Google XML Sitemaps - The Basics
by Scott Van Achte, Senior SEO,
StepForth Placement Inc.
August 9, 2006
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Google XML Sitemaps have been around for a while now and many
webmasters are starting to become familiar with them. They
can help you to achieve up to date indexing in Google, and,
in a round about way, play a small roll in assisting with
rankings. Sitemaps are not needed by everyone, but can be
of significant use for many websites. This article will touch
on the basics of what they are, who can use them, and how
to implement them.
What is a Google XML Sitemap?
In short a Google XML Sitemap allows webmasters to submit a
master list of all their site’s pages to Google for
indexing. This information is stored in an XML file along
with other relevant information where specified by the webmaster.
It can be as simple as a list of URL’s belonging to
the site, or can include, last modified date, update frequency,
and priority. The purpose of this Sitemap is to have the most
recent version of your URL’s indexed in Google at all
Who needs a Google XML Sitemap?
XML sitemaps can generally help any site needing to be indexed
by Google; however, small sites may not see the need for this.
For example, if you have a small 10 page website that seldom
sees any of its pages updated and your entire site is already
in Google’s index, the XML Sitemap is not necessarily
going to help much. It is best used when trying to keep the
latest versions of your pages current in Google. Large sites
with an extensive list of URL’s will also benefit, especially
if 100% of their pages are not appearing in the index. So
a general rule of thumb, if you have either a dynamic or large
site, Google XML Sitemaps just may benefit you.
Will using XML Sitemaps improve my Google Ranking?
In most cases this will not improve your rankings, however it
can help. By having the most current version of your site
in Google’s index, this can speed up your movement in
the results pages. This is because if you make an update to
a page for optimization purposes, Google’s index will
have this page updated more quickly than without the XML sitemap.
What this essentially means is that with more frequent spidering
you can help influence what version of your site is in the
index, and ultimately, help with rankings by decreasing response
How do you create the XML Sitemap?
If you have a very small site, or a lot of time on your hands
you can create your XML sitemap manually, but for the vast majority
of webmasters, automated tools are an absolute must. There are
a number of available solutions for this. One of the simplest
methods of creating XML sitemaps is through the use of VIGOS
GSitemap. This is a free, easy to use tool that will help you
create your XML sitemaps with ease. There are also number of
downloadable and online tools listed on Google’s site which cater to both beginners and seasoned professionals alike.
Submitting your XML Sitemap to Google is relatively straightforward.
After the file has been created the first thing you want to
do is upload the file to your server, preferably at the root
level. Log into the Sitemap console using your Google account
login. From here you can add a site to your account. Simply
enter your top level domain where it says “Add Site” (see
fig 1.0). This will add the domain to your account and allow
you to then submit the XML sitemap.
After this is done it will take you to a screen
with the summary for this site. You will see a text link that
a Sitemap”. Clicking here will take you to a screen to
enter the online location of the XML sitemap. (see fig 1.1 below).
Click “Add Web Sitemap” and you are on your way.
Once this is complete you have the option of verifying your
Sitemap. This can be done by placing a specific meta tag on
your home page, or by uploading a blank html file with a file
name provided by Google. Verification will allow you to access
crawl stats, and other valuable information regarding your Google
Below is a basic example of an XML Sitemap.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
< urlset xmlns="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84
Implementing an XML Sitemap is generally straightforward and
worth the effort. Taking the time to implement them is well
worth it as there is no negative down side to this tool provided
by Google. Every little thing adds up in terms of obtaining
site rankings and frequent spidering by Google is certainly
one of them.
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