A sitemap.xml file is a text file that tells search engines the structure of of your website. It does this by listing all the pages on your website and their importance. When a search engine indexes a website it indexes only a small amount of content at a time. Using the sitemap.xml file search engines will follow the priority that you indicate; hence indexing the most important pages first, not things like terms & conditions pages until the very end. (note: use the free tool http://www.xml-sitemaps.com to generate a sitemap.xml file for your website – although we recommend fine tuning by hand with a text editor before uploading it to the root of your website).
Ultimately you end up with the same number of pages indexed, so if you have a mature site that hasn’t changed much then adding a sitemap.xml file won’t help your indexing. However, on new or updated websites it can make a huge difference to getting your most important pages indexed fast.
But there is another aspect of the sitemap.xml file. If you, or your web developer, can access the webmaster tools for the top search engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo, then you can feed this file instantly to those search engines. Now, they claim this makes no difference to when you get indexed but we recently had a site jump from 17 pages indexed in Google to 53 pages within an hour of submission – possibly lucky timing, but well worth the time to create the sitemap.xml file and to submit it! (note. type site:www.yoursite.co.uk into a search engine to get an idea of how many pages that search engine has indexed for your website).
The sitemap.xml file also makes it easier for the search engines to find pages buried on your site; and it can even make pages available that you might have been struggling to get indexed due to the technical implementation of your website.
So, if you have a website that is new, recently updated, or you are struggling to get indexed, then we highly recommend creating and then submitting a sitemap.xml file to the top search engines as part of your Search Engine Optimisation strategy – get in touch with us if you’d like further advice on SEO in Cambridge, Huntingdon, Peterborough or beyond…