Sitemaps pivotal to improving index freshness: SES New York

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NEW YORK - Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask.com have united around a common sitemaps standard to provide themselves with bulk URL submissions, making it more important for marketers to understand how sitemaps and other submission options work.

Panelists at Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo's "Sitemap and URL Submission" session said sitemaps improve index freshness by raising awareness of new or frequently modified content. From a show of hands, it was evident most people use XML sitemaps.

"Sitemaps increase efficiency by helping to identify unchanged pages to prevent unnecessary crawling," said Maile Ohye, developer support engineer at Google Inc. "A sitemap aids crawlers in building a comprehensive index."

Sitemaps deliver more robust, quality results to users while simultaneously making Webmaster's lives easier.

Google allows sitemap submissions and Web crawl.

Ms. Ohye gave a list of best practices:

- Always include a URL's full path

- Remove unnecessary parameters

- Protocol and host name of the listed URLs must match the sitemap's location

Google accepts RSS2.0 and Atom 0.3 feeds.

"If your feed includes only recent URLs, Google can still use that info," she said.

Ms. Ohye told attendees that Python is an easy-to-use XML sitemap generator. All one has to do is add the site to Google Webmaster Tools, create the sitemap, upload it, log in, click "Add sitemap," verify it is processed without errors and if it is XML then add the URL to robot.txt.

Priyank Garg, senior product manager for Web search at Yahoo Inc., Sunnyvale, CA, said that Yahoo accepts XML schema and protocol to publish a site's URLs to search crawlers.

"You can even include crawl priority within your sites," Mr. Garg said. "Sitemaps can only contain URLS within the path that it resides in."

He said metadata is information for crawlers.

Mr. Garg announced that Yahoo Site Explorer is now out of beta.

"Yahoo Site Explorer allows you to explore your sites, manage them, add your sitemaps and other site feeds, add mobile feeds, authenticate the site and even report spammy inlinks," he said. 

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