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Creative XML Site Maps

I’ve recently been concentrating on ranking in international search results, rather than just Google, Yahoo and Bing.co.uk and this has led me to seeing some standard best practices in a new light.
One of the most important things you can do, especially with a brand new site, is to make sure you have a great xml sitemap in place. This is something Google recommends and once it is created you can submit it to the search engines in webmaster tools. It’s also best to add a rule to your robots txt so that as well as indexing the whole site, robots are pointed in the direction of you sitemap. E.g. it would be:

Robots.txt
Index:/
Index:/sitemap.xml

But did you know that you can submit more than one site map to webmaster tools?

Sitemaps enable Google to adapt their robots to crawl the structure of your site more easily. The site maps need to be smaller than 10 GB when uncompressed and less than 50,000 pages, but you can submit more than one, and even use a site map index to order them all.

There are several ways you can use this feature. This can be particularly useful if you have a really large site and want to use site maps to diagnose crawl issues. For example, you could have a sitemap for each category of products, drilling down into each product page. By looking at the pages indexed and status, errors or warnings that you may across you can get a better idea of what’s stopping the crawl process, and build better links to certain pages.

You can use the sitemap to tell Google about the language and nationality of the website. It’s standard best practice to make sure that Google Webmaster tools settings are targeting the country you are marketing the website in. But each site map that you use needs to be set to the correct country too. If you have a website with different sub domains for various countries, add a specific site map for each area. Then, submit the site map to Google, Bing and Yahoo webmaster tools, click on it and select the country you need from the location targeting drop down

I have really enjoyed reading up on the creative uses of site maps. There’s one more use I haven’t discussed here, something which SEOMoz has been talking about and that’s using sitemaps to designate a “landing level” in the same way as you create a “landing page” for PPC campaigns and other online advertising. More on this next time…

From Liz @ the SEO department at One Result. If you are interested in maximising your site’s SEO and PPC, get in touch today.

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