Friday, July 01, 2005

Google Sitemaps Benefits


The Google Sitemaps beta program has barely gotten out of the starting blocks and Google is already receiving (and ignoring) some heavy flak, mainly from disappointed SMEs.

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The debate about the program started out on
a Google group and has quickly shifted from “How to use the technology” to “What’s in it for me?”

Most questions regarding Google Sitemaps are answered adequately in their own
FAQ section. But that hasn’t stopped many Webmasters from expecting benefits that the program simply never promised in the first place.

Many expected instant crawls, immediate and complete indexation of the submitted pages, higher ranking and even improved PageRank! Well, Google Sitemaps isn’t delivering that, it didn’t say it would (quite the opposite) and it wasn’t brought to life for that purpose.

Google Sitemaps is an experiment in crawling, designed to make Google’s own life easier. Harmonised sitemaps in xml format would make it easier for Google to find content it might want to include in its index. The ultimate benefactor would of course be the searcher.

And for Webmasters? The program doesn’t even guarantee the submitted URLs will be crawled (and that really is not the same as indexing) but many, including myself, have reported that their sitemap and its content did get spidered. Is that a benefit? Yes, albeit to many only a small one. Getting pages in the index and getting high rankings on relevant search terms is the goal in SEM and that isn’t something Google Sitemaps can help you with.

As a result, some disappointed Webmasters have called the program anything from
”the scam of the century” to “spyware”!

Some have reported loss of pages in Google’s index and have attributed this to using the xml sitemaps. I find it hard to see where the connection is. If the program isn’t responsible for indexing your pages then how can it be responsible for knocking pages out of the index?

The bottom line is that using xml formatted sitemaps can get your pages crawled but that’s about the most you can expect at the present time. Individual Webmasters need to work out whether that’s a sufficient benefit to them or not. Personally, I won't be using the program anymore until it comes out of the beta phase.

Further reading on Google Sitemaps:

True or false

Sitemaps and blogs

Short guide to installing a sitemap

Keywords:


8 Comments:

At 7:26 PM, Anonymous John M said...

Woah! Don't dismiss sitemaps that quickly! There's more to sitemaps than "just" Google -- if getting your site listed completely on Google isn't enough for you.

Think about YOUR side: by "forcing" you - the webmaster - to submit a sitemap file, they force you to crawl or index your site completely. How many of you have done that? Do you know where the problems (crawler-wise) with your site are? Are you sure that a crawler can indeed crawl all your pages, static and dynamic? By making a sitemap file, you're forced to look at it from this side and you WILL find errors, mistakes, "issues" in your site that WILL make a difference for ALL search engines. I've crawled over 1 million pages in the last week and I've seen LOTS of simple, stupid mistakes which my crawler caught, which webmasters have had on their site for literally years. Finding and fixing those issues - on a regular basis - will make a difference in your search engine results, garanteed.

... and if Google can help your site get listed properly at the same time, why not have that on the side as well? :-)

 
At 12:56 PM, Blogger Gert said...

The advantage to using Google Sitemaps that you're suggesting in your comment is an interesting one and few webmasters will have looked at the program in that way.

I suggest you start a thread at the discussion group, on this subject: it's useful information.

Thanks for the comment.

 
At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can probably be proved wrong, but I've come to the conclusion that site maps is great if you already have a website, and its been running for many months or years. If you create one today and sitemap it, Google won't be a magic bullet.
I know of someone with a long established site, he created Directory Generator pages and within a couple of weeks 20000 of these pages were indexed. (I've seen the Site:www.domain.com stats myself and the traffic).
As an experiment I tried to do this via a newly created domain, the same directories, created and submitted sitemaps, and submitted the URL to Google for inclusion. In the same time period, I've seen NOTHING from Google in the three weeks that my trial has been running.

 
At 1:44 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Anonymous: I think you’re right in saying that a site’s age plays a role. It’s kind of logical to expect Google to continue to spider an existing site about as frequently as it was doing before an xml sitemap was created. And that would give older sites an advantage (perhaps that’s even fair?)

Having said that, one brand new site of mine got crawled and indexed very quickly and I did use a Google sitemap, but that really doesn’t prove much either. Perhaps Google would have found and indexed it anyway (even without an xml sitemap I mean).

When I first heard of the program my gut reaction was: “if I join this they’ll crawl my site more frequently” but that’s almost certainly not true (see also the GS FAQ).

And no, GS is not a magic bullet. With Google I don’t think easy solutions exist. No gain without pain.

Certainly when it comes to getting spidered, assuming you have your own spidering solutions, there is as yet no great need to use the xml sitemaps in my opinion. But it’s definitely “one to follow”.

Thanks for your comment.

 
At 9:08 AM, Anonymous Sebastian said...

You're making a few good points here, which probably will offend some unexperienced site owners:)

As John_m said, Google sitemaps can easily function as an index wiper, excluding established Web sites from Google's index. I've analyzed a few cases and left a comment here:
http://www.smart-it-consulting.com/article.htm?node=133&page=55
Even experienced webmasters do fail, submit outdated spam via sitemaps and wonder why their domains get banned asap.

As for the role of XML sitemaps in a Web site's SE strategy, I agree that Google sitemaps is just a little helper. XML sitemaps are completely useless if a site's structure is not SE friendly. Also XML sitemaps are not suitable to get a brand new site indexed. Inspired by tons of posts in the sitemap google-group, I wrote down the basics here:
http://www.smart-it-consulting.com/article.htm?node=140

(Feel free to remove the links, I'm just lazy in bringing the point home, not a link spammer)

 
At 12:45 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Thanks for your comment. Your links are welcome here, no problem.

Interesting point about "index wiping": it could certainly explain a thing or two.

 
At 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Google Sitemaps is useful in that you can see how Google sees your site. Review the list of keywords that Google retrieved from your site to get an idea of what Google is picking up on. Examine the page with the highest rank and think about why it has the highest GPR.

I don't think going to the trouble of posting an XML sitemap will boost your GPR but you might learn something about your site and when is that ever a bad idea.

 
At 9:23 AM, Blogger Matt Powell said...

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