This is a topic that makes many people run for the hills. Well, I’m here to tell you there is nothing scary about this.
What is a XML sitemap?
XML Sitemaps are a text based file that function as a Cheat Sheet or a very detailed map for search engine spiders to discover content on a Web site.
They are simply a text file with a list of URLs that you can make available telling a spider what files are on your site.
Sitemaps also make use of metadata to help spiders discover when a file has changed, when new content has been added, and they are very useful to describe rich media content like videos and images.
The XML Sitemaps Protocol that defines the format of all the different types of metadata is available at:www.sitemaps.org.
HTML vs XML sitemaps
In the past many Web sites used an HTML format (Web page) sitemap to help a search engine find all the files on Web sites, but the HTML format, which is intended for a browser, was only partially effective for this purpose. The XML Sitemap protocol on the other hand, is designed to be processed by machines with a rigid format making them easy to understand by a spider, and far more scalable for big Web sites with thousands, or even millions of URLs. HTML Sitemaps can still be useful in some situations, but they’re far more useful to a person visiting a site than a spider crawling it. So, in order for you to get the FULL benefits of a sitemap, you’ll need to choose the XML Sitemap format.
To be clear, there are enormous benefits to incorporating XML Sitemaps into your marketing plan. First off, they are one of the fastest ways to get an engine to crawl new content and you can even schedule how often you’d like your site re-crawled. Then for video, images and other files that are difficult for an engine to crawl, they can give you the best change at getting that content indexed into Image or Video search. In some cases they can even generate an video thumbnail in organic search for your videos! So, if you’re on the fence about using this technology – it’s past the time to jump in. Remember, we’re here to help so it’s nothing to stress about.
Note: Both Bing and Google do support RSS, Atom and Text formats. However this article is designed to specifically cover the XML format which is the preferred method and the one we recommend over the others.
File types Supported in XML Sitemaps
Sitemaps were originally designed to link to HTML Web pages, however they have been extended to support other types of files. These are the file types Google currently supports for inclusion in XML sitemaps.
HTML Web PagesVideo FilesImagesMobileNews
Bing is a little bit of a mess in regards to supporting all the sitemap file types. At this time, Bing has documented support for HTML file types, but does NOT mention support for any extensions. On the other hand – Bing’s Webmaster tools sitemap submission tool does acknowledge Video sitemap formats, but so far they are unused by this engine. Even with all these mixed messages, it’s important for you to know that extensions to sitemapsaren’t going anywhere. Bing will get them added to their system and at some point they will support the same formats Google does.
Read more: http://zerodue-design.com/blog/xml-sitemaps/