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A sitemap is a way to organize a website while identifying the URLs and data under each section. The XML document contains instructions for search engine bots.
Also, a sitemap can be defined as a diagrammatic representation that shows how subpages are arranged beneath the parent groupings. This kind of diagram forms a map of a site. This map is an XML file which enables search engine bots to index a site. Sitemaps can also be defined as a demonstration of the navigation layout and how content is organized on a website.
The best way to help Google find your website’s pages is to create a Sitemap. With its help, you can show the search bots how your site’s pages are organized and which ones are the most important and relevant.
A sitemap.xml file is located in the root directory of a site. There you can specify the URLs, the priority of their scanning, the date of the last update, the availability of other language versions, etc. You can also add additional information, depending on the type of content. For example, you can specify a video’s duration, rating, or age limit.
All the elements are marked with special tags, which visually resemble HTML code.
Usually, if web pages are properly linked, search engine crawlers are able to discover most parts of the site. However, if you have a sitemap, it makes crawling easier and more efficient. Let’s look at some instances where you need sitemaps:
Sitemap is one way to speed up their indexing. Otherwise, you might have to wait for a long time until the search engines pay attention to your pages. You will also need a Sitemap if you have a lot of multimedia or news-related content or even a large archive of pages that are not interlinked.
However, don’t think that a Sitemap is unimportant if your website doesn’t fall into any of these categories. Even though Google, in its documentation, offers a list of sites that may not need a Sitemap, we consider it a must-have component of a successful promotion.
A Sitemap offers the following benefits:
To avoid problems associated with the use of a Sitemap by search engine crawlers, you should adhere to the following rules:
We will look at different options for creating sitemaps below:
If you use a Content Management System like WordPress, you can generate sitemaps automatically via the help of plugins like Yoast SEO.
We will focus on how to add a sitemap to WordPress via Yoast SEO. When you use this plugin, the sitemap index is updated automatically as you add or remove content. The post types that you want to be indexed are also included. Note that post types marked “noindex” will not appear in the sitemap.
To create your sitemap using Yoast:
The SEO settings expand to give you more options.
This will activate the XML sitemap.
The SEO settings expand to give you more options.
Using All in One SEO, you’ll need to go to All in One SEO > Feature Manager and Activate the XML Sitemaps.
The XML Sitemap will then appear in the All in One SEO settings.
Depending on your site needs, you can click on the help ? icon to learn more on what you can do for each settings. We recommend leaving the check on for:
Wix sites have sitemaps that are dynamically generated on their server, and they automatically update when pages or content is added or removed from your site. These sitemaps are not editable.
All Shopify stores have an automatically generated sitemap.xml file. The file contains links to all products, pages, blog posts, product images, and collections. You’ll need to locate your sitemap file at the root directory of your store’s primary domain name (for example, suescollection.com/sitemap.xml) and then submit it to Google Search Console. We will look at this process a bit later in the article.
At this point, it helps to review your sitemaps as any problem on your site is summarized. You may, for instance, find an issue like broken links. Let’s explore this a bit. Broken links can actually prevent your website from being totally indexed, as search engines see them as dead ends. Broken links suggest there is no more information, while in essence, the information is just inaccessible. Broken links can also be detrimental to a site’s reputation and increase your bounce rates.
It's a good idea to check for errors in your XML file and validate the sitemap before you submit to Google.
Make the Sitemap available for search engines
For that, you need to:
Once you uploaded your sitemap to your website. You then need to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console. Submitting to Bing Webmaster Tools is also a good idea.
Here is how to do:
You have just uploaded your sitemap to your root directory. The location of your sitemap should be https://mywebsite.com/sitemap.xml.
To upload it to Google Search Console, you need to log in to Search Console, go to “Index” then select “sitemaps.” Click “add/test Sitemap.” Enter the URL of the sitemap. Click “Submit”\
To register your sitemap with Bing Webmaster Tools, confirm that the XML sitemap that you uploaded to your site was indeed successful and that the URL loads.
Your sitemap should not direct search engine bots to low-quality pages as it could be considered a sign of a site with minimal value to visitors. Prioritize highly optimized pages, images, videos, unique content, and other pages that prompt user engagement on your sitemap.
Always test your sitemap before you submit it to ensure that any errors are resolved.
Here is how to test your sitemap:
If you have used the rel=canonical tag to differentiate pages that are very similar, then only include these on your sitemap. If you have not used the tag, you need to use it to distinguish pages that are similar (e.g., product pages) and only use the canonical version in your sitemap moving forward.
When your sitemap is small, it will not strain your server. The size of sitemaps was increased to 50 MB by Google and Bing.
Using a sitemap does not mean that you need to index each and every page. Pages such as thank you pages should not be indexed even if they are listed on the sitemap. You should use the meta robots “noindex, follow” tag to preserve your link equity even if that particular page will not be indexed.
There are times when you can use robots.txt to block pages. One such instance is when your crawl budget is quickly used up. What is a crawl budget? It is the number of times a search engine bot crawls your site within a particular time frame. If your site gets crawled 32 times a day, for instance, there is a possibility that you have a monthly crawl budget of 960 times.
You can see your crawl budget under “crawl stats” in the search console.
If you do not want certain pages to be crawled, it makes more sense to avoid including them in the sitemap rather than adding a “noindex” tag. This tag sends out conflicting information to the search engine bot, suggesting that the page should both be and not be indexed. This inconsistency wastes your crawl budget.
If your site is quite large, you need to set up some rules that will help determine when a page can be included in your sitemap, or changed from “noindex” to “indexfollow.” It may help to use a tool to generate a dynamic XML Sitemap.
RSS/Atom Feeds help with notifying search engines when content is updated on your site and make it easier for both search engines and users to access fresh content.
Sitemaps make it easier for search engines to index and crawl your site. They also make it easier for users to navigate your site. This way, when you update content, both search engines and users will easily find the new material. What does this mean? That you are more likely to have a good ranking and high sight reputation, resulting in more and new visitors as well as conversions.