Sitemaps are a great tool for webmasters, as they inform search engines of the pages within your website, how important each page is and the frequency with which you update them. Google was the first to offer an xml based sitemap service, but after the recent news that Yahoo! and Microsoft have endorsed the sitemaps standard, we thought it was a good idea to run through how to create and use sitemaps on your website.
Creating and Submitting a Sitemap
Creating an XML sitemap file is actually a lot easier than you may think. There are a bunch of free sitemap generators available that can make your XML file in a matter of seconds. Alternatively, if you have some XML knowledge and would prefer to make the file yourself, you can check out the protocol from sitemaps.org.
After creating a sitemap, you need to submit it to relevant search engines. At this stage, only Google and Yahoo! accept sitemap submissions with MSN still undergoing some testing of the service. To submit to these search engines you will need a Google / Yahoo! account. You can then use the following links to submit your sitemaps:
Submitting a sitemap will also give you access to a great range of webmaster tools. As Google was the first to introduce the standard, let me run through some of the statistics that are available from Google’s Webmaster Tools.
The diagnostics tab allows webmasters to get information on how the Google spider accesses their site. It includes options for setting the preferred domain for a website and changing the rate at which Google crawls the site.
The statistics section provides an overview on how your website performs in search results. It gives an overview of the most popular keywords used to find your site and shows a ranking of your average top position for each. It also shows the most used keywords in both your content and links from other websites.
Because sitemaps offer an easy way of informing search engines about new or hard to find content on your site, you should definitely consider adding a sitemap file to your site, especially if you add new pages or update content frequently.