In 2005, the search engine Google launched the Sitemap 0.84 Protocol, which would be using the XML format. A sitemap is a way of organizing a website, identifying the URLs and the data under each section. Previously, the sitemaps were primarily geared for the users of the website. However, Google's XML format was designed for the search engines, allowing them to find the data faster and more efficiently.
Even the most simple sitemap to a website is quite important in order to allow search engines such as Google and Microsoft Live Search to crawl your website for any changes. The following example shows what a basic XML sitemap contains:
<?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">
As you can see the sitemap contain the following:
- <loc> = Location of the page
- <priority> = The priority of a particular URL relative to other pages on the same site. The value for this tag is a number between 0.0 and 1.0, where 0.0 identifies the lowest priority page(s) on your site and 1.0 identifies the highest priority page(s) on your site.
The default priority of a page is 0.5.
- <changefreq> = This value indicates how frequently the content at a particular URL is likely to change.
Thankfully, there is a site that will automatically generate an XML sitemap for you: http://www.sitemapspal.com/
I have written a blog post a little while back on how to manually submit your sitemap to search engines which proves to be quite useful if you find that your site has not been crawled for a long time. You can find that blog post here.