In this paper, we propose an efficient encoding and labeling scheme for XML, called EXEL, which is a variant of the region labeling scheme using ordinal and insert-friendly bit strings. We devise a binary encoding method to generate the ordinal bit strings, and an algorithm to make a new bit string inserted between bit strings without any influences on the order of preexisting bit strings. These binary encoding method and bit string insertion algorithm are the bases of the efficient query processing and the complete avoidance of re-labeling for updates. We present query processing and update processing methods based on EXEL. In addition, the Stack-Tree-Desc algorithm is used for an efficient structural join, and the String B-tree indexing is utilized to improve the join performance. Finally, the experimental results show that EXEL enables complete avoidance of re-labeling for updates while providing fairly reasonable query processing performance. (C) 2008 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.