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The Ins and Outs of Sitemaps

 

The Ins and Outs of Internet Sitemaps
Sitemaps are simply "road maps" that search engines can use to navigate their way through the various parts and sections of a website. The sitemap essentially tells the search engines where the various pages are located on the site. This is particularly important for websites that have multi-level navigation, which automated spiders might have difficulty with.

These sitemaps are not difficult to create. Google, Bing, and Yahoo all use a standard sitemap protocol. The larger search engines accept sitemaps in an xml file, and Google goes a step further by accepting them as .txt files or as an RSS feed (which essentially contains a list of URLs on the website).

Webmasters need not struggle with the creation of a sitemap, as there are a number of freely-available tools that will spider their site and create a sitemap in all the accepted formats. One such product is the free "GSiteCrawler" which can be found at http://gsitecrawler.com/ .

If you would prefer to create the sitemap manually, simply open WordPad or any other text editing program, and create a new document. Then, enter the following at the top:

[?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?]
[urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"]

(in all these examples, replace the square brackets [ ] with greater than and less than signs < >)

After that, for each URL in the website that you want the search engines to spider, create a set of [url] [/url] tags, and between them enter a single, full URL inside a set of [loc] [/loc] tags. The subsequent 3 fields shown in the example below are all optional: the [lastmod] tag refers to the last time the webpage was modified; the [changefreq] tag refers to the frequency that the page is changed; and the [priority] tag refers to how important the page is. If you are using software to create the sitemap, the software will automatically populate these fields. If you are manually creating the sitemap, you can choose not to populate them...

[url]

[loc]http://www.domainname.com/[/loc]
[lastmod]2009-09-09[/lastmod]
[changefreq]daily[/changefreq]
[priority]0.5[/priority]

[/url]

Repeat the above for each page URL you want included in the sitemap. After all URLs have been added, close the [urlset] tag as follows:

[/urlset]

Save the file as an XML file. An example of a sitemap file for a site with 2 URLs should look similar to this:

[?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?]
[urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"]


[url]

[loc]http://www.domainname.com/[/loc]
[lastmod]2009-09-09[/lastmod]
[changefreq]daily[/changefreq]
[priority]0.5[/priority]

[/url]

[loc]http://www.domainname.com/[/loc]
[lastmod]2009-10-09[/lastmod]
[changefreq]daily[/changefreq]
[priority]0.8[/priority]

[/url]

[/urlset]

 

(again, remember to replace square brackets [ ] with greater than and less than symbols < > which are standard in the tags of any markup language)

Submitting A Sitemap
There are a couple of different ways to submit your sitemap to the various search engines. If you have an account in Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Central, you can submit your sitemap through your accounts there. Additionally, you can ping the sitemap using the following syntax for Bing, Google, MoreOver, and Ask...

Bing: http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?siteMap=http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml
Google: http://www.google.com/webmaster/tools/ping?sitemap=http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml
MoreOver: http://api.moreover.com/ping?u=http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml
Ask: http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=http://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml

Sitemaps are simply maps for search engines to follow, and will ensure that all the important pages on your website are spidered and included in the various search engines.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for FeedForAll http://www.feedforall.com software for creating, editing, publishing RSS feeds and podcasts. In addition Sharon manages marketing for RecordForAll http://www.recordforall.com audio recording and editing software.

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This article may be used freely in opt-in publications and websites, provided that the resource box is included and the links are active. A courtesy copy of the issue or a link to any online posting would be greatly appreciated send an email to sharon@notepage.net .

Additional articles available for publication available at http://www.small-business-software.net/free-website-content.htm

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