Since their introduction five years ago, the humble sitemap has evolved at quite a rate – moving from a simple blueprint of a site’s pages to in-depth and individual charts of very specific news, image and video content. These multimedia sitemaps can be created to guide Google search engine spiders through video files and news updates, restrict access in certain locations, enable news story classification and even detail expiry date of content. While these different types of specialized sitemap significantly increased the crawlability of a site, they also increased webmaster workload as only one content format was permitted per map. However, it is now possible to combine multiple content types in a single sitemap file, making the task of mapping out all of a site’s various content modules a lot easier and less time consuming.
A multiple content format sitemap can be created in a similar fashion to a regular sitemap with a few additional lines of code to help the search engine distinguish between formats such as mobile content, image or video.
The header area of a multiple content format sitemap references the sitemap protocol in much the same way as a standard map would. However, each additional content format to be included must also be specified. Each type of content has its own namespace protocol. Examples are:
Image content: xmlns:image=http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1
Video content: xmlns:video=http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-video/1.1
Mobile content: xmlns:mobile=http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-mobile/1.0
News content: xmlns:news=http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-news/0.9
Code Search: xmlns:codesearch=http://www.google.com/codesearch/schemas/sitemap/1.0
So, a sitemap for a site with standard pages, images and video would look like:
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
For each element within the sitemap, the content type and content variables can also be specified. This is done in exactly the same way as it would be in that format’s own individual sitemap. Although specifying these variables does take a considerable amount of time, it is essential if the search engine is to truly understand content that does not take a written format.
For other content types, it is often necessary to guide a search engine through how it should approach and publish the content as well as placing restyrictions on those same actions. You may have an English and Spanish language version of the same video for instance, or have some news stories that are only available to paying subscribers. Getting the best out of a multiple content sitemap means taking time to include these attributes.
For a page containing video content you may want to specify the video title and give a brief description to make it more searchable. For example:
How to create a sitemap
A short video demonstrating how to create a sitemap in three easy steps
<video:title>How to create a sitemap</video:title>
<video:description>A short video demonstrating how to create a sitemap in three easy steps</video:description>
Luckily, if you have already created individual sitemaps for your videos, images, news, etc., you can simply copy and paste from the pre-existing sitemap.
Remember — Having worked your way through all of the various content pages and formats on your site, you must check that your new sitemap still adheres to the standard sitemap protocols such as maximum file size and URL limits.