The time for a “Geo” Sitemap is Now

Yesterday Greg Sterling had an Interview With Google’s Carter Maslan about Mapspam in which Google noted that they are still at the stage of removing mapspam by hand. Also of not was that they will be addressing how to allow non bricks and mortar locations to provide information on their service area (see What Should Google Do About Mapspam? from last year).

Of most interest to me, however, was the clear statement that all websites should have a KML sitemap to clearly indicate to Google the exact locations of your businesses:

SEL: What about a business that formerly appeared among these top 10 listings and no longer does or wants to appear in those listings, what advice would you provide to such businesses?

CM: As a result, there’s no one piece of advice we would recommend beyond providing accurate, well-categorized listings and, for those businesses with web sites, following these tips including location kml in sitemap.

It has been clear that Google has been scouring the web looking for and indexing KML files and it stood to reason that having a KML file associated with your website would give Google clear signals about your physical location.

The time has come for it to be considered a “best practice” to include a Geo Sitemap on any local or regional website. Google clearly wants webmasters to include this indicator of location in a clear and obvious way that allows them to easily confirm geo data. Details on how to create a Geo Sitemap can be found in the Webmaster Help Cetner file: How can I create a Geo Sitemap?

From Google’s Webmaster Help Center:

Google Geo Sitemaps is an extension of the Sitemap protocol that enables you to publish geospatial content (geo content) to Google, in order to make it searchable in Google Earth and on Google Maps.

With Geo Sitemaps, you can tell Googlebot about your geo content, rather than waiting for us to discover it “in the wild”. While we cannot guarantee when or if your geo content will be added to our GeoSearch index, we are continuously working to improve the coverage, freshness and quality of our index.

I am not a coder but when but here is what I see (I stand ready to be advised by someone with more experience than I) in the Google example. Here is a line from a typical sitemap.xml file:

<url>
<loc>http://www.owlhomes.com/index.php</loc><priority>0.7</priority>
</url>

If it were a KML file being referenced in the sitemap file instead of a regular web page, it would look something like this to become a Geo SiteMap:

<url> <loc>http://www.owlhomes.com/firsttrip/HoudahGeo.kml</loc><priority>0.7</priority>
<geo :geo> </geo>
<geo :format>kml</geo>
</url>

The geo sitemap file is telling google that there is a geo indexed file and it is a KML file on the site which contains geo references about the business. It is not a geo reference itself.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
The time for a "Geo" Sitemap is Now by

26 thoughts on “The time for a “Geo” Sitemap is Now”

  1. @Imnotadoctor – It is unclear to me whether this kind of signal only builds trust as you point out or whether it might affect ranking as well…

    @Brick Marketing – the problem with “hand” editing is that it is very selective and leaves lots of spammy data in the index. I am hoping to give Google 4 weeks and then go in and see which of the reported spam has actually been removed.

    Mike

  2. Is there a way to define a geo-area instead of just a point using these location tabs? If not there should be.

    I have a number of clients who service a city yet their physical mailing address location is just outside the city. Google Maps is leaving them high and dry.

  3. Mike-
    I really appreciate the link to the Geo Sitemap creation page. You’ve got me convinced this is important. Time to learn something new!
    Miriam

  4. The problem is that only about 0.0001 percent of small business owners would have a clue what to do with that Google Help page. Search engineers live in a different world. I think they need to get out a mingle more often with real people and see what it’s like outside of Building 43.

  5. @Steve & Matt

    When Sitemaps first arrived on the scene they made sense and nobody immediately coded to them. I for one waited for a spiffy package to look at the site and create one for me. And I will probably wait for one this time as well (for the right client, I will ask my programmer to do one). In the meantime though I am adding KML files and maps with KML data to my local sites which plenty of software can automatically generate with little work.

    @Matt I am not suggesting this tactic for small business owners but rather for the developer of their site to consider. If a site is developed professionally and it can easily be made to do better in local marketing than I think professionals need to look at that and counsel their clients appropriately.

    Google is out scraping this data, it might as well be your client’s data that is scraped as his competitor. :)

    Mike

  6. @stever

    I have posted sample code above as I was unable to do it in the comment field.

    The geo sitemap file is telling google that there is a KML file on the site which contains geo references about the business.

    Mike

  7. @Matt
    Considering that 3/4 of business owners still don’t even have a website I am going to predict, um……… small business will never use KML Sitemaps. And if they understood they needed one they would hire someone to do it. Like maybe Matt McGee???

  8. Stephen- it will make your customer’s lead in the race all that more insurmountable! :)

    I agree with your numbers but they also points out the opportunity for both small business and web developers as local sites become all that more powerful of a marketing tool. I have for years always looked for other ways to provide ROI on local sites but that is inch by inch, day by day changing as the ROI increase moves in tandem with the growing importance of Local Search.

    Mike

  9. Mike,

    It looks to me like the example code you posted is slightly different from Google’s example on the Geo sitemap creation page. I read it as the following, replacing the double dashes for carrots:

    –url–
    –loc–http://www.owlhomes.com/firsttrip/HoudahGeo.kml–/loc–
    –priority–0.7–/priority–
    –geo:geo–
    –geo :format–kml–/geo:format–
    –/geo:geo–
    –/url–

  10. after adding these to sitemaps i now see site map error reports in Google Webmaster Tools.

    -Invalid XML tag
    -This tag was not recognized. Please fix it and resubmit.
    -Tag:geo

    Perhaps the Webmaster Tools system has just not caught up yet to know that they now do recognize this tag??

    I do of course have the geo schema call at the top of the sitemap file that is supposed to define the tags.

    Anyone else seeing this?

  11. Looks like that page conflicts with the other Google Page about geo sitemaps. I’ll just drop those geo:geo tags and just get the url indexed then.

  12. @stever did you add it as a second sitemap?

    One year ago, Google advised me at the Google Geo developer day to include a .kml in the ‘normal’ sitemap.

    http://www.example.com/mylocations.kml
    0.5
    daily

    now with geositemaps they want us to submit a second sitemap, probably to keep the information in sitemaps clean and tidy. regular sitemap should be about the regular sitemap, the mobile sitemap about the mobile structure, the geositemap about physical locations. etc.
    If google webmaster tools is telling you that there are errors in your second sitemap (the geo one) maybe you will just have to wait before they update their system. To be sure, it’s better to use the http://google.com/webmasters/tools/ and not of a country specific .TLD because google tends to implement features in different countries at a different time :/

    I have always been using the ‘old’ method, but just uploaded on of the new geositemaps. Will report on status later.

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