SEO and Sitemaps

Does your site have a sitemap?  If not, says Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, it should.  The sitemap protocol is “an invaluable resource for search engines.”  What does this  invaluable resource do for you?  And how can you be sure you are optimized to take advantage of it?

A sitemap is simply an XML file that lists the URLs for a particular site.  This allows the site to give search engines more relevant information as they are crawling.  The webmaster generates a list of every URL on a site and submits it to various search engines.  Making it more convenient still, Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask use the same protocol, so your sitemap would be searchable by all the major engines.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that those pages will be ranked more advantageously, but instead, it is another tool in the SEO’s box.  Among the information search engines can glean: 

  • When was the URL last updated or modified?
  • How often does the URL change?
  • How important is that particular URL relative to others within the site? 

While the sitemap protocol is a beneficial supplemental tool for any site, there are situations in which it becomes more important, including: 

  • Sites with content that is not normally picked up by search engines, such as Ajax, Flash, or Silverlight content, and those with heavy graphic content.  Google writes, “This is particularly true for images that are only accessible via JavaScript forms, or for pages that contain many images but only some of which are integral to the page content.”
  • URLs within the site that aren’t accessible through the browsable interface. 

It is important to use any tool to boost search engine rankings; Newswire reports that an incredible 85 percent of e-commerce is generated from sites that hit the top of the results pages.  Scrambling for that other 15 percent isn’t a viable business solution.

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