A sitemap, as the name suggests, is a map of your website. In SEO, a sitemap is a highly effective and efficient entity that provides a list of all the pages on your website. The sitemap helps users find relevant pages on your website and allows search engines such as Google and Bing to index them easily.
Normally, search engines crawl websites to find pages for indexing. Indexing allows your website to show up in results pages. Search engines find it easy to crawl small websites with a few pages. However, if you have a large website, such as one for e-commerce, that links hundreds and hundreds of pages, it becomes difficult for these search engines to index your website. Additionally, there may be pages that users can access only by signing in or filling out a form.
Crawling and indexing all the pages will consume a lot of time. This can affect your ranking, albeit not significantly. By providing a sitemap, you are making Google’s or Bing’s job easier. And thus, making your website rank faster in these search engines.
A sitemap also helps you organize content on your website. By building a sitemap, you can see all the content you have published/going to publish and eliminate unnecessary pages that provide absolutely no useful information.
What are the types of SEO sitemaps?
There are mainly two types of sitemaps you can create.
- XML sitemap: This is the most commonly used type of sitemap. It is an XML file that consists of links to your website’s pages. XML sitemaps are easily read by search engine crawlers and thus help in indexing your website easily.
Image source: sistrix
- HTML sitemap: This sitemap is created for users to find content easily on your website. For websites that have a massive number of pages, an HTML sitemap offers users a simple way to find what they’re looking for.
Image source: sistrix
Besides these two, you can also index other elements of your website via other types of sitemaps.
- Video sitemap: For all videos on your website. You can further add information such as category to help the videos rank better in Google.
- Image sitemap: For all images on your website. As with video sitemaps, you can add categories, locations, and other information to make your images more search-engine-friendly.
- News sitemap: For news articles that you want to showcase in Google News. Again, by adding news-specific information such as ‘publication date’, you can stand out in Google News.
- Mobile sitemap: This is a more specific type of sitemap that is used only in certain ‘feature-phones’ that do not have a browser.
How to create an SEO sitemap?
Before you create an SEO sitemap, decide which format you want to create it in – XML or HTML. Then, decide all the pages that should be included in the sitemap and remove and duplicate or unnecessary pages.
Creating sitemaps is quite easy. If you are a developer with good knowledge of XML, then you can code the sitemap manually. But that’ll be way too time-consuming. There are a number of third-party tools that will help you create a sitemap within a few minutes. You can use any of these and make a sitemap that you can submit to search engines. Before submitting, ensure you add the sitemap on your website.
For more information, you can check out Google’s community page on how to create a sitemap.
In the beginning, sitemaps had to be submitted to search engines by filling a form on their submissions page. But now times have changed. Developers create sitemaps and publish them on the website after which search engines find them. By regularly updating the sitemap with new pages, you allow search engines to index them faster.
To summarize, the following are the features of a sitemap.
- It allows you to keep track of all your web pages
- It helps identify and eliminate pages that are not required or whose content has become obsolete
- It helps remove duplicate content by showing you information that is available on multiple pages
- It enables the linking of pages, thus improving the number of internal links on your website
- It empowers your users to navigate to their preferred pages in the least amount of steps
It’s also good to remember that just because you haven’t included a page in your sitemap doesn’t mean search engines will ignore it.
A sitemap comes in handy when you want to boost your SEO rankings. If your website doesn’t have one, then get cracking now.