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XML SiteMap Creation
Google introduced Google Sitemaps in 2005 so that web developers can publish lists of links from across their sites. The basic premise is that some sites have a large number of dynamic pages that are only available through the use of forms and user entries. The Sitemap files contains URLs to these pages so that web crawlers can find them. Bing, Google, Yahoo and Ask now jointly support the Sitemaps protocol.
Google says “In its simplest terms, a XML Sitemap—usually called Sitemap, with a capital S—is a list of the pages on your website. Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google's normal crawling process.”
Since Bing, Yahoo, Ask, and Google use the same protocol, having a Sitemap lets the four biggest search engines have the updated page information.
Sitemaps.org says “Web crawlers usually discover pages from links within the site and from other sites. Sitemaps supplement this data to allow crawlers that support Sitemaps to pick up all URLs in the Sitemap and learn about those URLs using the associated metadata. Using the Sitemap protocol does not guarantee that web pages are included in search engines, but provides hints for web crawlers to do a better job of crawling your site”
XML Sitemaps have replaced the older method of "submitting to search engines" by filling out a form on the search engine's submission page. Now web developers submit a Sitemap directly, or wait for search engines to find it.
Having a sitemap will not necessarily improve your search engine rankings, nor will not having one prevent you from ranking. If your site is constructed properly, search engine spiders should not have any problem crawling/indexing your site. I will discuss later how a site is properly constructed in the On-Page Optimization.
Generating an XML Sitemap for your site
Some content management systems like Wordpress and Drupal employ third party plugins and modules to automatically generate the XML sitemap of your site.
For Wordpress, there is the Google XML Sitemaps Plugin.
This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your blog. With such a sitemap, it's much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you create a post about the new content.
For Drupal, there is the XML Sitemap Module.
The Drupal XML sitemap module creates a sitemap that conforms to the sitemaps.org specification. This helps search engines to more intelligently crawl a website and keep their results up to date. The sitemap created by the module can be automatically submitted to Ask, Google, Bing (formerly Windows Live Search), and Yahoo! search engines. The module also comes with several submodules that can add sitemap links for content, menu items, taxonomy terms, and user profiles.
XML Sitemap Submission
Automatic XML Sitemap Submission
The Wordpress and Drupal XML Sitemap module/plugin automatically submits the generated Sitemap to the four search engines.
Not using Wordpress and Drupal? Generate your own XML Sitemap
If you are not using Wordpress and Drupal and cannot avail of their XML sitemap module/plugin, you may use online tools to generate your XML sitemap.
I highly recommend http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/.
Not only will XML-Sitemaps.com generate an XML Sitemap for you but will also provide you with an HTML Sitemap that you can publish on your site for use by human visitors.
Manual Submission of XML Sitemap
Google (Webmaster Tools):
■ Sign in to Google Webmaster Tools
■ On your Webmaster Tools home page, select your site. Your site will only appear after you have verified your site in Google Webmaster Tools.
■ In the left sidebar, click Site configuration and then Sitemaps.
■ Click the Add/Test Sitemap button in the top right.
■ Enter /system/feeds/sitemap into the text box that appears.
■ Click Submit Sitemap.
■ Go to http://www.yahoo.com
■ Click on "Suggest a Site" (bottom of page)
■ Click on "Submit Your Site for Free"
■ Under "Submit Your Site Feed" enter the url of your xml sitemap and press "Submit Feed"
■ Sign into Bing Webmaster Tools
■ select the Crawl tab
■ select Sitemaps on the left, and
■ submit the sitemap location.
TODO: Make sure you have an XML Sitemap and have it submitted to the search engines.
Source: Google Piranha
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