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Should Google Sitemaps Take Pings? How About More General Compatibility Generally?

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Jeremy Zawodny says he's scratching his head over the new Google Sitemaps system and wondering why Google doesn't adopt a ping-based page updating system instead. And why didn't I ask them, as well, he wonders. Well...

First, forget a ping-based system. The bigger question is why not have some type of system that works with other feed systems already? In particular, why not have a system that works with the XML feeds that Yahoo itself already takes in through its paid inclusion program? After all, if I'm already feeding Yahoo, I don't want to rework things to feed Google as well.

Answer? I did ask. But the answer I got wasn't on the record. Google often provides information but doesn't put it on the record. Yahoo does the same.

I can say the answer came back under the "we're always thinking; we're always open" type of response that Google and Yahoo both typically give.

The more important point is that Google Sitemaps is new, not necessarily set in stone, and certain to develop. I'm just glad to finally have something that lets webmasters -- any webmaster -- feed URLs into the major search engines for consideration. We haven't had this for free, for everyone, since Infoseek back in like 1998 or 1999.

Now that Google's offering it, I'd love to see Yahoo and MSN and Ask Jeeves jump in with suggestions on how it could be made better and work for everyone.

Well, what about a ping-based method to say something's new. Well, pinging doesn't work as well as you think. Just today, I watched a blog feed me 25 "new" posts. They weren't new. Instead, the feed glitched, or was updated or something. But pings went out as if things had changed.

In addition, despite that as each day passes and we're told there are 100 million blogs and counting, not everyone has a system set up to ping much less put out feeds. Yep, millions are. But millions aren't. In fact, it may very well be that the majority of content on the web is not set up to be fed or to ping at all.

Add to the fact that you've got some site owners and marketers who will be more than happy to ping you every day, if they think convincing you that they are fresh will boost a ranking. They aren't fresh, but they'll ping, ping, ping away.

It's also not necessarily the best case to be in a ping-and-retrieve situation. It's a waste of bandwidth, for one. If you trust me, far better I feed you the actual page content for inclusion. If you trust me, of course.

I don't know what the exact solution is. I know Google certainly doesn't have it perfectly right. In fact, we probably need a range of solutions. Look at our forum thread on the new Google system -- Google Sitemaps Now Accepting Web Page Feeds -- and you can get sense of further wants, gripes, needs, suggestions and workarounds.

In particular, note that people want some easy solutions. They don't necessarily want to generate an XML feed using Python. Can't I just send you a list of URLs via Excel? They ought to be able to. For many people, that would be fine.

Jump into that thread and add what you want, from Google or from search engines in general. I'll also be watching and coming back to this. I've been collecting a number of posts and comments on the subject since it came out last week for a follow-up. Sometimes it's also nice to sit back and see the comments and how something actually develops, then go back and discuss further how it might need to change or be shaped. But I thought I'd touch on this important point now.

Postscript: First, I'm an idiot! It was right in our own interview with Google that a simple text file listing all your URLs one by one is fine. Specific FAQ info is here. Also worth noting there are many different alternative formats you can use, including RSS 2.0. FAQ on that here. As for pinging, while you cannot ping that individual pages have been updated, you can ping that your sitemap overall has been updated. FAQ here. As said, I'm working on a follow-up to come.


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