Running a French Holiday Gite in Rural Brittany

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Free XML Sitemap tool to describe your website content


Earlier in the week I wrote about how I've added a new website page about Mont St Michel to our holiday home website, but once you've added a new page, how do you ensure that people will find it quickly?

Well one solution is of course to Blog about it, but if you've not got a Blog or don't think a Blog article is appropriate, then you're generally down to waiting for search engine users to stumble upon your page, which in turn means you need to ensure that your new page is rapidly advertised to the major search engines.

And that's where XML sitemaps come in.

A few years ago lead by Google the major search engines including Yahoo and Microsoft agreed a standard method of describing what pages made up your website, a sitemap. In essence a sitemap is simply a text file that you hold on your website that contains a list of all the pages in your website, and like most new Web2 initiatives the file is structured as an XML document which makes it a lot easier for the search engine computers to read and process.

By convention your sitemap is usually called sitemap.xml and is placed in the root directory of your website so ours is http://www.giteinbrittany.com/sitemap.xml and if you take a peek you'll see it looks like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9 http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9/sitemap.xsd">
 <url>
  <loc>http://www.giteinbrittany.com/</loc>
  <priority>0.5</priority>
  <lastmod>2008-06-05T22:19:14+00:00</lastmod>
  <changefreq>weekly</changefreq>
 </url>
 <url>
  <loc>http://www.giteinbrittany.com/index.html</loc>
  <priority>0.5</priority>
  <lastmod>2008-06-05T22:19:14+00:00</lastmod>
  <changefreq>weekly</changefreq>
 </url>
...
</urlset>


Ignoring the opening couple of lines you'll see that the structure is pretty simple and consists of each website page URL, it's relative priority compared to other site pages (between 0 and 1.0), when it was last modified and how often the page changes (to give a hint to the search engine as to how often to index your website).

So you can hand-craft your own sitemap if you really want to using any text editor, but I find it's easier and more reliable to use a tool to generate the sitemap for you, such as the XML Sitemap Generator over on xml-sitemaps.com.

XML sitemaps offer a free online tool that will crawl through your website, find the linked pages, and generate a sitemap for you (for which you then need to save the XML file and upload into your website); or they offer a standalone tool for just $19.99 that will generate the sitemap as part of your website, ping Google and other search engines to tell them you've changed the sitemap and automatically generate a human readable sitemap (my equivalent which I manually have created is at http://www.giteinbrittany.com/sitemap.html).

Once you've got your sitemap created you then need to register it with your Goggle webmaster account, then you can notify Google when you've changed it or periodically Google will trawl your sitemap and download it, looking for changes:

Google Webmaster Console - Sitemap

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1 Comments:

  • Good posting with good info. Sitemaps should be used by anyone who really wants Google/search engines to take notice.

    By Anonymous Bob Toovey, at June 21, 2008  

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