How To Use Google Sitemaps
Google has recently implemented a program where any webmaster can create a Sitemap of their site and submit it for indexing by Google. It is a quick and easy way for you to keep your site constantly indexed and updated in Google.
The program is appropriately called Google Sitemaps.
In order for you to best use Sitemaps, you must have an XML generated file on your site that will transmit or send any updates, changes, and data to Google. XML (Extensible Markup Language)is everywhere these days, you have probably seen the orange XML logo on many websites and it’s often associated with Blogging because Blogs use XML/RSS feeds to syndicate their content.
Today RSS is known mostly as ‘Really Simple Syndication’ but its original acronym stood for ‘Rich Site Summary’. XML is only simple code like HTML and it is used to syndicate your content to all interested parties.
And the interested party, in this case, is Google. By creating Sitemaps, Google is really asking webmasters to take charge of the indexing and updating of their sites. Basically, doing the Googlebot’s job!
This is a ‘Good’ thing! With the steady influx of new websites growing rapidly, indexing all this material will become a challenge, even with the resources of Google. With Sitemaps, webmasters can now take charge and make sure their site is crawled and indexed.
Please note, indexing your site with Sitemaps WON’T improve your rankings in Google. You will still be competing with the other sites in Google for top positions. But with Sitemaps, you can make sure all your pages are crawled and indexed quickly by Google.
There are some other big advantages of using Google’s Sitemaps – mainly you have control over a few key variables, attributes or tags. To explain this as simply as possible, your XML powered sitemap file will have this simple code for each page of your site:
< loc>http://www.yoursite.com/< / loc>
< priority>1.0< /priority>
< lastmod>2005-07-03T16:18:09+00:00< /lastmod>
< changefreq>daily< /changefreq>
Along with ‘urlset’ tags at the beginning and end of your code, and an XML version indication – that’s basically your XML file! File size will depend on the number of web pages you have.
Taking a closer look at this XML file:
location – http://www.yoursite.com – the name of your web page
priority – you set the priority you want Google to place on that page in your site. You can prioritize your pages: 0.0 being the least, 1.0 being the highest, 0.5 is in the middle. This is ONLY relative to your site. It will not affect your rankings. Why is this important? You have certain pages on your site that are more important than others, (home page, high-profit page, opt-in page, etc.) by placing a high priority on these pages, you will increase their importance in Google.
last modified – when you last modified that page, this timestamp allows crawlers to avoid recrawling pages that haven’t changed.
change frequency – you can tell Google how often you change that particular page. Never, weekly, daily, hourly, and so on – if you frequently update your page this could be extremely important.
Why do I need an XML Generator?
In order for this XML sitemap file on your site to be constantly updated, you need a Generator that will spider your site, list all the URLs and automatically feed them to Google. Thus constantly updating your site in Google’s massive index or database.
Keep in mind, Google also gives you the option of submitting a simple text file with all your URLs.
Now there is already a flood of these generators popping up! Different ways of generating your XML-powered sitemap file. More are probably appearing as you read this. For your convenience, three ways to generate your XML Sitemaps file are listed below:
Difficult – Google’s Python Generator
That’s a relative term, if you know your server like the back of your hand and installing scripts doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you, you’re probably smiling at the word difficult. Google supplies a link to a generator which you can download and set up on your server. It will cough up your sitemap XML file and automatically feed it to Google.
Google XML Generator https://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/docs/en/sitemap-generator.html
In order for this Generator to work, Python version 2.2 must be installed on your web server – many servers don’t have this. If you know what you’re doing, this will probably be a good choice.
You don’t need a Google Account to use Sitemaps but it’s encouraged because you can track your sitemap’s progress and view diagnostic information. If you already have another Google Account Gmail, Google Alerts, etc. just use that one to sign in and follow directions from there.
To submit your Sitemap using an HTTP request, issue your request to the following URL:
Hard – A PHP Code Generator
This is a PHP generator that you can place on your server. This generator will spider your site, and produce your XML sitemap file. Download the phpSitemapNG and upload it to your server. Run the generator to get your XML sitemap file and send it to Google. PHP Generator http://enarion.net/google/
Again, this is only hard to do if you don’t know your way around PHP files or scripts.
Easy – Free Online Generator
These Generators are popping up everywhere, and Google now keeps a list of these ‘third party suppliers’ of generators on their site. Find them here: http://code.google.com/sm_thirdparty.html
One of the easiest to use is http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ and you can index up to 500 pages with this online Generator very quickly and it will give you the sitemap XML file Google needs to index your site.
It will go into your site, spider it and index all your pages into an XML sitemap of your site. You can download this file, Compressed or Non-compressed and make minor changes such as setting the priority, changing frequency, etc.
Then upload this file to your site as sitemap.xml to the root directory of your server i.e. where you have your homepage. Then notify Google Sitemaps of your XML file and you’re in business.
Of course, the only drawback, if you constantly add pages to your site you will need to also add these pages to your XML sitemap file. This won’t be much of a problem unless you’re daily adding pages to your site – then you will need something like the PHP or Python generator to do all this for you automatically.
Google is still the major search engine on the web so getting your pages indexed and updated quickly is the major reason to use Google Sitemaps. If you want your site to remain competitive it’s probably the wisest route to take.