Google Sitemaps for SEO

Posted onTuesday, 21 September 2010

Tagged withSEOGoogle

This just in: Google sitemaps is finally a useful tool. When Google launched sitemaps in June of 2005, they predicted that sitemaps would either be an enormous success or a colossal failure. Up to this point, sitemaps looked as if they were going to be that colossal failure. The system simply did not offer enough benefit to website owners for the amount of work required to put together and maintain an XML sitemap.

But it seems as if Google sitemaps is going to get new life. Google upgraded sitemaps to be far more powerful than before. Sitemaps is no longer a tool to simply get your website indexed, it is now a useful tool to quickly find problem areas on your website that might be hurting your ranking or indexing.

What is Google Sitemaps

If you already know what sitemaps is, please excuse this quick explanation for those who may not be entirely familiar with the system.

Sitemaps is a tool established by Google to make indexing a website in its entirety, and keeping up to date with any changes on a website, easier on the search engine. By placing a list of all the pages on your website, along with when those pages were last updated and the importance of each page, in an XML file, Google is able to easily update its index.

The goal of sitemaps was simple: to provide website owners with a method of getting more pages in Google''s index and notifying Google of updates as soon as they occur. The problem with this is that Google is already fairly competent at indexing the majority of a website and predicting when a site is going to update itself. The result is that most website owners found it to be a lot of work for relatively little benefit.

Improvements to Google Sitemaps

There are several improvements to Google sitemaps. It would be redundant to go over all of these improvements in this article (especially when you can simply go to their website to learn about the improvements), but I would like to highlight a few items that will be particularly useful for website owners.

Pagerank Analysis of Your Website

This tool can be found under the new crawl stats section in Google sitemaps. This tool gives us a snapshot of the pagerank across your website. It is seperated into four categories: high, medium, and low pagerank, as well as a category for pages that have not yet had a pagerank assigned.

This report is a nice snapshot of the pagerank distribution across your website. Although it does not tell you what the pagerank is for individual pages, it can give you some insight into how well your site is performing overall. It can also offer insight as to how quickly Google is assigning pagerank to new pages, especially if you have a website that is adding new pages rather quickly.

Query Stats

Query stats is a nice little tool that shows you which terms your site currently ranks well for in Google. Imagine that - Google is actually telling you where you are doing well in their index! They go a step further as well. Not only do they tell you which search terms currently bring up your website, but they tell you which search terms are converting to clicks on your listing.

The benefit of knowing this information is obvious. If you find that you are getting a lot of clicks on a specific search term, you can optimize your site based off of that information. By increasing the relevancy of your website to what people are clicking on to find your website, you can easily make a positive impact on your conversion rate.

Crawl Stats

Crawl stats gives us a quick glance at how successful Google has been in crawling our websites.

Think about this for a second: Google is telling us whether or not they are able to see our entire website. If there is a problem, or more importantly, if there is a recurring problem, then we know that Google may view our site as not being worthy of a top ranking.

The crawl stats is more of an overview look of how successful Google has been in crawling a website. Fortunately, they also offer a more in-depth view of site errors.

Errors on Your Website

The most powerful aspect of the new Google sitemaps features is the ability to quickly and easily identify errors on your website which may upset search engine spiders. Within the site overview for a particular site, you will find a new section called errors. This section reports any URL that Google could not spider and why they could not spider it.

The level of depth which Google reports errors in this section is extremely useful. They will let you know if the problem of spidering your website was with your robots.txt file, a DNS issue, a page could not be found issue, and other possible problems. With such specific information, it is very easy for a webmaster to quickly fix a problem which may hurt their search engine rankings elsewhere.

Google sitemaps has the potential to point out errors on your site that you may not have discovered on your own which could potentially hurt your rankings or the ability to get your website fully crawled.

No Actual Sitemap Required

Some website owners might be a bit hesitant at the thought of creating and maintaining an XML version of their sitemap. The technology might be just a bit overwhelming. Well, there is good news...

...you do not need to create a sitemap to use the stats feature.

If you want to use some of these stats, all you need to do is verify that the website you are looking for stats on is actually yours. To do this, follow the steps to add your site to Google sitemaps. When you click on the stats section, Google will ask you to verify your website first. This requires creating an empty HTML file that is given a specific filename by Google. Google then checks your website for that filename and if they find it on your site, you are given access to their stats on your website.

A Significant Change in Attitude Towards Website Owners

The new Google sitemaps, as well as the launch of Google analytics is very promising for website owners. Matt Cutt's, an engineer at Google, stated at a presentation at WebmasterWorld's PubCon conference that Google's goal is to make SEO easier for website owners, and harder for spammers. As a statement by itself, this is all nice and fine, but it means nothing if Google does not act on it.

Sitemaps (and analytics) is a promising step forward in the right direction. If you look at what Google is actually offering through the sitemaps program, you will see that they are giving more insight into how they view your website than ever before. This insight will certainly help legitimate website owners optimize their site for the best placement within Google.

Hopefully Google will continue to offer us more useful information in our quest to reach Internet users. This article was found at Site Reference