A sitemap is a list of all the individual pages your website includes. It helps Google robots understand your site. When it comes to users, it can streamline navigation and improve UX. What exactly is it and how does sitemap affect SEO? Keep reading!
Sitemap SEO is a file embedded in your website that helps the search engines index each piece of your content. Thanks to it, Google can understand what your website is all about.
What about users?
Visitors can use your sitemap page (HTML sitemap) to navigate the website easily and click through your pages.
Sitemap contains information about your pages, subpages, and other files such as videos and images.
Are Sitemaps Important for SEO?
Sitemaps are essential for SEO - especially as an XML files.
They make the indexing and crawling process easier for search engine robots. Thanks to it, Google can locate your pages and rank each one of them accordingly.
Is there any situation when sitemaps are particularly useful?
Yes! If you run an e-commerce or a dynamic website, a sitemap can streamline indexing. Apart from that, it’ll help you organize and structure your website content.
Sitemap SEO Best Practices
How can you help Google analyze your website?
By creating a transparent and correct sitemap! To do it, you should think about priorities.
Check out our list of the best practices:
Prioritize your pages - the higher you place a given URL in the sitemap, the more frequently search engine robots will visit it. You can add priority in the sitemap format like this: <priority>0.8</priority> Think about your dynamic pages and content you update on a regular basis. Place pages like “contact” or “terms and services” at the end of the list with low priority (you’ll save the crawl budget for other pages).
Organize your content - help Google robots understand and categorize your page content. Apart from improving your sitemap, this will also allow users to easily navigate the website.
Don’t include pages with the no-index tag - if you use this tag, it means that you want to prevent Google from seeing specific pages. So, there is no point in including such pages in the sitemap. Thanks to it, you’ll save your crawl budget.
Submit the sitemap to Google Search Console - this will help Google robots understand your page content and structure better. It doesn’t mean that all pages will be indexed, but it shows Google your personal ranking of pages that are the most important (as a suggestion to index).
How to submit the sitemap to GSC? Follow these steps:
Log into your account
Go to “Index”
Click “Sitemap” located in the sidebar
Enter your sitemap’s page URL into the “Add a sitemap” field
If you don’t have a Google Search Console account yet, or if you don’t have time to create a sitemap and send it, you can work with a technical SEO company who will help you with that!
How to Create a Sitemap Structure for SEO?
If you use WordPress as your content management system (CMS), you can create a SEO sitemap with the help of the above-mentioned Yoast SEO plugin.
What does it do?
It creates a dynamic sitemap that is updated automatically. For instance, if you add a new page – a product page, or a blog post, the link will be immediately added to the sitemap.
What if you don’t use WordPress? No worries, you can benefit from an excellent third-party sitemap generator such as the XML-Sitemaps.com. The tool is intuitive and will guide you through the process.
Once your sitemap for SEO is created, remember to submit it to Google Search Console.
What Should Be Included in a Sitemap?
A sitemap for SEO created with the use of dedicated tools and generators includes all the media, web pages, archives, posts, and tags on your site. However, these are only basic elements.
Below you can see some essential things that should be included in the sitemap:
Sub-sitemaps (if your page is expanded) to organize the file and help search engine robots to process it.
The “last modification time” field to inform Google how fresh or old your page is.
Tip: It’s advisable to create a separate sitemap with video content. Remember to include only URLs that are accessible to Google. Forget about pages that have been marked with the no-index tags or are password-protected.
Types of Sitemaps in SEO
There are two main types of sitemaps:
1. HTML Sitemap Format
This type of sitemap is for users and Google.
It is created using the Hypertext Markup Language. It contains information about your website resources and their locations. It helps your website visitors find what they’re looking for easily.
Remember: Proper internal linking structure of the HTML sitemap can improve your website positions in the SERPs.
2. XML Sitemap Format
This type of sitemap is for Google and others website crawlers.
It is created using the Extensible Markup Language with the official schema protocol. It’s a language that contains information about items within an organized template. This format is understandable to both human readers and search engine robots.
Also, there are two types of XML sitemaps:
index sitemap - determines the number of URL sitemaps your website has.
URL sitemap - contains the information about all URLs of your website.
XML sitemaps can feature video sitemaps, image sitemaps, and page sitemaps.
Do You Need Multiple Sitemaps?
The short answer to this question is no.
Multiple sitemaps are only recommended for websites that exceed the official size limitations of a single sitemap file: one sitemap file can contain a maximum of 50,000 URLs and must be no larger than 50MB.
What does it mean?
If you have a small site, you don’t need to create a new sitemap if you update your page content or introduce new subpages!
Do You Need to Submit a Sitemap to Google?
Why is it important?
If you don’t do it, Google robots may access only parts of your website. In this case, the amount of indexed content is determined mainly by your internal linking.
Moreover, if you don’t submit the sitemap, the search engine robots may take a long time to crawl your page.
Submitting the sitemap to Google Search Console makes the process easier and more efficient.
Sitemap SEO - The Takeaway
Creating a well-structured sitemap can support the SEO process and benefit your website in a number of ways.
It may boost important parameters like the click-through rate, search traffic, and conversions. Apart from that, organizing your page content streamlines navigation. This has a positive impact on UX!
We understand that sitemaps and SEO are completely different website success factors.
Combining them will allow you to achieve even greater results. Although we have been in the business for years, we realize that sitemaps can give many people sleepless nights.
If you want to get ahead of your competitors, consult specialists who will help you create a user and SEO-friendly sitemap!
This is an update of an article published in 2019.
Managing Partner, has been building Delante since 2014. Responsible for international SEO strategies. He has a strong analytical approach to online marketing backed by more than 12 years of experience. Previously associated with the IT industry, as well as the automotive, tobacco, and financial markets. Has experience in creating scaled processes based on agile methodologies.
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