XML Sitemaps – Guidelines on Their Use

To begin with, let us figure out what exactly a sitemap is, as also what does an XML Site Map stands for.Well, to be precise, a Sitemap is an XML (Extensible Markup Language) file that lists the URLs for a website, along with additional metadata about each of them.

Positive Aspects of Using XML Sitemaps

Your website, incidentally, can hope to rank high only when the search engines receive all the information related to it. XML sitemaps do that service by way of providing all additional information to the search engines. However, some of the other benefits to using XML sitemaps are listed below for your information.

  • Your sitemap will register all the URLs from your site, even those that are likely to be missed by search engines.
  • Your sitemap will also provide Priority Information to the search engines, wherever necessary. In fact, there is an optional tag in the sitemap for giving priority to a page. Obviously, this facility prompts search engines to initiate the crawling process, predominantly based on priority information issues.
  • Your sitemap can pass on classified information, too to search engines. Apart from the optional Priority Tag, there are two other optional tags, such as lastmod and changefreq that can pass on specific information to search engines for more functional crawling. Incidentally, the ‘lastmod’ tells when a page has last undergone a change, while ‘changefreq’ signifies how often the page is likely to change.

However, Google considers these additional information as just ‘hints’ while these surely prove beneficial to webmasters and search engines alike in many respect. Nevertheless, there are also a few Negative aspects of XML sitemaps that are recorded below.

  • Privacy can become a big problem while giving away priority information to search engines as there is no guarantee or assurance that it will not reach into your competitor’s hands. In fact, there is no safety about sitemaps reaching only the search engines.
  • Faulty sitemap generation technique often leads to unnecessary problems. In fact, there is a genuine dearth of appropriate sitemap generation tools. As a result, more problems are created by way of passing on irrelevant data to search engines.

Now that both pros and cons in regard to using XML sitemap have been brought to light, the reader may draw the guideline sans any external assistance or help. However, to evaluate the issue from a different perspective, an overview as provided by leading search engines Bing and Google are given below.

XML Sitemap Guideline & Limitation Overview as Offered by Bing & Google

Sitemap protocol has been a standard matter that dates back to August 2006. However, lately, Bing and Google both have developed highly convenient Webmaster Tool dashboards that help website owners identify and fix errors or omissions. Among these two search engines, Bing probably is in favor of devaluing Sitemaps in the sense that if 1% of the URLs result in an error, it will go by status code 200.

Google, on the other hand gives clear guidelines as also limitations and a more robust error reporting method in terms of their webmaster dashboard. Apart from the regulation that only quality sitemaps should be submitted, it must also ensure that files should remain within limits provided by it as per the schedule given below

  • Limit sitemaps to 50,000 URLs
  • Maximum size should be under 50 MB
  • 500 sitemaps per account

However, both search engines are in favor of supporting Sitemap Index Files. Instead of submitting multiple sitemap files individually, the sitemap index file eases the process of submitting numerous sitemap files of any type at one go.