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Does Setting Priority & Frequency in Your Sitemap Help Increase Rankings?

June 29th, 2009 | | Advanced SEO Tips

Any professional SEO’er should submit an XML sitemap for each of their clients. A sitemap is like writing out directions for the search engines on how to crawl your pages. Sure, the search engines can find all the pages on their own, but with clear directions, they’ll be able to find and crawl more pages faster and easier.

Within your XML sitemap, you can set priority levels and frequency levels for each page of your site. The debate is, whether or not setting these levels actually helps increase your SEO traffic and rankings. This will be a two part series. Next week, I’ll dive into frequency levels in your sitemap. Let’s start with the priority levels.

Priority Levels:

Setting a priority level for each page of your sitemap should tell the search engines which pages are more important than others. By default, when you submit a sitemap to the search engines your homepage gets a priority level of 1, and all other pages get a priority level of .5.

You can change this to set certain pages importance factor over others.  The priority level settings can go from 0 up to 1. (0.0, 0.1, 0.2, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.7, 0.8, 0.9, 1.0).

Your homepage should typically have the highest priority level. However, if you have a main upper or left hand navigation, these pages may want a higher priority level than some other pages like a contact us page, or about us page. You could set the upper or left hand navigation pages to a priority level of .8, and all other pages you could leave at .5 or .6. In theory by doing this the search engines will spend more time crawling your most important pages over others.

However, according to sitemaps.org, submitting priority levels in your sitemap are not necessarily going to get more pages crawled or indexed higher in the search engines. It merely represents to the search engine crawlers which pages you deem most important, therefore when choosing one of two pages to crawl, the search engines will choose the one with the higher priority level over the other.

Another theory is that you could set your priority levels for all your pages around .8 to try and get more pages of your site crawled and indexed – although they may not all be ranked as high as if you were to only set a higher priority level on a few pages. Meaning, it may be easier to get a few pages ranked higher in the search engines than getting a bunch of pages ranked higher in the search engines.

According to Thomas Shultz, by setting priorities in your sitemap it’s likely that the search engines will crawl pages with a high priority level more often. For new websites, he says this will help determine which pages to crawl first and can also help determine which URL to show if multiple pages from a site match a search query.

Again, according to sitemaps.org, assigning a high priority level to all of the URL’s on your site isn’t necessarily going to help you due to the fact that it is only used to select between URL’s on your site.

Changing Your Priority Levels:

Changing your priority levels in your sitemap is relatively easy. It’s basically a tag within each URL listed in the sitemap. I use GSiteCrawler to run my sitemaps. It’s a free service that you can simply download, run the sitemap, remove pages if you choose, change information like priority levels and frequency, and generate a fully upload-able XML sitemap to the search engines.

The priority tag within your sitemap should look something like this:  <priority>0.8</priority>. If you run your XML sitemap in GSiteCrawler, it will look something like this:

priority-levels-sitemaps

I use XML Notepad to edit my sitemaps. With this program, again it’s free, you can simply click on the line that you want to edit and edit it right there.

I think that for priority levels, it’s best to not ignore them and leave them to the default settings. I think we should be trying and testing everything to keep increasing our SEO traffic and rankings. Adjusting our priority levels within our sitemaps, and focusing on our most important pages, could increase how often our pages are crawled and indexed. If not, then you really don’t lose anything. Stay tuned next week for a how and why to set frequency levels in your sitemaps!

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  • http://www.buzzybeemarketing.com Buzzy Blogger

    Great post on sitemaps. I was just in the middle of automating my sitemap for a new blog platform I am developing. I sphinned your blog post. Look me up there. Let’s be friends.

  • http://www.freeseolesson.blogspot.com sachin sharma

    Your advice is really helpful, i would like to be in touch with u for future updates.
    Thanks …. :)

  • http://www.knock3.com John Ray

    Thanks for bringing some clrrity to this. A sitemap is a sitemap is a sitemap apparently isn’t true.

  • http://anythinghollywood.com Henrietta

    Hi,
    I found this post on the internet while I was Googling “How should I set up my sitemap priority.”

    I have set all the posts to 100%, I don’t know whether it could hurt me but I have had that set for months now. And frequency to Daily

    Thank you
    Henrietta

  • http://www.brianhalstrom.com Brian Halstrom

    I was doing research on sitemap priority and frequency. I downloaded the GSitecrawler program and I’ll give it a try to create my sitemap for my company.

    Thank you for this info!

  • http://www.helderziendelezingen.be Will

    I’ve made a sitemap and am wondering whether to set the domain name http://www.helderziendelezingen.be to 1 or the domain name AND index page http://www.helderziendelezingen.be/index.html also to 1? or should the index page itself be 0 and the domain 1?

  • http://www.rdblackburn.com/ RD Blackburn

    I personally use priority levels from 1.0 through 0.6. This priority level system creates another interesting question. Which one is better to use – sub-domains or sub-directories. I contend that sub-domains would be better to use because to my knowledge you can only set priority on about four pages (1.0 through 0.6) in any given directory including sub-directories within the same home directory but a sub-domain gives you the opportunity to set priority levels. Just some additional food for thought. I couldn’t agree more with your view on this topic. Thanks for the great post.

  • http://AzureGreen.net Josh

    I stumbled upon this post, enjoyed the content, and wanted to throw in my two cents. While I am by no means an authority I’ve found that honestly stipulating to google the importance of your various URLs via your sitemap seems to result in a more comprehensive crawl of the URLs within your sitemap. Working for a webstore I had previous difficulty in getting the URLs for my store adequately crawled. At best I hit around 2000 of the URLs with a blanket-statement sitemap that was created by an automated program that decided for me what my frequency and priority tags were going to be. This was the case for months despite various linking campaigns and so forth. After taking the time to customize the important URLs within the sitemap this jumped to around 6k crawled, or the entire sitemap.

    It seems like with most things, Google hates the appearance of automation and seems to reward the appearance of manual labor. At least this was the result from my little experiment.

    Now, to sort out the rest of Goggle’s mysteries such as our disappearing page rank at the end o the year…

  • http://www.mylovingnanny.net WHittnie

    This is Great! I ‘m so happy I found this blog and get to understand my sitemap! i just created one today and have been reading countless things on how to optimize it. Great information I hope my page starts ranking higher soon!

  • http://www.webdesign-fb.com/ Fábio – Porto Alegre

    Thanks for the explanation. I personally don´t think that this could do any help, it´s more likely to make mistakes with setting priorities. Let your internal structure and Backlinks do this calculation for the search engines and you get a better result.

  • Lisa Bell

    Thanks for sorting this out.

  • http://www.moving.com BrettMove

    I’m pretty sure that GSitecrawler is dead.