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Why an XML Sitemap?
In response to the increasing complexity of websites, Google launched Sitemap 0.84 Protocol in 2005, using the XML format. Prior to this launch, sitemaps were primarily used for visitor convenience. Google's XML format answered a different need, with the primary function of allowing search engines to find and index data more efficiently. Hoping to create a web standard by making this protocol available to other search engines, Google published it under a freely distributed open source license. Yahoo and Microsoft adopted the protocol in 2007 and other search engines followed suit, making XML sitemaps preferred for most major search engines.
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Choosing an XML generator
First, check with your hosting company. Many DIY hosting setups with a control website offer sitemap generation tools in the package or as an add-on. These tools will already be integrated with your existing software, so would the best choice if available. If there is no sitemap generation tool in your control panel, there are a number of XML sitemap generation tools available on the web, and many of them are free for indexing up to 500 pages and typically charge a reasonable fee for extra pages.
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How XML Sitemap Generators work
Most of the XML sitemap generators online are simple enough for anyone to use. You fill in the URL of the website and select the options you want, and the generator takes a few minutes to index the site and return a sitemap. You then have the option of editing the map to remove pages that should remain hidden and highlight pages that are more important. Once the sitemap has been tweaked to your satisfaction, save it to your computer and upload it to a top-level directory on your website. The last step is to submit the url of the sitemap to the top search engines. It will take a little time for your site to be crawled and indexed, so be patient.
While using an XML Sitemap Generator to create a sitemap will make your pages more search engine friendly, it will not guarantee traffic. This is a crucial part of search engine optimization (SEO) but only one piece of the puzzle.