"It makes total sense to push new links to users quickly. We don't want to wait on the engine to deliver results - we want to get content into the engine faster. Whenever it's possible, we opt to push content rather than have it pulled. That gives us a more interactive experience with Google...", says Marshall Simmonds, Vice President Enterprise Search Marketing New York Times.

Google Sitemaps, a new tool being offered by the Google search engine, allows webmasters to inform and direct the Google website crawlers. Google hopes to “expand our coverage of the web and improve the time to inclusion in our index” by offering this new free tool. “By placing a Sitemap-formatted file on your webserver, you enable our crawlers to find out what pages are present and which have recently changed, and to crawl your site accordingly.”

There are two steps to participating in the Google Sitemaps program:

  1. Generate your sitemap file in the correct format.
  2. Update your sitemap when you make changes to your website.

Generating a sitemap isn’t that difficult. According to Google, “There are a number of methods you can use to create a Sitemap. You can use Google's Sitemap Generator downloadable from Google Code- it's a simple script that generates Sitemaps for basic use cases… If the Sitemap Generator will not work for your site structure, we encourage you to write your own script for generating Sitemaps and share it with others.” There are many different scripts now available by third-parties, in different programming languages. Currently, the only ‘official’ script from Google is available in Python.

For more specific information about Google Sitemaps, take a look at the Sitemaps FAQ.

The Google Sitemaps tool doesn’t come without controversy. It’s currently being discussed at length at many webmaster-related and search engine marketing-related forums, including WebmasterWorld, as well as the Search Engine Watch forums. Some say that the Google Sitemaps tool is a welcome tool and that it will help get more pages crawled. While this is true for dynamic sites and sites that have had trouble getting their pages indexed, it might not be a useful tool for every webmaster. For example, a website owner with less than 100 pages of content might not benefit at all from using the Google Sitemaps tool. If a website is designed well with easily crawlable internal links, then there’s really no reason to use the Google Sitemaps tool. The pages will be easily found by all of the web crawlers.

Not only will the Google Sitemap tool allow website owners to get more of their web pages crawled, the sitemap that’s generated will allow Google to know how often a web page has been updated (or if a page has been updated). Google already has mechanisms in place to determine the freshness of a web page. Some website owners go to great lengths to update their web pages on a regular basis. And Google already does a good job with recognizing that freshness. If a website owner is to begin participating in the Google Sitemaps program, then it appears that there would need to be a commitment towards keeping the sitemap up to date—a new file would need to be generated every time a page on the site is updated. For some, that can be burdensome.

From what I can see, the Google Sitemaps tool can be useful for some while burdensome for other site owners. Website owners need to be cautious about making a commitment to the Google Sitemaps program. If you begin creating sitemap files for the Google Sitemaps program, then continue updating those files on a regular basis. If a website is already being crawled on a regular basis and the pages are being updated in the Google index, there might not be any need to participate in the program.

June 17, 2005

Bill Hartzer currently runs a Strategic Online Marketing Consultancy that includes services such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, and online reputation management.

Bill Hartzer formerly managed the Search Engine Marketing division of Vizion Interactive and MarketNet, leading interactive marketing and website design firms in the Dallas, Texas area.

Hartzer is a successful writer, blogger, search engine marketing, and social media marketing expert. During the past fifteen years, some of his many accomplishments include: Search Engine Marketing Manager, Vizion Interactive, Search Engine Marketing Manager, MarketNet, Search Engine Optimization Strategist, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Webmaster, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Founder, Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, Owner/Author, Corporate Web Site Marketing, Administrator, Search Engine Forums, Frequent Speaker, Search Engine Strategies Conferences, Frequent Speaker, WebmasterWorld's PubCon Search Engine and Internet Marketing Conference.

Search Engine Guide > Bill Hartzer > Do You Need Google Sitemaps?