Ecommerce SEO | XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps are simply a list of URLs in a file that is fed to search engines to help them discover pages on your site. For ecommerce sites that have a search focused user navigation model (minimal site architecture and clickable navigation) XML sitemaps seem like a great solution as they help search engines discover products that don’t have a crawl-able path. This isn’t really the case though. While XML sitemaps help search engines find a page, they are unable to flow any link equity to pages. This makes XML sitemaps for ecommerce sites a band aid (at best) for poor site architecture.

In addition to helping search engines discover new pages, XML sitemaps can be an indexation diagnostic tool.

Google Webmaster Tools (WMT) will tell you the number of indexed pages for each XML sitemap that is submitted. Leveraging this information, we can create an indexation diagnostic tool to identify which parts of the site are not being indexed.

To do this, you need to create an XML sitemap for each important dimension of your site. While this will vary from site to site, it is often beneficial to have XML sitemaps for:

  • All top level category pages
  • All 2nd level sub category pages (and 3rd, 4th, etc)
  • All product pages
  • All URLs within each category
  • All URLs within each sub category
  • All content of a certain type (reviews, blog posts, expert advice, etc)

WMT XML Sitemaps Example

 

Once all the XML sitemaps for your ecommerce site have been created, submit them to WMT. You may have to wait several days to get indexation numbers as WMT typically has some lag time associated with most actions.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is a directional tool – it will tell you which direction to look in, but due to limitations of WMT – an inherent margin of error and the fact that Google does not actually tell you which URLs are not indexed.

 

Action Items

  • Develop XML sitemaps for key groups of pages
  • Name the XML sitemaps so that you will easily be able to identify what the XML sitemaps include
  • Submit the XML sitemaps to Google Webmaster Tools
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