XML sitemaps serve a very important purpose for Search Engine Optimisation which facilitates indexation. An XML sitemap basically gives crawlers preferred routes through the website of any business. This guide will help you in the creation of XML sitemaps for SEO. It will help you ensure that the crawlers have optimum information about the most important pages in your website.
Sitemap is a navigational guide for a website which informs users and search engines about the structure of the whole website. The creation of xml sitemaps for SEO is especially useful when a website has a lot of webpages. The XML sitemap is basically a file on your website which provides a list of URLs. These URLS help search engines to understand organisation and structure when the website is crawled.
Types of sitemaps
- User Sitemaps: A sitemap for users is a HTML page which contains links to all the web pages in your website. This explains the structure of your website in a section-wise manner which allows users to locate content easily.
- Search engine sitemaps: A sitemap for search engines is in the XML format and helps search engine crawlers to understand site structure. Crawlers can easily index new or modified pages with the help of an xml sitemap.
Read about some common SEO crawl errors and how to fix them, in our blog: COMMON SEO CRAWL ERRORS AND HOW TO FIX THEM.
Benefits of having a sitemap
Having the sitemap does not really affect rankings of a page and it’s not essential to have one. Neither does it mean that the pages mentioned in the sitemap will be indexed. This is because sitemaps signal to crawlers that the URLs mentioned are important and need to be considered for indexation. But having an XML sitemap can help search engine crawlers to understand website structure in a better way. A sitemap helps recently updated pages to be crawled easily. These also help crawlers to find important URLs in websites with complicated website structure. All this can help in better indexation and increase the website visibility. Sitemap is especially important for new websites or websites which have undergone migration.
How to create XML sitemap
In the case of small websites, creation of xml sitemaps for SEO can be done manually. All you have to do is create a text file in notepad with the format of an XML sitemap and save it as sitemap.xml. Then post it to the root of the site. For large sites or websites which change quite frequently, plugins can be used to generate sitemap file which will update when URLs are added. At times most of the hosting providers offer sitemap generation. In case the hosting provider does not offer sitemaps, you can use a sitemap generator or install a plugin.
Read about the 6 best SEO plugins for WordPress: 6 BEST SEO PLUGINS FOR WORDPRESS.
Submission of sitemaps to search engines
- How to submit a sitemap on Google: In the Google search console, click on Crawl > Sitemaps on the left hand menu. Click Add/ Test sitemap which is present in the top right-hand corner.
- Bing Webmaster sitemap submission: In the dashboard of Webmaster Tools, look for the sitemap widget and click ‘submit a sitemap’. Enter the location and click submit.
You can also submit and manage sitemaps from the sitemaps feature in the Webmaster Tools. It is located in the ‘configure my site’ section. To submit a sitemap from the sitemaps feature, first enter the URL of the site map and click submit. To know about mobile first indexing SEO, read our blog: ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MOBILE FIRST INDEXING SEO.
Tips for creating better sitemaps
- To help prevent duplicate content issues only include Canonical URLs in the sitemaps. If the sitemap contains extra URLs which are not canonicalized, it can have a negative effect.
- Last modified tag allows you to specify the timestamp when the URL was last updated. The last modified date can be used to speed up crawling of new URLs. This is because this tag signals to crawler that the page might have new content to be crawled. Using the lastmod tag is especially useful for websites which have a lot of URLs.
- Remember to encode sitemap files in UTF-8. Escape codes must be added so that there are no errors.
The creation of XML sitemaps for SEO helps crawlers understand important URLs within a website. While making sitemaps, it is important that the URLs are correctly formatted and are within the size limits. Check sitemap for errors, run tests regularly and investigate for any missing pages. This will aid the bots better while crawling and indexing your website.