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Oct 6

What is an XML sitemap and why should you have one on your site?

An XML sitemap is a document that lists all the URLs for pages on your site. It’s not one your users necessarily need to see – it’s one that you submit to search engines. It provides information about your site so they can find you faster and crawl your pages more intelligently. In a nutshell, an XML sitemap is a tool for getting found. (An XML map isn’t the same as an HTML sitemap. Those are designed for users to navigate your site, and often don’t include every subpage.)

There are a number of benefits to having an XML sitemap on your site:

It increases your chances of getting found. An XML map doesn’t guarantee that all your links will get crawled and indexed, but by submitting the info directly to Google, you’ll definitely be increasing your chances.

It can really help Flash sites. Yep, these are still around, despite their drawbacks. Webcrawlers can’t see Flash or Javascript elements that don’t include HTML links, so an XML sitemap can help search engines find those pages.

It helps find pages that aren’t discoverable. Because your sitemap lists the URLs of ALL the pages on your site, even those that search engines wouldn’t normally be able to access become visible.

You can give search engines extra info. An XML sitemap lets you offer information about how important a page is compared to the others on your site, so crawling can begin on the most vital pages. You can also add tags that tell them when you last updated a page and how often those changes occur.

It’s supported by all the big search engines. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Ask all use the same protocols – when you submit it once, they all have access to your info.

It’s a good navigational tool. If your sitemap is visible to users, it gives them a great at-a-glance overview of your site content. For sites with less-than-ideal architecture, this can help with usability.

An XML sitemap is never a bad idea – unless you DON’T want search engines to find your site. If you’d like to add one, you have a couple of options. Talk to us about creating one for you, or you can do it yourself using www.xml-sitemaps.com. However, if you decide to go the DIY route, make sure you update it regularly. It’s easy to forget, and if your site has dynamic content like a blog or user-generated elements, that content won’t get found as fast.

Got questions about XML sitemaps – or anything else website or design related? Give us a shout. We’ve got the answers.

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