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SEO and Sitemaps

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If you follow search engine news you know that the major search engines are fighting tooth and nail for market share.

Given the competitive climate it may come as a surprise that Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft are all backing a single protocol for publishing sitemaps.

Search engines typically build their indexes by crawling links on websites. Link-by-link a search engine discovers and catalogs web pages. To get a site listed in the major search engines requires that a webmaster submit the home page URL to the search engines and then sit back while the search engines crawl the site to discover what pages exist.

A new initiative, sitemaps.org, sets a standard for creating and publishing sitemap XML files. A sitemap XML file is basically a listing of all pages on a website, including some basic metadata about each page. A properly-created sitemap can be submitted to a search engine that supports the sitemap.org protocol to help the engine accurately build its index.

To my knowledge, Google was the first of the major engines (Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft) to offer webmasters a way to submit a sitemap.

My company, Agency Fusion, added support for Google’s sitemap protocol into our CMS shortly after Google made this service possible. Here’s how it works: A user makes changes to his or her website using our CMS.

When the user publishes the website changes, our CMS automatically notifies Google that the sitemap has been updated and Google uses the updated sitemap to facilitate its indexing. The new sitemap.org effort uses the same XML format as the original Google sitemap protocol so our system can publish sitemaps for Yahoo! and Microsoft too.

The fact that all three major engines are backing this standard makes it clear there is commitment from the engines to actually use this data in a meaningful way. Anything that helps a search engine more accurately index a website’s information should be considered a primary tool in your SEO arsenal!

For more information on the sitemap protocol, visit sitemaps.org. XML-Sitemaps.com is an online sitemap generator which allows you to manually create a sitemap XML file by merely inputting a website’s URL. This is very handy for websites that aren’t powered by a CMS capable of automatically generating sitemaps.

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Brett Derricott is the founder and CEO of Agency Fusion, a web development company with a sweet content management system.

Brett blogs about technology at Agency Byte.

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