A site map enlists all pages of a website which both the users and crawlers have an easy access to. It can be a document in different forms including a web design planning tool or a webpage to enlist all pages of a website. The web pages in the sitemap are usually organized in a hierarchical format. A site map has two popular versions.
An XML Sitemap features a structured format that is of no importance to the users but it makes the search engine crawlers familiar with all pages of your website, how important it is in relation to other pages of the website and how often each of them is updated. HTML sitemaps also help the users find content on the webpage and don’t require inclusion of each and every subpage. This enables the search engine crawlers or bots find a particular page on your website.
Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask follow the same protocol, implying that having a sitemap allows the four top search engines get comprehensive information regarding your website pages as well as page update information. However, sitemaps never guarantees that all links will be visited by the crawlers and crawling does not ensure page indexing. Still sitemap is of utmost significance to let search engines get information about every page of your website.
History of Sitemaps
Google was the first to introduce Sitemaps 0.84 in June, 2005 to help the web developers publish a complete list of links across other websites. In 2006, Google, Yahoo and MSN announced their joint support for Sitemap protocol. The scheme was changed to a new version “Sitemap 0.90” but no further change has been made till date.
Sitemaps are highly important on some particular websites like:
- Some parts of the websites are not available via browser interface
- Webmasters use Silverlight, rich Ajax or Flash content which is not usually processed by the search engine crawlers.
The Sitemap Protocol format comprises of XML tags. The file must be encoded with UTF-8. These files are also compressible in .gz format. A sample Sitemap containing only one URL and using all optional tags is shown as follows:
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”utf-8″?>
Sitemaps don’t change rather supplement the existing crawl-based mechanisms which are used by the search engines to find out URLs. Use of protocols never ensures that the web pages will be enlisted in search indexes or not it has anything to do with ranking of pages in the search results.