I’ve written before about the importance of having an XML sitemap, but I was reminded the other day of an increasingly significant advantage of having one: prompt discovery of new pages. We are in an age where Google is desperate to find the original source of any given content, and you don’t want another site to be credited with something which you worked hard to produce.
If you’re thinking: “Why would another site run my material?”, there are several reasons. Your content could be automatically put on a parent company’s site, or repurposed by a subsidiary or distributor. It might be picked up by a journal or blog (perhaps you send out your articles for just this purpose). And it can just be lifted by one of the millions of junk websites which populate their pages with content stolen from others.
Whatever the case, you do not want Google stumbling across somebody else’s version before yours. And the best way to help it find the original is to flag up your copy using an automatically-generated XML sitemap. With this, the search engine can immediately see what’s new on the site, rather than you having to hope that it finds its way there. Also, your XML sitemap will have a timestamp for the page to help Google detect which site is the original.
Your sitemap, if it exists, will be /sitemap.xml or /sitemap_index.xml on your website. If it’s set up properly, it will also be specified through Google Webmaster Tools, so take a look there. If you don’t have one, or if it’s not shown in Webmaster Tools, get this organised now. Check that it’s updating instantly too!