July 18, 2010

Sitemaps Protocol 0.90: Web's Officially Accepted Protocol for generating Sitemaps for the Websites

The Sitemaps protocol allows a webmaster to inform search engines about URLs on a website that are available for crawling. A Sitemap is an XML file that lists the URLs for a site. It allows webmasters to include additional information about each URL: when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other URLs in the site. This allows search engines to crawl the site more intelligently. Sitemaps are a URL inclusion protocol and complement robots.txt, a URL exclusion protocol.

Sitemaps are particularly beneficial on websites where:
  • Some areas of the website are not available through the browsable interface, or
  • Webmasters use rich Ajax or Flash content that is not normally processed by search engines.


Sitemap of Google

Image via Wikipedia

The webmaster can generate a Sitemap containing all accessible URLs on the site and submit it to search engines. Since Google, MSN, Yahoo, and Ask use the same protocol now, having a Sitemap would let the biggest search engines have the updated pages information.

Sitemaps supplement and do not replace the existing crawl-based mechanisms that search engines already use to discover URLs. By submitting Sitemaps to a search engine, a webmaster is only helping that engine's crawlers to do a better job of crawling their site(s). Using this protocol does not guarantee that web pages will be included in search indexes, nor does it influence the way that pages are ranked in search results.

The Sitemap must:
  • Begin with an opening <urlset> tag and end with a closing </urlset> tag.
  • Specify the namespace (protocol standard) within the <urlset> tag.
  • Include a <url> entry for each URL, as a parent XML tag.
  • Include a <loc> child entry for each <url> parent tag.

All other tags are optional. Support for these optional tags may vary among search engines. Refer to each search engine's documentation for details.

Also, all URLs in a Sitemap must be from a single host, such as www.example.com or store.example.com. For further details, refer the Sitemap file location

Sample XML Sitemap

The following example shows a Sitemap that contains just one URL and uses all optional tags. The optional tags are in italics.
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
<url>
<loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>
<lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod>
<changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
<priority>0.8</priority>
</url>
</urlset>
XML tag definitions

 The available XML tags are described below.


  • urlset> required - Encapsulates the file and references the current protocol standard.
  • url> required - Parent tag for each URL entry. The remaining tags are children of this tag.
  • loc> required - URL of the page. This URL must begin with the protocol (such as http) and end with a trailing slash, if your web server requires it. This value must be less than 2,048 characters.
  • lastmod> optional - The date of last modification of the file. This date should be in W3C Datetime format. This format allows you to omit the time portion, if desired, and use YYYY-MM-DD. Note that this tag is separate from the If-Modified-Since (304) header the server can return, and search engines may use the information from both sources differently.
  • changefreq> optional- How frequently the page is likely to change. This value provides general information to search engines and may not correlate exactly to how often they crawl the page. Valid values are
    • always
    • hourly
    • daily
    • weekly
    • monthly
    • yearly

    • never
The value "always" should be used to describe documents that change each time they are accessed. The value "never" should be used to describe archived URLs.

Please note that the value of this tag is considered a hint and not a command. Even though search engine crawlers may consider this information when making decisions, they may crawl pages marked "hourly" less frequently than that, and they may crawl pages marked "yearly" more frequently than that. Crawlers may periodically crawl pages marked "never" so that they can handle unexpected changes to those pages.
  • priority> optional - The priority of this URL relative to other URLs on your site. Valid values range from 0.0 to 1.0. This value does not affect how your pages are compared to pages on other sites-it only lets the search engines know which pages you deem most important for the crawlers. The default priority of a page is 0.5.

    Please note that the priority you assign to a page is not likely to influence the position of your URLs in a search engine's result pages. Search engines may use this information when selecting between URLs on the same site, so you can use this tag to increase the likelihood that your most important pages are present in a search index.

    Also, please note that assigning a high priority to all of the URLs on your site is not likely to help you. Since the priority is relative, it is only used to select between URLs on your site.
Sample XML Sitemap

The following example shows a Sitemap in XML format. The Sitemap in the example contains a small number of URLs, each using a different set of optional parameters.


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>


<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">


<url>


<loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>


<lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod>


<changefreq>monthly</changefreq>


<priority>0.8</priority>


</url>


<url>


<loc>http://www.example.com/catalog?item=12&amp;desc=vacation_hawaii</loc>


<changefreq>weekly</changefreq>


</url>


<url>


<loc>http://www.example.com/catalog?item=73&amp;desc=vacation_new_zealand</loc>


<lastmod>2004-12-23</lastmod>


<changefreq>weekly</changefreq>


</url>


<url>


<loc>http://www.example.com/catalog?item=74&amp;desc=vacation_newfoundland</loc>


<lastmod>2004-12-23T18:00:15+00:00</lastmod>


<priority>0.3</priority>


</url>


<url>


<loc>http://www.example.com/catalog?item=83&amp;desc=vacation_usa</loc>


<lastmod>2004-11-23</lastmod>


</url>


</urlset>


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