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Sitemaps are equally essential for search engines as well as your websites. It gives search engines a quick and easy way to understand the structure and content of your website.One of the most important SEO practice is creating and updating your xml sitemap.
Creating and updating an XML sitemap is a crucial but underutilized SEO practice. Sitemaps are essential for both search engines and your websites.
Sitemaps provide search engines with a simple and direct approach to learn about the structure and content of your website.
XML sitemaps also contain some essential meta information, such as:
However, there are some best practices for making the most of a sitemap. Ready to learn how to optimize XML sitemaps?
The following 13 best practices can help you optimize your SEO strategy.
Generating a sitemap is not a big deal when you have the right tools, like auditing software with a built-in XML sitemap generator, popular plugins like Google XML Sitemaps or overall best San SEO Tools XML Sitemap generator.
For Yoast SEO users who have WordPress websites can enable XML Sitemaps right in the plugin. You might also manually generate a sitemap by adhering to the XML sitemap code structure. Technically, a text file with a new line separating each URL will do; an XML sitemap is not even required.
It's far simpler to just let a tool handle it for you since you will need to produce a comprehensive XML sitemap if you want to use the hreflang attribute.
From your Google Search Console, you can submit your sitemap to Google.
Crawl > Sitemaps > Add Test Sitemap can be accessed from your dashboard.
Check your sitemap for problems that can prevent important landing pages from being indexed before clicking "Submit Sitemap" and viewing the results.
The number of pages indexed should ideally match the number of pages submitted.
Please keep in mind that while submitting your sitemap informs Google about the pages you believe are of good quality and worthy of indexation, it does not guarantee that they will be indexed.
Rather, the benefits of submitting your sitemap are:
Help Google understand the layout of your website.
Find errors so you may fix them and make sure your pages are properly indexed.
Remember Site quality is a major ranking factor.
Even though the sites are required for your site, such login pages, if your sitemap points bots to hundreds of low-quality pages, search engines will read this as a hint that your website is probably not one people will want to visit.
Instead, make an effort to guide bots toward your website's most important pages.
These pages should be:
If Google Search Console doesn't index all of your pages, it can be annoying because it doesn't let you know which pages are troublesome.
You won't be informed of the 5,000 "problem pages," for instance, if you submit 20,000 pages but only 15,000 of them are indexed.
This is especially true for huge e-commerce sites with numerous pages for items that are quite identical.
Michael Cottam, an SEO consultant, has written a helpful guide for isolating issue pages.
He advises dividing product pages into many XML sitemaps and evaluating each one separately.
Create sitemaps to support theories like "pages that don’t have product images aren’t getting indexed" or "pages without unique copy aren’t getting indexed."
Once you've isolated the primary issues, you can either try to resolve them or mark those pages as "noindex" to prevent your site's overall quality from being affected.
The Index Coverage section of Google Search Console was updated in 2018.
Particularly, a list of problematic pages and an explanation of why Google isn't indexing certain URLs are now available.
Use the "link rel=canonical" element to notify Google which page is the "primary" one it should crawl and index when you have numerous sites that are strikingly identical, such as product pages for different colors of the same item.
If you don't include sites with canonical URLs pointing at other pages, bots will have an easier time finding important pages.
Use the meta robots "noindex,follow" tag to prevent a page from being indexed.
It's especially helpful for utility pages that are crucial to your website but shouldn't appear in search results as it stops Google from indexing the page while maintaining your link equity.
Robots.txt should only be used to block pages when your crawl budget is running low.
Use robots.txt if you see that Google is indexing and re-crawling relatively unimportant pages (such particular product pages) at the expense of vital pages.
On large websites, it's almost tough to keep up with all of your meta robots.
Instead, create rules that will dictate when a page is added to your XML sitemap and/or when it is changed from noindex to "index, follow."
To create a dynamic XML sitemap, there are detailed instructions available, but again, using a tool that generates dynamic sitemaps for you will make this step much simpler.
Search engines are notified by RSS/Atom feeds whenever you change a page or add new content to your website.
For search engines to understand which sites should be indexed and updated, Google advises using both sitemaps and RSS/Atom feeds.
Search engines and users will locate new content more quickly if you only include recently updated content in your RSS/Atom feeds.
Didn't make any significant changes to your page but altering your modification time, don't try to fool search engines into re-indexing pages. Google might start deleting your date stamps if they're consistently updated without adding anything new.
Speaking of squandered crawl budget, certain pages that aren't approved for indexing by search engine robots have no business being in your sitemap.
You are simultaneously telling Google "it's highly important that you index this page" and "you're not permitted to index this page" when you submit a sitemap that contains blocked and "noindex" sites.
Consistency issues are a common oversight.
The "Priority" column in certain Sitemaps apparently helps search engines which sites are most crucial. However, there has been much controversy over whether this feature actually functions.
Google's Gary Illyes tweeted back in 2017 that the crawler ignores priority settings.
Google's Gary Illyes said :
we ignore those. It's essentially a bag of noise
from Sunnyvale, CA·Twitter for iPhone
Your sitemap should be as small as possible to reduce server load.
The maximum amount of sitemap files that Google and Bing will accept has been increased from 10 MB to 50 MB, with 50,000 URLs per sitemap.
While most websites can get by with this, certain webmasters may need to divide their pages into two or more sitemaps.
For instance, if your online store has 200,000 pages, you'll need to make five different sitemaps to accommodate everything.
Bear in mind that not all websites require a sitemap.
Google can fairly accurately find and index your pages.
Mueller claims that a sitemap by itself does not benefit everyone equally in terms of SEO.
In general, a sitemap is not really necessary if your website is a portfolio or one-pager or if it is an organization website that you rarely update.
A sitemap is still a fantastic approach to provide information to Google, though, if you frequently post new material and want it to be indexed as soon as possible or if you operate an e-commerce website with thousands of pages.
Relevant SEO Tools by San SEO Tools: