Web Design: How to Prepare a Search-Specific Sitemap - dummies

Web Design: How to Prepare a Search-Specific Sitemap

By Lisa Lopuck

There is a lot of talk about sitemaps. One flavor of sitemap is a document created during the information architecture phase of a website’s development. Another flavor is an actual web page that lists all the site’s sections. This type of sitemap (with a lowercase s) is designed to help your visitors better navigate the site.

A Sitemap (with a capital S) is a sitemap, but it’s one that your users will never see. This type is made specifically to inform search engines about the pages on your site. It is an XML file that lives on the root directory of your server (ideally, although not required) that contains a list of your site’s URLs, along with additional data about each page, such as when it was last modified and its relative importance in your site’s hierarchy.

Without a Sitemap file, search engines rely on the links already within your site (such as in the navigation system or embedded within page content) to all the various pages and make their best guess at what all the pages contain and their relative importance to one another. Having an XML Sitemap file does not guarantee that search engines will use them, but it does provide good data for them to do a better job.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
    <lastmod>2012-01-01</lastmod> <changefreq>monthly</changefreq> <priority>0.8</priority>
    <loc>http://www.example.com/catalog.html</loc>  <changefreq>weekly</changefreq>

To submit a sitemap to Google, follow these steps:

  1. Upload your Sitemap to the root directory of your site.

    Typically the file is named sitemap.xml.

  2. Go to the Google Webmaster Tools home page.

  3. Sign in to Google Webmaster Tools using the same account information you use to sign in to Google Sites.

  4. If you haven’t already done so, add your website to your list of Google sites: Click the Add a Site button, enter your site’s URL in the field that appears, and then click Continue.

    You will need to follow the online site ownership verification guidelines.

  5. When done verifying your ownership, click on the site that you want to work with.

    A set of navigation links in the left column opens.

  6. Click the Site Configuration→Sitemaps navigation link.

  7. Click the Add/Test Sitemap button in the toolbar that appears.

  8. In the text box of the new dialog box that appears, enter the full URL path to your sitemap (for example, http://www.company.com/sitemap.xml).

  9. Click the Submit a Sitemap button.