An XML sitemap is basically a text file containing a list of your website URLs, and it is meant to allow search engines to consume all meaningful pages of your online portal. XML sitemaps are great for search engine optimization because they help Google (and, surely, other search machines) to quickly find the necessary pages on your web resource even if internal links do not work perfectly (or there are no any at all). In this article, we will speculate on the importance of XML sitemaps and how having one might help you get a higher position on Google. Houston Web Company
An XML Sitemap In Plain Words
When you want to launch a new site for the World Wide Web, you definitely hope that Google will index all important pages this site will ultimately have. However, very often website pages come without internal linking, which makes them tough to be found by the Google crawler. This is where an XML sitemap comes to the stage. It is a list of all website pages you want to be shown in Google search results. Houston Web Company
Sitemap allows Google to discover and index all relevant pages on your website and let the search engine understand that your online site is well-structured. And you know, a good structure helps web crawlers read, index, and display your web pages faster, thus, increasing your chances of ranking higher in search results.Houston Web Company
An example of an XML sitemap
As depicted in the screenshot above, an XML sitemap can show several “indexing” sitemaps such as post-sitemap.xml, page-sitemap.xml, portfolio-sitemap.xml, and more. Such categorization ensures a clear and comprehensive website’s structure. Clicking on one of these URLs will show all URLs which are included in a given sitemap. For instance, clicking on post-sitemap.xml will activate a popping-up list with URLs of all posts that are currently available on the website. Houston Web Company
You, probably, noticed that each line ends up with a datestamp. The date tells search engines when the content on this page was added/last updated. This also helps with SEO because it allows web robots to quickly crawl into your changed content. A modified date in the XML sitemap makes Google aware that there is new content on your site to read, understand, and index.Houston Web Company
One XML sitemap cannot include more than 500.000 links at once, but larger websites (for example, online marketplaces) often contain much more URLs to scan and index. For such cases, it is better to get more than one XML sitemap for your website. Shorter sitemaps are analyzed by search engines much faster. The size of one XML sitemap should not exceed 10 MB. Houston Web Company
What websites cannot go without an XML sitemap?
Google’s documentation states that getting an XML sitemap is imperative for:
- E-commerce sites and marketplaces
- Websites with heavy archives
- Online platforms containing rich media content (articles, videos)
- New websites with just a few external links
It is fair to assume that every website can benefit from XML sitemaps because every single website is a business, and for every business, it is crucially important to be quickly found on Google.
Which pages should an XML sitemap contain?
Deciding which pages should be inserted in your XML sitemap is quite a challenge. First of all, you need to critically evaluate the significance of a particular URL: do want an online surfer to land precisely on this page of your site? Will landing on that URL bring any positive result for your online platform? If your answer is NO, then you, probably, should not include such a link in your XML sitemap. Houston Web Company
There is also another scenario when you DO NOT WANT a particular page to be displayed in the search results. In such a case, you need to add a “noindex, follow” tag in your sitemap. Search engines are very clever and understand that not every page on the website must be landing (such as “Create an Account”, “Contact us”, etc). This means that having a “noindex, follow” tag in your sitemap will not impact your ranking in general search results.Houston Web Company
Use case 1: A new blog
Suppose you are creating an online blog. You definitely will want the Google bot to quickly scan, index, and show up new posts in the search results and, consequently, lead traffic to your blog. So it will not hurt if you obtain an XML sitemap a few days into your blog. To begin with, you may concoct a couple of first categories into which your articles will be divided into as well as some tags. Houston Web Company
However, your blog will hardly boast enough content from the first days of its online existence to fill the tag overview pages. This may be regarded by Google as “thin content” which brings no value to a reader. In such a situation, you should not specify the tag’s links in the sitemap. Instead, you can set the tag pages to “noindex, follow” because you do not want online users to find them in search results, at least, for now. Houston Web Company
Use case 2: Media and pictures
For most online resources, it is not necessarily to have a separate “media” or “image” XML sitemap. Since pictures are already included in pages and in posts on your site, they will by default be added to your “post” or “page” XML sitemap. So there is no point in creating a special “media” or “image” XML sitemap unless your business does not revolve around images or media content. If it is, say, a photographer’s personal blog, then having a “media” or “image” XML sitemap will be imperative if you want Google to accept the site.
How can your sitemap be found on Google?
Adding your sitemap to your Webmaster Console account on Google will command the search engine to rush to your XML sitemap and immediately scan it for further indexation. You can do this as shown below:
In the “Sitemaps” section, you can see whether your XML sitemap has been already added. If not, you can do it by yourself by choosing the appropriate options at the top of the screen:
How an XML sitemap is added to Google Search Console
As you see from above, including your XML sitemap to your account on Google Search Console allows you to check if Google has indexed all links in your sitemap. If the number of “submitted” and actually “indexing” links of a particular sitemap does not coincide, there could be an error which prevents some links from being indexed by Google. This also may indicate that your online platform does not have enough content so far, or that links pointing to the website pages have not been indexed yet.
We hope, now you understand the true value of an XML sitemap for your website search engine optimization. Such a sitemap allows Google to quickly scan the relevant pages and posts on your website and display them in search results. An XML sitemap also lets Google see which content on the site was updated so that the search machine will understand when a link needs to be crawled again. And finally, including your XML sitemap in your Search Console account on Google will enable the search robot to discover your sitemap quicker, while you will be able to inspect your XML sitemap for bugs.