How XML Help With SEO Sitemap for WordPress Websites
Today the SEO professional wants to talk to you a little about sitemaps and the SEO impact it has on your site.
OK, so some of you may be wondering how sitemaps can help the search engine optimization of my website. Many of you might be aware of what sitemaps are but are used to seeing them in the form of actual HTML pages like examplesite.com/sitemaps.html
These were the original incarnation of sitemaps, but were really used more for the average surfer to have a handy way to see what content a particular site had and were only used in an SEO context in a peripheral way. Although effective from an SEO standpoint to assist the various search engine spiders in finding your webpages, for those sites with hundreds or thousands of web pages obviously it is not practical to have a sitemap page with thousands of URL’s on it.
Thats where XML sitemaps come in. While many websites have actual HTML sitemap pages, what I want to talk to you about today is the next step in sitemaps for SEO that some webmasters may be familiar with which are XML sitemaps. A couple years ago Google really aided webmasters and made thier SEO work easier with the XML sitemap protocol in order to more effectively spider your website and Yahoo and MSN both have recently added support for them as well.
So what is an XML sitemap and how can it aid you with your SEO efforts?
Simply put, a XML sitemap is a web-standard XML file which allows you to add some metadata to it such as all your URL’s with the last time you updated a particular page, how often you update it, and it’s importance relative to the rest of the pages of your site specifically for search engine bots to gather more information about your site.
XML sitemaps offer the ability for you to give a priority ranking to all your webpages on a scale from 0.0 to 1.0, with 1.0 actually the most important while 0.5 being the default “neutral” rank. For instance your homepage would get a ranking of 1.0 to, while your terms of service page you would probably want to assign a 0.1 to. This fact value scheme supports the search engines like google and bing by giving their bots a way to know which pages on your site you value most and therefore which to spider more regularly. Small Business SEO, is also very important for your website to get notice by the search engines.
In addition to the point value system is the ability to denote when a particular page was last updated and also how often you generally do update it. The accepted values for this are: always, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly or never, and all this extra information is instructive to the various search engine bots again to know how often to revisit your website and it’s various pages.
So what is an XML SEO sitemap and how can it aid me in my SEO efforts?
OK I can hear you asking now so I will answer your question. “If you give your homepage a 1.0 and your about-us.html page a 0.1 does that mean I will be guaranteed a better “Page Rank” score on my index page?” Remorseful, nonetheless the response is a BIG no you won’t, which force many people to ask why bother then?
The answer is similar to the explanation I gave in the robots.txt ‘seo sitemap’ tutorial which is simply that assisting the search engines to help find and spider the various pages of your site more effectively and to revisit your key pages more often is a good thing from a SEO standpoint as you are in effect “helping them to help you” since sites with fresher content tend to get better rankings in the SERP’s and anytime you can help the various search engines to help navigate your site is smart SEO.
Creating a XML sitemap is relatively easy but if you have a lot of pages on your site or if you are unsure how to create one just do a search on “XML sitemap generator” and you will find many free resources to create one for you automatically which you can then upload to the root of your site meaning: examplesite/sitemap.xml. From there it is a simple matter of submitting your sitemap URL to Google through their webmaster tools interface.
If you don’t have a webmaster account with Google or are too lazy to go around to the various search engines and submit the sitemap URL by hand but still want to get your sitemap indexed faster than by letting the search engines eventually find it on their own, you can simply place the URL to your sitemap directly in your robots.txt file for sitemap auto discovery by the search engine bots the next time they visit your site.