what is an xml sitemap

What is an XML Sitemap?

And why do I need one?

Before I answer these we’ll start with a very basic understanding of how Google (and all of the other Search Engines) works – their entire business model revolves around delivering content that matches the billions of searches that people perform each and every day. If they can’t deliver the best content, they’ll lose users… and then advertisers… and then no more Google.

And so to build this massive database of amazing internet content consisting of trillions of pages across millions of websites, they must “crawl” the web, read the pages, and then index them with automated bots called “spiders”. (All this arachnid terminology offers a hat tip to the early moniker, “World Wide Web”.)

For the spiders to crawl from page to page, website to website, they must follow links – just like a human does when clicking with a mouse to navigate.

But what if a site is new and there are no links pointing to it… or too few links… or there are particular pages on the website that don’t have links to them? How will Google find this poor website or these poor pages so they can be indexed? This presents a problem… or at least a minor hurdle.

Enter the Sitemap!

Fortunately, there is a way to quickly and freely help Google help you – build and submit an XML sitemap. This is a very simple file that lists all of the pages on a website that the owner or webmaster would like Google to know about. The XML sitemap gives structure to the site, tells Google which pages are most important, and when they were published or last updated.

The sitemap delivers a website to Google on a convenient silver platter. This helps ensure that the site and its various pages are found and indexed quickly and fully. Perfect.

(Keyhole clients have this work done on their behalf automatically as part of managing their websites and SEO efforts. Its just a good idea.)

(Here’s the xml sitemap for this blog, as an example.)

So how do you make one and submit it to Google? That’ll be for another post.

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