A good XML sitemap will act as a guide to your website that leads Google to your most important pages. This can be really helpful for improving SEO. In fact, sitemaps are one of the best SEO tactics for producing great results with minimal effort. Although site mapping is part of “technical SEO,” it is much easier than you’d think. You don’t need to be a master web developer to do it!
So, what is a sitemap? In this article, we will discuss what a sitemap is and the benefits of XML sitemap SEO. We will also go over how to submit your sitemap to Google. With just a few easy steps, you’ll be on your way to improving your SEO.
Table of Contents
What is a Sitemap?
XML stands for “Extensible Markup Language.” This is a technical way of describing how information is displayed on websites. An XML sitemap is a file that lists all of a website’s most important pages. It maps the structure of a website and the pages included inside it. This is why it is called a “sitemap.” This function makes it easier for search engine crawlers to find your site and crawl your pages. To increase your site’s placement in search engine results, you want Google to be able to crawl the most important pages. However, issues with internal links can sometimes make this difficult.
Types of Sitemaps
#1: Sitemap Index
Website sitemaps have some limitations with file size and the number of URLs. They can be compressed, but still can’t exceed the limit. If you do exceed it, you’ll need to split your site map into multiple files. These files can then be combined into one large sitemap index file.
#2: Image Sitemap
Image sitemaps were designed to help crawlers index images. However, images are now embedded into a page’s content. This means that they will be crawled along with all of the other content on a page. As a result, image sitemaps are not necessary for most websites. The only time they might be valuable is if your website is driven by images (like if you are a stock photo website).
#3: Video Sitemap
The same thing goes for video sitemaps. They were created to help index video content, but this is also usually embedded into a page. Most websites will not need to use these types of maps. However, if videos are a critical part of your business, go ahead and use a video sitemap. If not, it will not hurt you to leave it out.
#4: Google News Sitemap
Only websites that are registered with Google News are able to use this kind of sitemap. If this applies to your website, then it is a good idea to add one to your site. Be sure to only include news from the last two days and keep this updated. In addition, try to keep it under 1,000 URLs per map.
#5: Mobile Sitemap
Once again, this kind of sitemap is not needed for most websites. This is because mobile sitemaps are for feature phone pages only. They do not provide smartphone compatibility. The only time you might want to use this type of map is if you have pages that are built for featured phones. Otherwise, you don’t need it.
#6: HTML Sitemap
While XML maps help search engines, HTML sitemaps help human users find content. If your site has a good UX design and quality links, then you probably don’t need an HTML sitemap. You can always check the HTML sitemap section of your Google Analytics dashboard to see how often people actually use it.
#7: Dynamic Sitemap
Static sitemaps are easy to create. However, they quickly become outdated. Dynamic sitemaps, on the other hand, are automatically updated by your server to reflect any changes you make to your website. They may be a bit more complicated to make, but they are often worth it. In the end, a dynamic sitemap and a sitemap index are usually all you will need for your website.
What Websites Need an XML Sitemap?
According to Google, sitemaps are helpful for very large websites, websites with large archives, and newer websites with few external links. While it’s true that these kinds of websites will see a bigger return from using a sitemap, they can be beneficial for any kind of website. Any chance to improve SEO for a website is a good thing. Even more importantly, if you don’t use a sitemap, your website could be seen as having duplicate content. This can definitely hurt your chances of improving your place in search engine results.
SEO Benefits of an XML Sitemap
There are numerous benefits to having a sitemap for your website. No matter what size your website is, a sitemap can help Google to understand it better. Improving the way that Google understands your site is just one of the many benefits of using sitemaps. The other most important benefits of having a sitemap include:
- It helps Google find and index your website.
- It tells Google exactly what to crawl on your website.
- The website sitemap tells Google what information is on your site.
- It also tells Google when your content was last updated.
- It lets Google know how often you update your content.
- The sitemap also helps your website gain indexation for dynamically generated sites.
- Sitemaps can improve sites with internal linking issues.
- It can provide a boost in SEO for sites with weak external links.
- It helps larger sites stay organized.
How to Create Your Own XML Sitemap
Creating your own website sitemaps is not as complicated as you might think. There are many different websites and tools online that can help you as well. The steps might vary a bit based on what platform you’re using. However, the 5 steps listed here are pretty universal.
#1: Review Your Page Structure
The first step in the process is to review the structure of your website. After you have an idea of how your website and its pages are currently set up, you can look at a sitemap template. The template will show you how your sitemap will be structured.
#2: Code Your URLs
The next step is to code your URLs. The best way to do this is to format each one with an XML tag. If you have experience with HTML, this will be no problem for you. If not, there are many different programs that can help you do this.
#3: Validate Your Code
Any time you code, there is a chance for errors. However, for your sitemap to work, there can’t be any errors in the code. Fortunately, there are tons of tools out there that can scan your code to look for errors. Run a quick search for these tools and you can find something to help you.
#4: Add Sitemap to Your Root Folder
Next, locate your website’s root folder. Once you’ve found it, you will need to add your sitemap to it. Doing this will add this page to your website as well. Don’t worry, you won’t need to do anything about this. In fact, many websites include a sitemap page.
#5: Submit Your Sitemap
The last step is to submit your sitemap to Google. This will help to make sure that Google is able to find your website and crawl it much easier. The process is easy and it will produce some great results. In the section below, we’ll go into this step in more detail.
How to Submit Your Sitemap to Google
If you want to direct Google to your XML sitemap even faster, you’ll need to add it to your Google Search Console. You can do so by going to Google Search Console and selecting your website. From here, you need to get to the “Sitemaps” tab. Here you can see if your website sitemap is already there. If it isn’t, you can add it very easily. All you need to do is click “Add a new sitemap” and enter the URL where you saved your map. Make sure it ends with “.xml” because it is an XML file. Then click “Submit.” That’s it!
Now Google will have a much easier time locating and indexing your website. It’s also a good idea to check your sitemap regularly using the “Sitemap Report.” If there is a large difference in the number of pages submitted versus the number of pages indexed, you may have a problem. Check to make sure there is not an error preventing some pages from being found. However, if everything looks good, then you are well on your way to improved SEO.
XML Sitemap SEO
XML sitemap SEO is a great option for websites of all sizes. Having a well-made sitemap can help Google find your website. It will also help Google to know what content to crawl and which pages are the most important. For even more help improving your website, check out SEO Design Chicago. Their talented team of web developers and designers can provide a host of front-end and back-end services. They will work with you to create a fully optimized website that benefits your site and its visitors!
- What is an XML sitemap?
- Do I need an XML sitemap?
- What are the benefits of having an XML sitemap?
- How do you submit your sitemap to Google?
- What are the SEO benefits of having a sitemap?