An XML sitemap doesn't necessary affect your search engine rankings, unless your website is not being indexed well. That's what a sitemap does: it helps search engines to index your site, making the indexing process faster.
Is it a sitemap necessary?
Simply put, a sitemap is a file that lists all the URLs of your website, created in XML(Extensible Markup Language). It’s a Search Engine Optimization tool for indexing hard to reach pages and new content.
The sitemap will help you when:
- your site is new and has few backlinks to it,
- your website has a large archive with pages not linked to each other well or not linked at all.
Also, when you make changes to your website, and tell Google to fetch your site for update, the sitemap will help it doing it on the spot. Otherwise you will need to wait for Google to discover your pages.
Do it, it's free!
Even though it's not that important, I prefer to submit sitemaps, as it's free and I always keep in mind that the search engine algorithms change over time.
Here is a XML sitemap sample with only two links from the sitemap for TibiDesign website:
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9 http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9/sitemap.xsd">
As you can see I have different frequencies set up for the two links. What that means is that I tell Google to how often to index those pages in this case. You don't really want to put "daily" in there if you don't change the content of those pages at a daily rate. If Google will index it daily with no change it won't like it. Actually you want that frequency to be as rare as possible, so the browsers will load a cached version of the site for the returned visitors increasing the speed your website will load.
There's a ton of info about sitemaps online if you need to know more about multiple sitemaps, video sitemaps and so on, but this is pretty much all you need to know if you have a regular small business website.
Free sitemap generators
Here are some resources for you. http://code.google.com/p/sitemap-generators/wiki/SitemapGenerators is a full list from Google with links and free generators. I personally use the free XML sitemap generator from http://www.web-site-map.com/xml_sitemap.php as it gives me the ability to set the frequency, page priority and session info removal (I keep it auto), for all the links automatically before generating the sitemap. Of course, if you need to set different frequencies for different pages then you have to do it manually, which is not a big deal for a relative small website. For larger websites, just create multiple sitemaps.
After you will submit your sitemap.xml to Google, you will see that not all your website pages
submitted are indexed right away. Don't panic, it's normal. At the beginning Google will index only the most relevant pages; depending on the relevance of the not indexed pages, when they will get visitors, they will get indexed. It's part of the SEO and as long as your website gets more visitors, all the pages will get indexed.
I hope this info is helpful for you and if you have any questions you can contact me, or you can take a look at our graphic and website design services.
For free advice or help with your sitemap creation/submission, leave a comment with the details and I will gladly help you.