If you are a budding search engine optimizer XML sitemaps are probably the one topic that you might have thought to learn later. However, XML sitemaps are significant in making a website rank higher in search engines. From a website owner’s point of view, sitemaps are not going to do anything for your customers. In fact, they are the least important for your visitor. That being said, they can be equally necessary for search engines and crawlers.
With the information that sitemaps contain, search engine crawlers can categorize your website pages, prioritize important links and do much more. Having a comprehensive XML sitemap gives you an edge over your competition, especially for a new website. Continuing on the importance of XML sitemaps, this article will cover everything about them.
Starting with their definition are, to how you can create sitemaps, we will look into every detail in this article. So, if you are a website owner or search engine optimizer who hasn’t heard of sitemaps or haven’t applied them in their work yet, this article will compel you to implement them instantly.
What is an XML sitemap?
XML sitemaps are text files that contain all sorts of information about your website. This ranges from all the URLs that are present on your website, URLs that are prioritized, and more. The sitemap also shows any updates that were made to the URL and notifies crawlers when they were made.
- Rather than waiting a long time for search engine crawlers to find and crawl your website, XML sitemaps act like a shortcut. Once you upload them onto the server, Google recognizes and initiates the crawling process much faster. So, your website is visible on the search engine results page quicker.
- Apart from the efficiency, you can also use sitemaps to inform search engines about any updates or changes you make on your website. Overall, it’s a useful mechanism that helps search engines tremendously.
- A better way to look at sitemaps would be to imagine everything on your website put in a text file. Similar to the menu options and navigations for website visitors l, sitemaps are guides for crawlers.
- When you create a sitemap including only the pages that you want search engines to crawl should be included. So, rather than scanning any personal element on the website that you want hidden, the search engine will only crawl your website for canonical pages.
What is the Purpose of an XML Sitemap?
Looking from the perspective of sitemap seo, creating sitemaps and implementing them are significant for any and every kind of website.
- Sitemaps cannot guarantee that your website will be crawled by search engines instantly. But, what it does is give a hint to Google that your website is ready for crawlers to visit and scan. This increases the chances of your website being crawled and indexed faster.
- Before a search engine can crawl your website, you can inform it about your website and ask them to only crawl pages that you want. This way, any private information that you want on your website for local use will not be made public.
- You can keep search engines up to date with the latest changes on your website. So, whenever anyone looks for your website or its pages, only the latest version of it is available for people.
- Crawlers also find websites with sitemaps very helpful. This means they tend to visit the website more often, which is always an added advantage for any website owner.
How to Use XML Sitemaps to Boost Seo
There are many ways to use XML sitemaps in seo to enhance your reach and build indexation.
- You can create a sitemap and upload it on Google Search Console for Google to crawl and index your website much faster. To do this, you’ll have to start by creating a Google Search Console account and linking it to your website.
- If there are multiple versions of your website, for example, in English and Spanish, you can create different sitemaps for both versions. This way search engines will know there are two versions of your website and will show the right version of the website to the right audience.
- There are several file types that sitemaps can categorize into. These are mainly HTML, Video, Image, Mobile, and News.
Here are some examples of the most prominent tags that are used in a sitemap.
<url> these include the main URL tag that appears for every entry of a URL. It’s one of the most fundamental tags of a sitemap.
<urlset> when any sitemap is created, this tag opens with this set and closes too. Again, one of the more necessary elements of a sitemap.
<xhtml: link> This tag is more beneficial for websites with multiple versions, especially in different languages. So, if your website has more than one language version you can use this tag in the sitemap.
<changefreq> How frequent a file change is notified using this tag.
<loc> short for location, this tag helps search engines establish the location your website is based and wants to be visible. Location tag becomes more important for local businesses that confine to a region of business.
<priority> Priority indicates using numbers between 0.0 and 1.0, which shows how important a file is on the site.
<lastmod> information regarding the last modification can be delegated using this tag.
How to Create an XML Sitemap
Although XML sitemaps are more technical, creating them does not require a lot of effort. If you are informed about sitemap seo and its elements, creating sitemaps can only take a few minutes of your time. The best way to go about it is by using a sitemap generator like Screaming Frog with its free version.
- Open the website on your browser.
- Copy your URL and paste it on the search bar of the screaming frog.
- Press start to allow the screaming frog to crawl your website. This might take some time.
- Once the website crawls, click on the sitemap in the menu options.
- Choose to Create Sitemap from the dropdown menu.
- Choose the required categories you want a screaming frog to crawl. The most common way to go about it is choosing Canonical and Pagination URLs.
- Go to images and include images as well.
- Once selected, all the necessary elements to click on next.
- Save the XML version of your sitemap locally.
You can also use Yoast to create sitemaps if you work on WordPress. Google XML sitemap generator is another free option that you can explore.
Once you have the XML version of your sitemap handy, submit it by following these steps.
- Open Google Search Console. Make sure it connects to your website.
- Go to sitemaps from the menu options in Google Search Console.
- Add your sitemap URL and press submit.
- Check for any errors. If you find any, make sure you address them.
- Sitemap successfully submitted with Google.
Sitemaps are easy to create and very useful today when there are tons of websites on the internet. It helps you get in the good books of search engines. Remember, sitemaps are not a one-time thing. They have to be submitted from time to time.