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Sitemaps Give Search Engines Reason to Like a Site

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Sitemap tools are simple methods for giving search engines more information about content on a website.

Search engines of course will spider a site on a regular basis. Google and Bing hit many sites multiple times throughout a day. The word “multiple” is usually an understatement.

Google explains why it thinks a sitemap is useful:

“A sitemap tells the crawler which files you think are important in your site, and also provides valuable information about these files. For example, for pages, when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and any alternate language versions of a page.”

The “last updated” part is especially worth noting. Search engines favor new articles and may rank them higher in search results at least temporarily. An article that went live three years ago is less likely to have a good rank compared to another but new article of the same length, authority and reader engagement.

What if the author goes back into the article and adds more useful information? At that point, the search engines may not revisit the article because it’s already in their indexes. The article doesn’t appear in the sitemap because it is dated from three years previously. Even worse, links to that article from the site homepage or elsewhere may no longer be there.

The author can make the article changes and change the publication date on the article in the content management system. The sitemap will capture the article with the new content. It now has a current or recent date on it, even though the original appeared on the site three years ago.

Changing the date so it appears fresh on the sitemap is especially important if the article is not easily found on the site. Google emphasizes the point. Crawling is more successful if “your site has a large archive of content pages that are isolated or well not linked to each other.”

How to Ensure Sitemaps

Most modern content management systems have the ability to generate a sitemap in some form. WordPress automatically has an RSS file that Bing and Google can use as a sitemap, but it’s important to make the link discoverable.

In the case of WordPress, the RSS feed is usually located at http://example.com/?feed=rss or http://example.com/feed/.

Otherwise, major CMS systems such as WordPress have sitemap plugins available.

Both RSS feeds and sitemaps serve similar purposes for the search engines because they have file paths and publication or last modified dates.

An RSS feed is more likely to have a limited number of files if it is set up to have a limit. A good sitemap has most if not all of the files on the site.

Go to Bing and Google to search for their “webmaster tools” or “search console” applications to submit the sitemap.

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