For the last several months, Google has been allowing webmasters to submit sitemaps with the intention of better capturing information. By using sitemaps, Google hopes to be able to more efficiently direct their spiders to crawl the pages of a site. So how does this help the blogger? By submitting your sitemap to Google, you can help Google find all the pages on your site. While Google states that submitting a sitemap won’t enhance your pagerank, it could help drive search engine traffic by notifying Google of content it could have been missing. Furthermore, after submitting a sitemap you’ll be able to see statistics from Google’s crawl of your site. Now that you know why you should submit a sitemap, the next question is how?
There are tools available to automatically generate a sitemap of your site. Google offers it’s own sitemap generator Google’s generator is a python based script. To use it, you must be able to launch python scripts on your web server. If the previous sentence didn’t make much sense to you, don’t feel bad. We’re sports fans here, and not web programmers, and there are alternatives available. If the Google generator sounds too tough, there are options for many of the more common blogging platforms.
My Detroit Tiger blog is run using Blogger, and to generate a sitemap, I used this. To generate the sitemap, you simply replace your existing template with the given code. And then, instead of publishing your site, just preview it. The resulting output is your new sitemap which can then be pasted into a text editor and uploaded to your web directory. The only drawback to this method is that the sitemap isn’t continually updated, it is simply a snapshot. While I don’t update my sitemap after every post, I do make sure to update it at the beginning of the month when a new archive is generated. I found the sitemap to be particularly advantageous when I changed the archive structure of my blog. I went from monthly archives to individual post pages, and in the process went from 50 pages of content to 900. I wanted Google to find all this information quickly, and I believe the sitemap helped.
This site runs on the WordPress platform, and there is a plug-in available to help with sitemaps. Not only does it create the sitemap, it rebuilds it everytime you update your site and pings Google.
Movable Type users, I have no personal experience with this but there are templates available for you as well.
If you’re satisifed with your search engine traffic, or think that Google has you covered, then maybe this isn’t necessary. But if you’re concerned that Google isn’t capturing all your content, or you plan to change the structure of your site (ie changing permalinks to post-titles) then this is something you should definitely pursue.