Better SEO Through Google Sitemaps

February 23, 2012 by  Filed under: SEO 

Websites usually use sitemaps as a way to help their users find their way around to the site’s various pages. A sitemap lays bare the organization of the pages on a website and shows what goes where for visitors. Sitemaps are also good for search engine optimization, since it’s a page that links to every other page. Telling crawlers where the rest of the pages are is basically the whole point of SEO, so sitemaps tend to be a good thing.

Google sitemaps are even better for SEO than normal sitemaps. Whereas garden variety sitemaps are written in HTML, Google sitemaps are in the XML format. In a manner of speaking, XML sitemaps speak the same language as Google’s crawlers, so the crawlers know exactly what to do with an XML file when they come across one. The XML sitemap does more than help Google index your site, however. Google actually has a tool for web masters called Google Sitemaps. If you submit your XML sitemap to Google, you can start using the Google Sitemaps tool to see the statistics Google has on your website and all its pages.

In terms of using the XML sitemap to “talk” to the Google crawlers, you can use your sitemap to allocate different values to your pages. These values, which go on a scale from zero to 1, tell Google how important each page on the map is. In a way, the Google sitemap allows you to talk directly to Google, telling it which pages you want it to index as soon as possible, and which ones can wait. So you might have your main index page set to a value of 1, while your contact information has a 0.1. This translates roughly to, “The index is very important and must appear on search results, but indexing the contact page can wait.” An XML sitemap also helps Google index any updates you make to your site.

Google Sitemaps the tool is extremely useful for SEO. It’s a little like Google giving you feedback based on what it has indexed of your site. Google Sitemaps will tell you if it encountered any errors in the way your site is set up while it was crawling; conversely, it will tell you how often the crawler was successful in indexing your pages. Even more relevant to SEO, however, is the section on “query stats”. Google Sitemaps tells you which searches resulted in the most clicks for your site’s link.

Let that sink in. Sitemaps tells you what key phrases and queries resulted in click through to your site. This is perfect for SEO, since you would then have raw data telling you exactly what people were looking for and how they found your site. Data like that will help you refine your site’s theme, which means much stronger SEO.

Sitemaps have always been a good asset for SEO, but Google’s Sitemaps tool and XML sitemaps make an even stronger case for using them.

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