The map has many advantages; For example, the treasure map shows you the way to get rich. But what is a sitemap may not seem so exciting because it is not very easy to understand. But if learned correctly, it can help improve and increase website traffic.
In this article from thinkwriteway.com, we are going to answer the question of what is a sitemap or site map, and we will discuss its importance, and how to create and present it to Google.
What is a sitemap?
A site map, also known as a sitemap, is a file that lists the addresses of all the necessary pages of your website. The main goal of what is a sitemap is to help search engines identify and locate specific pages easily. There are also sitemaps that help users find the site. The image below is an example of a site map, which may seem complicated at first glance, but after reading this article, you will understand what is a sitemap and its simplicity.
To understand the importance of the sitemap in SEO, first you need to get to know how the search engine works and especially the meaning of the terms crawl and index:
- Google’s robots or spiders constantly scan the web and available pages, which is called crawling.
- These robots categorize and store every page they find in Google’s big index, which is called indexing.
This way, when you search on Google, Google doesn’t crawl the entire web for you at the same time. Instead, it is searching the ordered and categorized list and therefore displays the results in a fraction of a second.
The purpose of saying all this is that if the robots cannot scan your desired pages or in other words the crawling is weak, those pages may not enter the Google index and will not be displayed in the Google search results. This is where having a sitemap becomes important.
Advantages of sitemap
The easier the crawl is and the better Google can identify the site, the more effectively the keywords can be ranked and the traffic of a site can be increased. The advantages of having a site map are:
Faster page crawling and indexing operations:
Google cannot scan the entire internet every day. Instead, it has specific schedules for crawling websites and content types, so it can sometimes take days, weeks, or even months for Google to discover new pages. A sitemap can help Google discover and index new pages faster.
Maintaining and improving the performance of high yielding pages:
Have you ever made changes to a page on your site but not seen the updated page in the search engine results page? The reason is that Google has not yet crawled and scanned the updated page. A more efficient crawl and index ensures that users see the most up-to-date version of pages.
Helping search bots find orphan pages:
Google’s bots often discover site pages the same way users do by following links on the pages they crawl (this is why internal linking is important). Orphan pages (OP) are pages on the site that other links do not point to and it is difficult for Google to access them. But placing those pages in the sitemap helps Google locate and index them.
Helping Google to recognize duplicate pages:
In some cases, a commercial website may have duplicate or almost similar pages; For example, a store site may have duplicate product pages with different colors.
In these cases, Google may not be able to recognize the original version of the page you want to rank. With a sitemap, you can use standard tags and help Google recognize the original version.
When Do We Need a Sitemap?
Usually, Google alone can find web pages on the Internet, but having a sitemap can help improve SEO on some sites. According to Google reports, a sitemap is needed when:
- You have a large site with more than 500 pages: Having thousands of pages means that new or updated pages are more likely to be ignored when Google crawls.
- No internal links: that means more orphan pages.
- Your site is new or has few backlinks: Web crawlers discover website pages by following links from one site to another.
- You use relevant media: include images, videos, or news pages that you want to appear in search results.
Types of sitemaps
There are two types of sitemaps; HTML sitemaps (hypertext markup language for humans) and XML sitemaps (extensible markup language for robots).
An HTML Sitemap is an actual website page that is visible to users and lists clickable links to all the pages on your site. This is an old way of creating a sitemap that is still useful and important, especially for large websites.
Google suggests using something called an “HTML sitemap.” This is like a list of website links organized from most to least important. It helps Google understand which parts of your site are really valuable. Look at the picture below to see what an HTML Sitemap looks like for a website.
An XML sitemap is a text file that provides a list of site URLs. Usually, the sitemap of any site can be found by referring to the address domainname.com/sitemap.xml, but you can change it to maintain the security of the site.
Although in this way you can see the XML sitemaps of a site, it is not supposed to help users in navigation. This sitemap is only useful for search engines. The following image is an example of an XML sitemap:
An XML sitemap is like a special list that talks about web links. It can show when they were last changed. You can also use sitemap plugins to give information about videos, pictures, and news articles.
Other types of sitemaps
Some other types of sitemaps are:
- RSS Feeds: News sites or blogs that publish multiple articles per day can register an RSS, mRSS (media RSS), or Atom 1.0 feed as their URL sitemap. It’s important to note that these types of sitemaps only provide information about recent URLs.
- Text Maps: The easiest kind of map is good for small websites with not many pages.
How to make a sitemap
Thanks to the available tools, creating a sitemap is very simple and convenient. Basically, you have to create a sitemap, follow the best practices and finally submit it to Google. How to create it is as follows:
Use a sitemap generator
Sitemap builders are plugins and software that provide a no-code process for creating sitemaps. Some of the best sitemap builders include:
Yoast Seo is a WordPress plugin that creates sitemaps
- WordPress 5.5: If you are using WordPress 5.5 or higher, you do not need external plugins to create a sitemap.
- XML Sitemaps.com: This tool offers paid and free packages. You just need to enter the URL of your site in the search field and click on the start button.
- Screaming Frog: Generate XML sitemaps and XML images with advanced settings such as “last modified” tags.
- Slickplan: is an intuitive sitemap planner that allows you to create text or XML sitemaps as part of its services for planning larger websites. This tool is not free, but it offers a free 30-day trial account.
- Dynomapper: Another non-free visual sitemap planner that has a free trial.
Take advantage of the best ways to create a site map
Google offers best practices for creating a sitemap, with a few simple guidelines to get you started:
- Split large sitemaps: If you have a long list of URLs, split your sitemap into several parts and then submit and register a sitemap index file (your own sitemap).
- List standard URLs: If you have duplicate or nearly identical pages, just list the original URL that you want to appear in search results (the canonical and standard version) in your sitemap. For other versions, use the rel=canonical tag.
- Use UTF-8 encoding: Sitemap files can only contain ASCII characters, which means numbers zero to nine, English letters A to Z, and some special characters. Symbols such as ampersand, quotes, and upper/lower case should be replaced with skip code.
- Don’t focus too much on priority tags: Priority tags are used in the sitemap to indicate the hierarchy and importance of pages (assigned values from 0.1 to 1), but it doesn’t matter how you prioritize them. Whatever you do, eventually Google will scan and list them according to its own rules.
- Do not index irrelevant URLs: The XML sitemaps are for URLs that you want Google to crawl and index, not irrelevant URLs and those that you want to be ignored.
Register your sitemap in Google
After you create a map of your website, you have to let Google know about it.
- Google Search Console: Search Console is the easiest way to register a sitemap. When you enter Google Search Console, find Sitemap in the left panel: then add your sitemap URL and click submit.
- Ping tool: by typing the following phrase, you can register your request directly in the browser.
- https://www.google.com/ping? sitemap=https://yourwebsite.com/sitemap
- Robots.txt file: Another way to register XML sitemaps is to include a link to your sitemap in the Robots.txt file.
- WebSub: WebSub is recommended for RSS feeds.
Simply put, you don’t get in trouble if you don’t have a sitemap on Google. But if your website has a sitemap, it’s good and helps a lot for big websites. Remember, Google doesn’t have to use what is a sitemap, but it’s like a helpful guide for them..
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