SEO XML Site Maps
Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover. In its simplest terms, a XML Sitemap usually called Sitemap, with a capital “S”is a list of the pages on your website. Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process.
A video Sitemap entry can specify the running time, category, and family-friendly status of a video; an image Sitemap entry can provide information about an image’s subject matter, type, and license. You can also use a Sitemap to provide additional information about your site, such as the date it was last updated, and how often you expect the page to change. We recommend that you use a separate Sitemap to submit News information.
Sitemaps are particularly helpful if:
- Your site has dynamic content.
- Your site has pages that aren’t easily discovered by Googlebot during the crawl process—for example, pages featuring rich AJAX or images.
- Your site is new and has few links to it. (Googlebot crawls the web by following links from one page to another, so if your site isn’t well linked, it may be hard for us to discover it.)
- Your site has a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to each other, or are not linked at all.
Google doesn’t guarantee that it will crawl or index all of your URLs. However, we use the data in your Sitemap to learn about your site’s structure, which will allow us to improve our crawler schedule and do a better job crawling your site in the future. In most cases, webmasters will benefit from Sitemap submission, and in no case will you be penalized for it.
Google adheres to Sitemap Protocol 0.9 as defined by sitemaps.org. Sitemaps created for Google using Sitemap Protocol 0.9 are therefore compatible with other search engines that adopt the standards of sitemaps.org.
Guide Lines For Sitemaps
- A Sitemap file can contain no more than 50,000 URLs and must be no larger than 50MB when uncompressed. If your Sitemap is larger than this, break it into several smaller Sitemaps. These limits help ensure that your web server is not overloaded by serving large files to Google.
- If you have more than one Sitemap, you can list them in a Sitemap index file and then submit the Sitemap index file to Google. You don’t need to submit each Sitemap file individually.
- Specify all URLs using the same syntax. For instance, if you specify your site location as http://www.example.com/, your URL list should not contain URLs that begin with http://example.com/.
- Do not include session IDs in URLs.
- Your Sitemap file must specify the following XML namespace:
- The Sitemap URL must be UTF8-encoded, and encoded for readability by the webserver on which it is located.
- If your site is accessible on both the www and non-www versions of your domain, you don’t need to submit a separate Sitemap for each version. However, we recommend picking either the www or the non-www version, and using recommended canonicalization methods to tell Google which version you are using.
- If you’re considering hiring a consultant to help you optimize your Sitemaps, we recommend reading our recommendations on working with Search Engine Optimizers (SEOs). In addition, you should be familiar with our Webmaster Guidelines and our SEO Starter Guide. It can also be useful to check with colleagues with similar sites or businesses.
- A Sitemap file is independent of the language of the content. To make sure that each language version can be crawled and indexed, use unique URLs. These URLs can all be included in your Sitemap files.
I will be discussing this topic in more detail in a series of upcoming blogs, so please stay tuned and if you are a webmaster for your site or other sites, you will soon learn how important sitemaps can be to your SEO efforts.