Everyone knows that a good sitemap on your webpage is imperative to getting your pages noticed by Google. What many people don’t know is that Google has a Sitemap Protocol that allows you to inform all search engines about URLs on your websites that are available for crawling in a more dynamic fashion. This Sitemap Protocol is rendered as an XML file that lists all of the URLs on your site like a normal sitemap would, however its scalability and custom commands allows you other options that a typical HTML sitemap would not.
XML Sitemaps enable webmasters to include information about URL’s like when the page was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other pages in the site. The document provided by Google describes the formats for Sitemap files and also explains where you should post your Sitemap files so that search engines can retrieve them.
Some of the XML tags that are described in the document are:
- <lastmod>: This tag indicates the date of the last modification of this file.
- <changefreq>: Indicates how frequently the page is likely to change. Values like ‘always’, ‘hourly’, ‘daily’, ‘weekly’, ‘monthly’, ‘yearly’, and ‘never’ are all acceptable.
- <priority>: Indicates the priority of this URL relative to other URLs on your site. Valid values range from 0.0 to 1.0.
XML Sitemaps can be a valuable tool for your legal website that allow search engine crawlers to more effectively and efficiently crawl your site. It is important to note, however, that the Sitemap Protocol supplements, but does not replace, the crawl-based mechanisms that search engines already use to discover URLs. As Google’s XML sitemap page indicates:
“Using this protocol does not guarantee that your webpages will be included in search indexes… using this protocol will not influence the way your pages are ranked by Google”