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How a Simple Sitemap Can Protect Your Search Visibility

The other day I talked about reblogging: what it is, why people do it, and why it’s good for your business. However, as Janet Driscoll Miller points out, there are some cases where reblogged content can end up competing with you for search visibility, and having a file known as an XML sitemap can protect you. Let’s look at why.

The Problem of Duplicate Content

Whenever you publish something on your blog, there’s a chance other websites will decide to use it too, essentially reprinting it on their own sites. There are lots of ways this can happen:

  • You’ve agreed to let another site syndicate your content
  • Someone “reblogs” you post with a link to your original
  • A content curator includes your post in their collection, with a link to your original
  • Unethical webmasters pirate your content, using it as their own with no backlink

How common is this? Extremely common, even if you don’t know it. And, even in the case of illegally pirated work, it’s almost impossible to get every copy of your content taken down. The result is that many of your best posts are duplicated on other sites.

As Janet points out, duplicate content creates a problem for Google. Imagine if you ran a search and the first five results were all the exact same article, just at five different websites. That would be frustrating, and Google doesn’t like to frustrate its users.

So they’re only going to show the article once.

And the version Google uses is normally going to be whichever version they indexed first. In a fair world that would be your version, because you’re the content creator. But Google crawls other sites more often than they crawl your site. They may crawl some large content curators every few minutes. So they could find your article at one of those sites first, and end up never even showing your blog in the search results. For your article.

Protecting Yourself

As common as duplicate content is, it’s surprisingly easy to protect yourself and make sure your site is the one that appears in search results. Janet reminds us that this is one of the great advantages of having an XML sitemap.

XML sitemaps were conceived of as a way for websites to communicate with search engines. Despite the technical sounding name, the sitemap is just a text file hosted by your site. That text file tells Google some basic information:

  • A list of all pages available for search indexing, so that none are missed
  • Which pages are most important
  • When the site was last updated and how often it changes

That means your sitemap clearly tells search engines what you’ve posted and when you’ve posted it, establishing you definitively as the earliest, authoritative source of your content. Google and Bing will respect this document and it can help make sure your work appears in the search results.

Want to know how to create your sitemap and keep it up to date? That’s what I’ll cover next time. Meanwhile, let our SEO experts take a look at your site and help you identify everything you can do to get the absolute most search traffic possible. Call EverSpark Interactive for a free consultation today.