Submitting Your XML Sitemap Feed to Search Engines
Previously we’ve discussed why your site needs and XML sitemap feed and how to go about setting up your sitemap file. If you don’t feel up to the task of building your own, then you can use any of the existing sitemap generators out there, like IntelliMapper or GsiteCrawler to build it for you. Once you have your XML sitemap file set up its time to let search engines know it’s there.
You can (and should) specify the root file in the “sitemaps:” designation of your robots.txt file. hile this method is the only means of alerting some search engines (like Ask.com) some of the other major search engines offer specialized ways of letting them know about your XML sitemap feed as well. Some even provide tools that allow you to monitor your site and can alert you to errors that might end up hurting your search rankings. So, now let’s talk about the Big 3: Google, Yahoo! and MSN.
Google allows you to submit you XML sitemap via Google Webmaster Tools. The benefit of submitting this way is that you can easily track when Google downloads your sitemap and monitor errors. Google Webmaster Tools offers a wealth of information and can give you an idea of how Google looks at your site, so that you can apply tweaks accordingly. You can also identify and correct errors through Web Crawl Errors and get statistics on top search queries, crawl rates and the like through the Statistics tool. Google also lets you specialize sitemaps for video feeds, news feeds, publicly accessible source code and pages specifically designed for mobile devices.
Yahoo! allows SML sitemap feed submission through the Yahoo! Site Explorer. All you have to do is enter in your URL. Yahoo! recognizes both the Sitemaps protocol and its own version of urllist.txt files. If you use one of the sitemaps generators, then you may have an urllist.txt file generated already. If not there really isn’t any need to create and maintain a second list. Just stick with the XML sitemaps feed file that you are using for the others. Yahoo! doesn’t offer the webmaster tools, but it is still a good idea to submit your sitemap to make sure your pages are getting indexed quickly.
MSN’s sitemap tool, Live Search Webmaster Center, is a little less comprehensive than Google’s. It does offer some useful feedback though. Once you’ve submitted your feed and your site is validated you can access information about top links, robots.txt validation and if pages have been blocked.
Of course, creating and submitting your XML sitemap is only really effective if you remember to keep it updated regularly. Your <changefreq> tag should cover any page changes, but you’ll need to modify your file any time that you remove or add a page to your site. You should also routinely utilize Google’s Web Crawl Errors tool to check for errors in your sitemap that might be hurting your ranking. It is also reasonable to assume that, in time, Yahoo! and MSN will also follow suite in the caliber of monitoring tools offered.