The Search Engines Agree on an XML Sitemap Standard
In great news, Google, Yahoo and MSN have agreed upon a XML sitemap standard.
What’s this mean to you?
Well, you just need to create one XML sitemap and you can submit it to all three engines.
I’ve been doing that for a while and didn’t seem to have any problem but now it’s official.
Why should you create an XML sitemap? An XML sitemap outlines all the URLs on a site so that search engines can find them all easily.
Much like a normal sitemap, it just lists all the pages however, an XML sitemap is optimized for search engines, not for people. By giving search engines a list of URLs on your site, you are increasing the number of pages they know about and can refer traffic to.
If you posted once a day for a year, you’d have 365 post pages. That doesn’t include categories, archives and any other blog related pages.
Since the numbers add up so quickly, it’s hard for a search engine to keep up and even harder for a user to keep them organized so that an engine can find them all easily.
An XML sitemap gives engines one file full of all the URLs on your site, optimized just for them.
So, how do you create an XML site map? There are variety of ways but here are my top three choices:
1. Google Sitemap Generator Plugin for WordPress. Once installed, it automatically updates and pings Google when you have new content. Since all engines now use the same XML formatting, the name is a little outdated. It should be updated to Search Engine Sitemap Generator.
2. GSite Crawler. This is a free desktop application for PCs that will crawl your site and create the XML site map for you to upload. It doesn’t automatically update but it is easy to use and you could re-generate an XML map ever month or so. If anyone knows of a free Mac app like this, I’d love to hear about it.
3. XML-Sitemaps.com. This is a web based XML sitemap creation tool that is free for small sites. Again, it’s not automatic, but it’s free and easy to use. Plus it works on any platform.
If you have a blog, you should be creating an XML sitemap. Even if you do it only once every six months, it’s better than none at all.
Do you use a different tool for creating XML sitemaps? If so, do share.
Thomas McMahon is a SEO Designer for TopRank Online Marketing in Minneapolis, MN. His specialities inlude technical optimization of existing web sites, creating search engine friendly web designs, and blog optimization. He has also created a number of blog marketing tools, WordPress plug-ins and FireFox add-ons.