Q and A: What is an XML Sitemap and why do I need one?

QuestionHi Kalena

I am not sure what a XML sitemap is. I have gone to websites that will automatically generate a site map and the code they create is not understandable to me and they can only index the first 500 pages.

There are pages on my site that are important to be indexed and others that don’t matter. I have no idea how to create a XML sitemap that only lists the pages I want indexed. How can I do this? Can you clarify what a XML sitemap is and if I can have only my important pages indexed on it?

Beverly

Hi Beverly

Thanks for the caffeine donation, I’ll be sure to use it tomorrow when I visit Starbucks.

A sitemap is simply a way for search engines and visitors to find all the pages on your site more easily. XML is simply a popular format for the delivery of the sitemap. To quote Sitemaps.org:

Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site.

I personally use XML Sitemaps to build all sitemaps for my own sites and my client’s sites. I paid for the stand alone version so I can create sitemaps for sites with over 500 pages. At under USD 20, I believe the price is pretty reasonable and their support is pretty good so it might be worth the investment for you. Apart from that, the instructions for using their web version are quite clear – perhaps you need to have a closer look? These sitemap FAQs shoud also help.

You can either create a full sitemap of your entire site and edit out any pages you don’t want indexed later, or instruct the generator to avoid certain files or sub-directories before running. Once you’ve created and downloaded the XML sitemap file for your site, simply upload it to your web server and follow the instructions to ensure it is indexed by search engines. If you’ve created a Google Webmaster Tools account, you can login and enter your sitemap URL directly into the control panel.

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Q and A: How do I get Google to index more pages on my site?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I am currently reaching #1 in Google but only for two pages of my site. My question is how do I get more than two pages to return ranking? I don’t believe Google is indexing more than the two pages. How can I change this?

Gloria

Dear Gloria

Easy peasy. You need to create an XML sitemap of all your web pages and upload it to the Google Webmaster Tools area. Once you set up a Webmaster Tools account, you’ll be able to keep track of how many pages Google is indexing, what indexing issues, if any, Googlebot strikes and other useful statistics about your site’s visibility in the Google index.
But getting your pages ranking towards the top of the search results is more tricky and will require you to learn and implement some SEO tactics. You should also consider improving your site’s link popularity by obtaining more incoming links from relevant, trusted sites, particularly those in the same industry. This will help boost your rankings for industry-specific keywords and phrases.

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Q and A: Does it matter if my XML and HTML sitemap file names are the same?

QuestionDear Kalena…

About sitemaps. I of course have the sitemap.xml loaded and registered with Google and Yahoo. I also have a sitemap.html for site users. Is it ok for their names to be so similar, or should I rename the user sitemap something like usersitemap.html?

Thanks,
Rob

Dear Rob

It’s not a problem. Search engines recognize that XML and HTML are two completely different file types. As long as you have uploaded and verified your XML file to Google and Yahoo sitemaps, they will be found and indexed accordingly and you can continue to link to your sitemap.html file so users can find it.

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