By default, XML-based sitemaps are not human readable - the browser just renders a big bunch of XML code and pure data. To make your sitemap look like a normal HTML webpage, you just have to add one line to your Google Sitemaps file, that's all.
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A Google Sitemaps StyleSheet (GSS) makes use of a technology called XSLT to format structured data stored in an XML file or feed. Basically XSLT + XML works like CSS + X/HTML, that is all data are stored in an XML file, and all formatting code goes to the XSL file. Your Web browser should support those technologies and display the data contained in your Google XML Sitemap applying a nice layout, and even column sorting (sample).
How can I make use of the Google Sitemaps Stylesheet (GSS)?
As described in the introduction, it's really easy. Add one line to your Google XML Sitemap's header:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<?xml-stylesheet type="text/xsl" href="gss.xsl"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84" xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:schemaLocation="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84 http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84/sitemap.xsd">
Then you have to copy/upload the GSS-XSLT file (which forces the browser to add the HTML code to the XML data on the fly) to the same directory where the sitemaps files are located.
How useful is this Google Sitemaps Stylesheet?
Well, it depends. With a rich XML sitemap, you can just give the users the url of the sitemaps file and they can render it like a normal webpage, you don't have to manage both a HTML-based and an XML-based version of your sitemap.
Unfortunately, because not all search engines support the Google Sitemaps protocol, this could introduce problems with their crawlers. Also not all browsers support XSL transformation of XML files, so a few visitors might see the pure XML data instead of the nicely formated page.
And of course if you have a bigger website, with more than 100 URLs, no user will view this file completely, since it's getting really huge and hard to browse. Here it would make sense to use Google Sitemap index files (GSS formatted) managing a hierarchy of topical sitemaps, or to choose a different approach with regard to navigational sitemaps.
Only a few sitemap generators support GSS, for example John Mueller's GSiteCrawler and Tobias Kluge's phpSitemapNG (since version 1.6.1).
But it is really easy to use this feature, even when your preferred tool doesn't support GSS. You just have to add one line to the outputted XML.
Friday, December 16, 2005 by Tobias
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Google Sitemaps Knowledge Base ·
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Author: The Google Sitemaps Group
Last Update: December 10, 2005 Web Feed