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Has Google finally embraced RSS with their new XML powered Sitemaps program? Well, sort of, but it seems more like a hug than a strong impassioned embrace!
It does use XML technology which allows for the crawling and updating of your site's web pages. You can even include your entire web site (all urls) with this indexing program. For anyone targeting the search engines, especially Google, this program (still in beta) is a MUST HAVE.
If you require timely updating of your most popular pages Google's new Sitemaps may prove indispensable. It's a little premature to assess the importance or impact of Google's new program but anyone wanting to give their site a competitive edge should be gearing up.
How it works:
There are several ways to set-up a XML Sitemap, perhaps the easiest way is to use the open-source Generator which you can download from Google. This is a Python file that you can upload to your webserver and this generator will create a sitemap from your 'URL lists, webserver directories, or your access logs'.
It would probably be wise to check with your hosting provider to see if they can accommodate this Generator on your webserver. It you have a small site there should be no problem but if your site runs into the 1,000's of URLs or pages -- check to see how much bandwidth such a system will take up. It's better to be safe than sorry!
Once done, you have to then submit your newly generated XML Sitemap to Google and the search engine will use this XML Sitemap to update and index your site whenever you make changes on your site. You will need to have a Google account.
You may also submit text files containing URLs from your web site to be included in Google Sitemaps but these text files will have or will be given low priority for the time being.
To get started on your own Google Sitemaps Account you can click here: Google's Sitemaps
What's great about it:
Besides seeing Google finally grab the RSS wildcard, it gives you better control of how and when the search engines update your web site pages. Perhaps, the most important aspect for Internet Marketers, you can now assign the importance that's given to any of your particular pages. As most marketers know, certain pages on your web site are more important than others; these pages earn money, build your contact list, or direct your site's visitors in the right direction. In other words, you can now place more emphasis on your web site's 'bread and butter' pages. A BIG Plus!
With Google Sitemaps you can decide the importance placed on these pages by using the priority XML tag. This rating system is relative, it only relates to the pages on your own site.
Likewise, you can also indicate how frequently your pages changes by using the changefreq XML tag. More or less instructing Google when your page will be updated or changed. This is a win-win situation for everyone; Google gets the freshest content for its users and you gain more control of the frequency of the updates done with your site or web pages. This may have a direct influence on the profitability of your web site.
For those who are actively marketing thru the search engines and keywords -- Santa may have come a little early this year. Of course, the jury will be out for awhile but Google Sitemaps will probably have a positive impact on your bottom line.
What it means for Google:
For those of us who have been following and watching the RSS wildcard for the past couple of years, it takes away some of the frustration and a little of the puzzlement from Google seemingly total disregard of RSS.
RSS is not a fad, it is not a trend and it's not going away. Instead, its importance is growing. It is fast becoming 'the' way data is moved on the web. One could even speculate that in the very near future all web pages will have an RSS component, perhaps a hybrid of 'XML/HMTL' or an embedded XML code that will work with all browsers, search engines and servers.
For Google to ignore the growing importance of RSS, blogging, podcasting, broadcatching, the RSS featured Firefox browser, MyYahoo, not to mention all those orange XML logos popping up on most of the major sites on the web -- is beyond comprehension. Why Google does not have an RSS search on its main search engine page still seems baffling. Bringing out a homepage and not including an RSS feature is just foolhardy (They may introduce this feature later).
For those firmly in the RSS corner, Google's continued disregard for RSS became more than a little frustrating to observe. It was downright rude! Perhaps Google was waiting to incorporate RSS in a program like this new XML Sitemaps? Can this mean that Google has finally accepted the importance of RSS and they're starting to make amends? More importantly, could there still be a few more RSS goodies in the Google Jar left to be announced?
One can only speculate but when it comes to RSS and Google, lets just hope this is the start of a beautiful friendship.
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