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Sitemap "Priority" and bot behavior

Will the priority attribute affect how spiders crawl?

5:01 pm on Nov 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've been working on an SEO project for an ecommerce site that currently has around 800 links on the home page. This is a company that has over 600 product categories organized into three tiers, each with a home page link. At first, I thought there were too many links on the page, but they have programmed a collapsing/contracting navigation menu that works really well. I am beginning to agree that removing links would be detrimental to site usability.

The site owner asked if there was a way to prioritize the links for the Google spider. The only thing that came to mind was the Priority attribute in an XML sitemap.

I know that XML sitemaps are only "suggestions" for the search engines. I've used the attribute on smaller projects in the past, but don't have any data that would support whether search engines even pay attention to that attribute.

Anyone using the priority attribute in their sitemap? Is there any way that this could have a negative effect? Any chance that it would have any effect on how a spider would view a home page with 800 links?

1:24 pm on Nov 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

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it sounds like you understand the sitemap situation well enough. you can use a sitemap to provide a suggestion to the search engines. the search engines do pay attention to the data you include in the sitemap but are not controlled by that information.

traditionally if you want a link to get a higher percentage of value associated to it you would:
-place higher in the code
-surround with relevant text
-avoid appearing as a ros link

if you want a small handful of pages to get love and attention simply develop more backlinks from external websites to these pages and increase the level of internal backlinks pointing to them. generally a stand alone link embedded in content will be seen as more powerful than a ros link. hope that helps.

6:07 pm on Nov 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Goodroi, that's pretty much what I expected. The home page has a lot of great links, but the category pages have almost nothing. I was hoping to find a reliable way to pass rank down to the category pages in a structured way, but my gut feeling is that using 'Priority' in the sitemap will have a minimal effect. I'll focus on developing links to the category pages.

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