Do you use an XML sitemap on your website? Search engine marketing expert Janet Driscoll thinks you might be committing search hari-kari if you don’t. Here’s why.
It’s no secret that many publishers syndicate their original content to other websites; it’s also no secret that publishers frequently find that their own site’s content has been “curated” by other sites even though no formal syndication agreement has ever been formalised. But, as Driscoll points out in SearchEngineLand.com, in the age of Google’s Panda algorithm, this has become a truly serious problem.
Panda has an aversion to duplicated content and its latest update threw down the gauntlet: any site that it doesn’t consider to be the content originator is at risk of being dropped from search results. So how do creators of content help Google to understand that their site is the true originator? Enter, the XML sitemap.
XML sitemaps communicate directly with search engines and alert them as soon as fresh or altered content is placed on your site. Their importance is highlighted by a vivid example given by Driscoll: while you might think that the content originator would get the earliest indexed timestamp for the content, that’s not always the case. If you haven’t got a well-maintained XML sitemap in place but the syndicating or curating site does, they’ll nearly always get the earlier timestamp, making Google and Bing think that your site is a mere copycat in the process.
Thankfully, the process of getting XML in place isn’t particularly arduous. Several Content Management Systems (CMS) come equipped with their own integrated capability for auto-generating XML others while others (like WordPress) simply require a plug-in (Driscoll recommends the most recent version of Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress users). For those who don’t use CMS, tools like xml-sitemaps.com can create a functioning sitemap (although you’ll need to keep it updated manually).
Once you’ve got your XML sitemap up and running, the next thing to do is register it with Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Webmaster Tools (that way, these search titans will react faster to any new content they’re alerted to by your updated sitemap).
So, don’t commit search hari-kari. Get the recognition you deserve by getting an XML sitemap.