So, you have worked hard on your site, and have put in high quality informative content along with rich media files and everything seems to be in place but still the web pages of your site are not getting indexed in search engine results and you are here for a solution. Well, be assured that the solution is very simple and you won’t go disappointed from here.
We all know that a website is the identity of a business on the World Wide Web and that people in far off geographical locations, form an opinion about a company just by looking at its website. It is for this reason that most businesses incorporate all kinds of features such as videos, images, flash files etc. along with great content to attract traffic to their site. Some webmasters frequently change the content of the site to update latest events and happenings. However, just creating a website and incorporating good features is not sufficient to improve the visibility of your business online. It is important to ensure that all search engines are able to crawl all pages of your site and not only that, they should also be able to detect new content on your site.
A sitemap can help
SEO techniques keep on updating with changes in Google algorithms but there is one thing that has always remained one of the most essential requirement for good SEO and that is – Sitemaps. A sitemap allows the webmaster to provide information about his site’s structure to the search engines. It lists all the URLS of all the pages of the site along with the metadata details of each page which includes:
The date when it was last updated
How often the page is updated
Priority of that web page
Based on this information the search engine is able to crawl through a website more effectively. You can also provide information related to video, image and mobile content to the search engines with the help of a sitemap. A sitemap video entry will provide information related to the time for video running, the category of the video and its rating for age appropriateness. On the other hand the sitemap image entry provides details related to image subject matter, type and license.
Site maps simplify the job for the search engine. The search engine is able to crawl and index your web pages and at the same time traffic on your server is greatly reduce as a result of which the bandwidth cost will also reduce drastically for you.
Types of Sitemaps
There are many types of sitemaps but two versions have become very popular amongst the webmasters :
HTML sitemaps: HTML sitemaps are more useful for people who visit your site and want to look at its structure so that they can browse through it.
XML sitemaps: you must use XML sitemap when you want to get all the subpages of your site to get indexed in search engine results.
Although both HTML as well as XML sitemaps are considered to be equally popular amongst webmaster there is no doubt that about the fact that when your concern is about getting your web pages indexed in search engine results then you must implement XML sitemaps.
What is an XML sitemap?
An XML sitemap is nothing but a simple XML(Extensible Markup language) file that lists all the URLs of the website along with some specific details. As far as the content of xml sitemap is concerned, here are some things that you need to know:
<url> and <loc> tags are mandatory tags. The <url> tag is required to list down all the parameters that will change for each web page. The <loc> tag indicates the absolute url for a page and should not be more than 2048 characters.
<lastmod> , <priority> and <changefreq> are optional tags.
<changefreq> indicates the frequency with which the file changes. This value differs for different pages. Like for example, the page related to products offered by your website may undergo changes every week but your home page may not undergo a change for several months. Possible values are: hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and never.
The <lastmod> provides the last date of modification for a page. The search engine has a liking for fresh content and this parameter will help in increasing the visibility of latest updates on site. The date of last modification is given in YYYY-MM-DD format.
<priority>, as the name suggests indicates how important a particular page is compared to other pages on the site. Valid value is between 0.0(lowest) to 1.0(highest), the default value is considered as 0.5.
It is a must to have a sitemap if:
Your site has too many pages, in such a scenario if the site does not have a site map the Google search engine can overlook updated pages.
The pages of your site are no well linked to each other.
If your site is new and it does not have much of incoming links from other external sites.
You have incorporated rich media content in the web pages of your site such as AJAX or flash based application.
You have incorporated dynamic content in your website
How to create XML sitemap?
XML sitemap can be created manually or with the help of sitemap generators. Here, you can first have a look at how it can be created manually. There is no rocket science involved in this. Simply follow the steps mentioned below:
Open a text file and save it with “ .xml” extension.
The first line should be as follows:
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
Between <urlset> and </urlset> tags you will have to define the details of all the urls. Remember that only <loc> tag is mandatory and rest all information is optional. The features of the xml sitemap file have already been defined.
Now you can upload your file to your server and then submit it to the search engines.
How to know if the sitemap is right
Once you have created the sitemap you should submit it to the Google’s site map program. If there is any problem with your submission then you will be informed. You can also validate the structure of your file before submission with the help of xml validator.
Error Messages on submission of XML site map
1.“This url is not allowed for a sitemap at this location”– this error message is displayed if your xml file has a url that does not belong to your site.
2.“Invalid date”- This message is displayed if there last modified date is not correct.
Tools for creating xml sitemap
There are several free online tools available for creating XML sitemaps. We recommend the following. Just follow the instruction given on the web page and your sitemap will be ready in no time.
This site is a great online tool with the help of which you can create an XML sitemap that can be submitted to all the leading search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo etc. It is also good for creating XML, ROR and Text sitemap.
All leading search engines like Google have robots that can process the pages of your site but still sometimes it becomes difficult to find pages (or content) that are deeply buried or is rich in media files. With the help of an XML sitemap you can help these search engines find all the pages of your site. By doing this you can help the search engines bring in more visitors to your site. It does not matter if the XML site map is made manually or with the help of a tool but it is definitely important to have one.