XML Sitemap: Everything You Need to Know
By better understanding how your website is structured and which URLs should be indexed by the search robot, you create more efficient communication with Google
Do you know what a Sitemap is and why it’s so important for your site to have one?
This is a very important subject for SEO. If you don’t know its role yet or haven’t implemented one on your site yet, it’s a good idea to follow these tips.
Before starting, let’s understand in general what a Sitemap is and what it is for. Keep reading the article!
What is Sitemap
Sitemap is literally a map of your site on which you tell Google and other search engine robots which pages you want to index and store on their servers. It’s a simple XML file, which can’t be more than 50,000 URLs (and 10MB).
When you make a map, the intention is ultimately to make the site more tangible to Google. The intention is for him to be able to understand the existing structure within your website so that he can search your content more effectively.
By better understanding how your website is structured and which URLs should preferably be indexed by the search robot, you create more efficient communication with Google and give preference to it prioritizing the pages that are listed within this file.
Why Create an XML Sitemap: The Benefits for Your Business
Make sure all pages can be indexed
Pages that receive few links or are not very accessible (are many clicks away from the main pages) may end up not being identified and indexed by Google. Having these pages on the Sitemap is a guarantee that the search engine knows of the existence of this content and can index it and present it as a search result.
This is even more important for new sites (which received few links) or sites with dynamic content.
Help search engines understand the structure of the site and better index the content
Sitemap information helps search engines get to know your site better. This can help them with things like selecting the main page in case of duplicate content or identifying the top pages by choosing a more suitable calendar for crawling.
An interesting option is that your company can add tags and give “suggestions” of priority and frequency for each page. The latest change date also helps tell Google which content should be reread.
Give a positive sign of trust
Creating and submitting the Sitemap signals to search engines that you are a concerned webmaster and are investing in the quality of your site. This works as a positive sign of trust/authority and can help with rankings.
What is the format/extension of a Sitemap?
It is important to talk about this subject before further discussing the topic. When you finish a Sitemap, what format should this file be saved in?
There is confusion and many people think that there is only one Sitemap format, when in fact there are other options as well. The most common is actually the XML format, but let’s start by talking about other options.
A TXT Sitemap is the most basic, and most likely you won’t need a programmer or any application to create it.
All you need to do in this option is simply list all the URLs for your website that you would like to communicate to Google. The search engine will then access the pages, viewing and indexing them on its server.
Simple as that: the only choice you have to make is, when saving this file, choose a TXT format.
Another type of format is your website feed. This is very common on blogs where you can use the news feed link itself as if it were a Sitemap.
However, it is not recommended that this be the only Sitemap option on your site. The news feed communicates only the most recent posts. So, it’s interesting that you have a complete map that lists the entire structure of your site, not just new updates.
Finally, the most famous format of all, Sitemap XML. In this option, you can, in addition to listing the URL that you would like Google to visit, put some more information such as the modification date of the URLs and the priority of a page compared to others.
If you don’t know how to create XML manually, there are several tools – free and paid – that do this quickly and dynamically, such as XML-Sitemaps.com.
These are just two reasons why they make XML not only the best known and most used format but also the most efficient option.
How to create your Sitemap the easiest and fastest way
There are some tools that make creating Sitemaps a lot easier. If your website/blog uses the WordPress platform, just install a plugin like Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps or Yoast SEO itself, which also has a feature to generate this type of file.
For other sites, you can use Google Sitemap Generator, from Google itself. Downloading the tool helps a lot in creating a map from scratch.
Finally, you can create the file manually, as a document in XML format. All formatting instructions can be found on this page of sitemap.org.
Where should the Sitemap be
The Sitemap must be hosted on your server, in the same subfolder as the URLs indicated in it.
For example, we can use a general map for the entire Digital Results, as we do at https://resultadosdigitais.com.br/sitemap_index.xml, or we could create specific Sitemaps for each part of the site and place it in an address such as https ://resultadosdigitais.com.br/blog/sitemap.xml.
Types of Sitemaps
Arriving here, it’s time to go deeper into the subject. It’s good to understand that there is no single type of Sitemap. A lot of people don’t know, but there isn’t a model where you just dump URLs into a file.
Depending on the focus of your business or your website, you will need your map to be more specific.
Here we have 3 other types of Sitemaps. Come on:
If your site is a news portal and you want to appear in a Google News search, it is very important that you have a news map.
Just out of curiosity, to appear among the news you must first register with the Google News Publisher Center and then have an updated News Sitemap.
This makes it much easier for the search engine to pull this data to Google News results.
Own Google helps teach more deeply to make a News Sitemap.
Google also has a search that’s all about videos. And if you want to appear there with video content, it’s very important that you have this video map to help the search engine understand that content and index it.
Another very big benefit of a Video Sitemap is that it has to be done in XML. This way, you can pass additional information to Google, such as the thumbnail, description and duration of the video.
A special tip for those who have e-commerce: we know that a video on a product page increases the conversion rate. So, if you already use video on your product page, consider putting together a Sitemap to benefit from SEO as well. This tends to increase the click-through rate on search results.
Finally, Image Sitemaps are mainly recommended for sites that work with photography or a high volume of images.
This type of map is very important to ensure that the images on your site are indexed well and that they appear in Google’s image search results.
Some good practices about Sitemap
1. Split your Sitemap
Create not just one, but many files. Make category maps of your site. This will help a lot to understand where there are indexing problems on your site.
Below, we’ll see how to communicate to Google that a Sitemap exists. But when there is a division, you can identify problems on your website, and it is very important to do that.
2. Create an index
If you create more than one Sitemap, you don’t need to communicate that there are, for example, 100 of them.
You can create a single file that is an index, indicating where the other Sitemaps are.
The Google support has a specific topic to teach you to create an index Sitemap.
3. Less than 10mb and 50,000 URLs
If you’ve worked the above two best practices well, you don’t need to worry about these two details.
But it’s important to point out that Google cannot work with Sitemaps that are more than 10mb in size or more than 50,000 inserted URLs.
4. Canonical URLs
Finally, a last good practice is to always work with a canonical URL.
If your site has, for example, a version without www and one with a www, and one of the versions points to the other, list only the final version in your Sitemap.
If the version chosen for the user to be redirected is with www, your Sitemap has to be that version.
I created my Sitemap, what do I do now?
To complete the task, you must first upload the map to your server. Once this is done, you access the Google Search Console, recognize your domain’s property, and, right there, add your Sitemap so that Google knows about its existence.
The cool thing is, when you upload your map in Search Console, you can see which of the submitted URLs have been indexed. And this is where we can identify indexing problems or bottlenecks on your site.
Another tip is to signal where your Sitemap is hosted on your server in a robots.txt file. Put a link to your file inside that other file.
To learn more about SEO, be sure to download our free eBook The Complete SEO Guide. There’s a chapter just about Sitemaps there, in case you want to dig deeper into the subject.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is Sitemap?
A sitemap is your sitemap. In it, you indicate Google robots and other search engines which pages you want to index and store on servers. It’s a simple XML file, which can’t be more than 50,000 URLs (and 10MB).
Why is it important to have an XML Sitemap?
It helps search engines understand the structure of the site and better index the site’s content, as well as certifying that all pages should or should not be indexed.
What are the sitemap formats?
The most common formats are TXT, Atom-RSS, and XML.
How to create a sitemap?
It is possible to use Google Sitemap Generator, from Google itself, or even a simple document in XML format.
By better understanding how your website is structured and which URLs should be indexed by the search robot, you create more efficient communication with Google Do you know what a Sitemap is and why it’s so important for your site to have one? This is a very important subject for SEO. If you don’t know its role…