets Google know about the URLS on your site.

It is also helpful tool to make sure that some of your pages are not easily discovered by the spiders for example, pages that are only accessible via a form.

From a web design perspective Google sitemaps can identify potential crawling problems, broken links, robots.txt or crawling problems arising from the CMS.

From SEO perspective Google sitemaps also give indication on the top performing phrases by country and identify trends. This information is available elsewhere however useful to have link information and keywords in one place.

Reason to set up

Along with providing information to Search Engines, so that they can better understand the site, making sure they know about the URLS.

Another reason for setting up a sitemap in Google (Webmaster tools) is that you can capture statistics such as how many of your URLS are indexed.

Which is really useful on launch of a new site, new category/section.

No guarantees

Google do not guarantee that having a site map will increase your rankings, however it does increase your chances of getting crawled, as using site maps we can let them know about new URLS, and help them prioritize them, ie: know where to start the crawl.

Having a Google site map can however lead to increased visibility in the search engine result pages.

Understanding about setting priorities in the sitemap

Google state: "priority only indicates the importance of a particular URL relative to other URLs on your site, and doesn't impact the ranking of your pages in search results."

Adding priority 1 or another level to all of our pages, does not mean that they will rank any higher or be crawled faster than another site who has all their pages set at priority 0.7 for example.

Also by only indicating that all of your pages have the same priority is the same as not providing any priority information at all.

The default priority is 0.5 and many web masters make the decision to leave it on the default. See evidence at the Sitemap help forum.

Google mention ‘relative to other URLs’, so should priorities be set then
it may provide them with indication on how to crawl your site, ie: start at home / about us, then dig deeper into categories, subcategories and products.

In effect the priority order can only provide hints to Google about the importance of the pages. There is also an area to state how often page is updated, similar to the Robots revisit rule, which is known not to have an impact. Due to this I see no pressing need to update this area. Spiders will revisit regardless of updates.

It is however believed that by giving hints on updates, will be of benefit when a new section of site, or new site is launched.

Adding meta data to Sitemap

If all the meta data is 100% the same, then there is no pressing need to include the tag in the sitemap.

The reason for the meta data is to Google can distinguish the difference between each URL.

Where should a sitemap be placed

With sitemap cross submission, you can place it just about anywhere as long as the sites are verified in your Webmaster Tools account.:
Steps in Setting up Sitemaps – from Dave Chaffey – E-Marketing Guru

1. Go to personal Sitemaps page at Google Webmaster Tools requires Gmail login.

2. Create Sitemap format in correct format: See

It is limited to 50K URLs, but for larger sites you can create a sitemap index file that references more than one sitemap file.

1. Verify site - there are two methods - see I don't see any particular merit in either approach - use that which is most convenient, but remember the security implications of publishing your sitemaps.

2. To create site maps you could use the Google sitemap Generator or hidden on the site are these third party tools

I have personally found the free downloadable tool which crawls a site automatically on this list best for creating mine:,

Remember that Yahoo! have now launched an equivalent in Yahoo! Site Explorer

More answers can be found at: Sitemaps Help Group

No comments: