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OpenCart XML Sitemap

Posted by admin 07/05/2015 0 Comment(s) Ecommerce Tips,

What is a sitemap?

 

A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. A sitemap is a helpful tool that can improve the crawling of your site 

 

Also, your sitemap can provide valuable metadata associated with the pages you list in that sitemap: Metadata is information about a webpage, such as when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and the importance of the page relative to other URLs in the site. 

Note that use of a sitemap doesn't guarantee you that all the web pages listed in your sitemap can be crawled or indexed as Google processes rely mainly on complex algorithms. In most cases, webmasters benefit from sitemap submission, and in no case can you be penalized for it. 

 

Why Would I Need a Sitemap?

A question a lot of you will be asking is: “Why would I need to add a sitemap to my site”?

 

Simply put, sitemaps are really handy for correctly indexing your website; they help search engines during the crawling process.
You could compare a sitemap to a road map for crawlers. Crawlers usually discover new pages via links (href or src). A sitemap is used to double-check their link database, allowing them to discover pages they might not otherwise have seen. As a bonus, you can provide crawlers with additional information about the URL by adding metadata.

 

This is especially useful for new websites or websites with a significant amount of new/updated pages. Thanks to a sitemap search engines can find their pages much faster, reducing the amount of time it takes to index them.

 

One thing that you should keep in mind is that a sitemap doesn’t guarantee that a listed page will be added to the index. If the page is of low quality or contains duplicate content, it may be excluded. A sitemap simply helps search engines understand your site structure.

 

XML Sitemaps

XML Sitemaps are only used by search engines. All of the biggest search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) utilize XML sitemaps for the crawling process.

 

Validating Your Sitemap

Everybody knows how easy it for errors to sneak into your code, so it's a good idea to validate your sitemap to ensure that it is error-free. There are plenty of online tools which can check the validity of your file, such as this example on www.xml-sitemaps.com.

 

Alternatively you could use Google Webmaster Tools to test your XML Sitemaps. When you click the add/test Sitemap button under optimization > sitemaps, you can test a sitemap prior to submitting it. 

 

Informing Search Engines

Now that we have created and validated our sitemap(s), it’s time to inform search engines about it.

 

You can inform Google and Bing about the location of your sitemap via theirWebmaster Tools. For Google; log into your account and go to Optimization > Sitemaps. On the right hand side you’ll see the ‘add sitemap’ button. Simply add the URL of your sitemap and you’re done.

 

In Bing Webmaster Tools, look for the Sitemap Widget and click ‘submit a sitemap’. Here you can enter the location of your sitemap.

 

Alternatively you could add the URL to your robots.txt file. All you have to do is add an extra line to your file, for example:

 

Sitemap: http://website.com/sitemap.xml

 

If you have a Sitemap Index file, you don’t need to add the separate sitemaps individually.

 

XML Sitemap Myths

Because they’re a little obscure, XML sitemaps have collected an interesting set of mythical powers and superstitions. These are some of my favorite questions and objections regarding XML sitemaps.

“Including a URL in the XML sitemap guarantees it will be indexed.”

No. It’s important to note that XML sitemaps are only recommendations. The XML sitemap will not guarantee indexation of the URLs included.

“If I leave a URL out of the XML sitemap it will get deindexed.”
No. The XML sitemap will not exclude indexation of URLs not included on the XML sitemap. It’s merely a set of recommended URLs that, if the recommendations agree with the signals the rest of the site is sending, will lend a bit of extra importance to the URLs included above and beyond the other URLs on the site.

“XML sitemaps are difficult to create and maintain.”
No. In the simplest cases, small sites can easily create and post their own XML sitemaps manually using the examples above as formatting guides. For larger sites and sites that change more frequently, plugins or modules available for most ecommerce platforms can automate the creation and posting of XML sitemaps.

“Posting an XML sitemap is like asking to get scraped and spammed.”
No. An XML sitemap is nothing more than a list of URLs. Scrapers and spammers can easily crawl any public site they wish to generate a list of URLs and content from which to steal a site’s content for their own nefarious purposes. They certainly don’t need an XML sitemap to do it, and not posting an XML sitemap won’t keep the scrapers and spammers away.


 

Sitemap tag definitions

 

 

Tag

Required?

Description

<urlset>RequiredEncloses all information about the set of URLs included in the sitemap.
<url>RequiredEncloses all information about a specific URL.
<loc>RequiredSpecifies the URL. For images and video, specifies the landing page (aka play page).
<lastmod>OptionalShows the date the URL was last modified, in YYYY-MM-DDThh:mmTZD format (time value is optional).
<changefreq>OptionalProvides a hint about how frequently the page is likely to change. Valid values are:
  • always. Use for pages that change every time they are accessed.
  • hourly
  • daily
  • weekly
  • monthly
  • yearly
  • never. Use this value for archived URLs.
<priority>OptionalDescribes the priority of a URL relative to all the other URLs on the site. This priority can range from 1.0 (extremely important) to 0.1 (not important at all).
Note that the priority tag does not affect your site ranking in Google search results. Priority values are only considered relative to other pages on your site so, assigning a high priority (or specifying the same priority for all URLs) will not boost your entire site search ranking.

 

 


 

References:

  1. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/156184?hl=en
  2. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/183668?hl=en&ref_topic=6080646&rd=1
  3. http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/all-you-need-to-know-about-xml-sitemaps--webdesign-9838
  4. http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/3623-SEO-Understanding-XML-Sitemaps

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