The word “sitemap” has typically been used to describe a page on your website that has links to all the other pages on your site in one place, arranged in a hierarchical structure, like this. The sitemaps we talk about in this post are similar, in a sense, and yet completely different.
Both Google and Yahoo! allow you to upload an XML file, called a sitemap or sitemap file, that tells the search engines key information about your website. The benefit to you is that your site’s pages get indexed more quickly and completely than they might otherwise. Yes, some experts say to use the sitemap feature with caution, but you’re just a beginner, so carry on. Oh, and if you don’t know what “XML” stands for, just ignore it. The important thing to understand is that for the purposes of this post, the “sitemap” is a specific file on your site.
The sitemap file contains the following information:
1. Page location. That is, the file tells the search engines what pages exist on your site. This helps the search engines to index all the pages you want them to index and makes sure they don’t miss anything.
2. Importance, or priority. Some pages are more important than others, and this file allows you to tell the search engines which ones are the most important by giving them a rank.
3. Frequency of updates, or how often a page is updated. The more often a page is updated, the more often it needs to be indexed by a search engine.
Submitting your sitemap to Yahoo! and Google is pretty easy. Here are step by step instructions.
1. Create your sitemap.
a. Create your sitemap by going to www.xml-sitemaps.com. Right there on the homepage you can type in your URL and the site will generate an XML sitemap file for you, for free. That is, it’s free up to 500 pages, which shouldn’t be a problem for you.
b. Download the file once the site has finished generating it.
c. Open the file in a text or HTML editor and edit the priorities if need be. The website puts everything at the same priority, but in reality your homepage is more important than other pages so you may have to change some of those numbers.
d. Once you’ve finished editing your file, upload it to the main directory on your website.
2. Submit sitemap to Google.
a. Visit www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/ to get started. If you do not have a Google account you will need to create one.
b. Login and on the dashboard there will be a field where you can type in the URL of your website and the click “add site”.
c. Google will then ask you to verify your website. Click on the “verify your site” link.
d. On the next page it will allow you to choose how you want to verify your site. I generally opt to create an HTML file. Create the file and upload it to your site, then click on the “verify” button at the bottom.
e. You’ve now verified for Google that you indeed own this website. The next step is to submit your sitemap. Click on the “sitemaps” link in the navigation on the left. Then click on “add a sitemap”.
f. Where it says “choose type” just choose “add general web sitemap”. Then it will ask you to enter the name of the sitemap file you already uploaded to your website. If you went with the defaults this should be “sitemap.xml”.
g. Submit your sitemap, and that’s it! You’re done. If you make changes to your site in the future you can re-create your sitemap and re-submit it to make sure Google picks up those changes.
3. Add your sitemap to Yahoo!
a. Go to siteexplorer.search.yahoo.comand click on the sign in link in the upper left corner. If you do not have a Yahoo! account you will need to create one.
b. Once you’ve logged in, simply enter the URL of the site you want to add.
c. Once added, click the “manage” button on the left.
d. Enter the name of your sitemap file (again, probably sitemap.xml). Although there is no slash shown after the URL you do not need to add one. Just enter the filename.
e. Great, now that you’ve successfully submitted your sitemap click on the “authenticate” button on the right side.
f. Download the authentication file, and then upload it to the main directory of your website.
g. Once you’ve uploaded the file, click the “ready to authenticate” button. That’s it, you’re done. If your sitemap changes, recreate it and then come here and resubmit it at any time.
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