Google XML sitemaps are sitemaps that are used by many search engings (not just Google) to provide a reference point for websites. They are an XML file that includes all the pages of that website in a fashion that is easy for the search engines to reference and index. Ironically, the XML Sitemap specification was developed in tandem with Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, but most people refer to them as "Google XML Sitemaps".
What is a Google XML Sitemap For?
Prior to the creation of the XML sitemaps specification, search engines had various requirements to submit a sitemap to be indexed. This meant that in order to submit a sitemap for Google you did one thing, for Microsoft something else, and for Yahoo! a completely different thing. This resulted in a lot of work for Webmasters that provided no additional benefit to them. In fact, most Web designers, if they created a sitemap at all, it was in HTML and just a list of their pages.
The XML sitemap specification set out to create one specification for XML sitemaps that all search engines could use to index sites. With this specification, Web designers no longer have to maintain potentially an unlimited number of sitemaps, and instead only need one XML file.
Where are Google XML Sitemaps Especially Useful?
Most of the time, search engines can spider your site without a sitemap at all. They simply send their robots in and they follow the links just like a person would do. But sitemaps provide a few features that make them useful to Web designers:
- Sitemaps can include the last modified date, so that the search engine knows how fresh the content is.
- Sitemaps can include a priority that indicates how important a particular page or section is compared to the entire site.
- Sitemaps can indicate how often a page is updated so that search engines know how often to come back to spider the content.
- Sitemaps can provide links to areas of the website that are not otherwise linked (but that you want indexed in search engines).
- Sitemaps can provide links to data-driven, Flash, and Ajax sites that might otherwise stymie the robot and keep it from crawling the entire site.
It's Easy to Submit an XML Sitemap to Various Search Engines
The easiest way to submit Google XML sitemaps to various search engines is to append your sitemap URL to the following URLs:
- Ask.com: http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=YOUR SITEMAP URL
- Bing: http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?siteMap=YOUR SITEMAP URL
- Google: http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ping?sitemap=YOUR SITEMAP URL
- Live Search: http://webmaster.live.com/ping.aspx?siteMap=YOUR SITEMAP URL
- Yahoo! http://search.yahooapis.com/SiteExplorerService/V1/ping?sitemap=YOUR SITEMAP URL
You should resubmit your sitemap URLs whenever they are updated, to make sure that the search engines have the most up-to-date content on your site.