What is an XML Sitemap?
Every business strives to rank number one on search engines, and that means improving, changing, and updating your SEO strategy with each new trend. One constant is the fact that bots determine your rank by crawling your site. This means they crawl each site for the information they deem relevant to users and then index the page accordingly. As a non-bot, we can help crawlers speed up the indexing process with an XML sitemap. In layman’s terms, a sitemap is a list of your website’s URLs, a blueprint including each page. This list will tell search engines when the page was updated, how often the page gets updated, and how important the page is in relation to the website as a whole.
With a sitemap, crawlers can index your pages with just one visit to the XML sitemap, as opposed to crawling multiple pages through internal links. A sitemap is especially useful if your website:
- Has an extensive layout and a lot of pages
- Routinely adds new pages or makes changes to existing content
- Lacks strong internal and external linking
- Has orphan pages, or pages that are not obvious to find through the main navigation
Create an XML Sitemap
XML stands for extensible markup language; elements in the document are defined by tags. For example:
- To show where the page is located on the website (URL), use <loc>[URL]</loc>
- To show when the page was last changed, use <lastmod>2019-09-01</lastmod>
- To show how often the page is changed, use <changefreq>daily</changefreq>
- To prioritize the page in relation to other pages on the website, use <priority>2</priority>
If you decide to create an XML sitemap manually, there are a couple of limitations to consider:
- Your sitemap should contain no more than 50,000 URLs. If it does, you’ll have to create multiple sitemaps.
- Your sitemap file should be no larger than 50MB.
Thankfully, there are easier ways to generate an XML sitemap. If you use WordPress, you can create a sitemap directly in the Yoast SEO plugin. There are also similar options for Drupal. Once you’ve created the sitemap, submit it to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
How Does This Improve Your SEO?
An XML sitemap tells bots which pages to prioritize, and that doesn’t necessarily mean every site of your page is included. In fact, any pages you don’t want to be indexed use the “noindex, follow” tag. Pages like:
- Non-canonical pages
- Duplicate pages
- Paginated pages
- Archive pages
- Parameter-based URLs
- Search result pages
- Reply to comment URLs
Think about the pages listed in your main navigation, and the most important pages to your users, specifically those where conversions take place. With a sitemap, you can help crawlers index SEO relevant pages quickly and efficiently.
SEO trends are constantly changing, and search engines update to bring users the specific information they’re looking for. That’s why we try to stay in the know. We create a backend that makes sitemap generation (and SEO, in general) easy and approachable. Talk to us about a free consultation or improving your website’s backend.