Sitemaps

XML Sitemap – What is It and Why Do You Need One?

A good XML sitemap is almost like your website’s roadmap that helps point Google to all of your key pages. These XML sitemaps are a big help for your SEO efforts as they make it possible for Google to find all your important web pages easily and quickly even if you don’t have a flawless internal linking.

Table of Contents

1. What is an XML Sitemap?

2. What Websites Need XML Sitemaps?

3. What Pages Should You Include in XML Sitemaps?

4. How to Ensure That Google Finds Your XML Sitemap

5. It’s Time to Check Your XML Sitemap

What is an XML Sitemap?

Your goal is to ensure that Google crawls every single important page that your website has. However, there are times when there are pages that don’t have even a single internal link that leads to them that makes finding them more difficult. XML sitemaps basically list the critical pages of a website to guarantee that Google will be able to find and crawl all of them and help it better understand your site structure.

Take the XML sitemap of Yoast.com for example. You will see a few index sitemaps such as post-sitemap.xml, video-sitemap.xml, page-sitemap.xml, and others. This kind of categorization makes the structure of the website clearer. So whenever you click on any of these index sitemaps, you will see all of that specific sitemap’s URLs. For instance, when you click on post-sitemap.xml, you will see all the post URLs of Yoast.com.

At the end of every line, you will see a date. It tells Google the date when the post was last updated, helping with your SEO efforts since your purpose is to have Google crawl your latest post at the soonest time possible. if there is a change in the date in the XML sitemap, it will alert Google that there is a brand new content for them to crawl and index.

If your website is quite large, there are times when there is a need to split an index sitemap. One XML sitemap is only limited to up to 50,000 URLs. This means that if there are over 50,000 posts in your website, for instance, you will need two different ones for post URLs that will add another index sitemap. The limit is even lower for Yoast SEO plugin which is at 1,000 URLs to ensure that your sitemap loads faster.

What Websites Need XML Sitemaps?

According to Google’s documentation, XML sitemaps can benefit websites that are really large, those with large archives, new sites with only several external links to them, and sites using rich media content.

Although it is true that XML sitemaps are beneficial to these sites, it is safe to say that XML sitemaps can actually be of big help for all types and sizes of websites. All websites need Google to find their most important pages immediately and know the latest update they made. This is why the Yoast SEO plugin includes this feature.

What Pages Should You Include in XML Sitemaps?

How will you determine the pages that your XML sitemap should include? First, always think of the URL’s relevance. Whenever a visitor arrives on a certain URL, is this a good result? Would you like visitors to arrive at that URL? If not, it is best not to include it. But, if you don’t want the URL to appear in search results, you should add the ‘noindex, follow’ tag. Not including it in your XML sitemap doesn’t prevent Google from indexing the URL. Google can still index it as long as it can find it through following links.

  • 1st Example: A Brand New Blog

You are launching a new blog. Your goal is for Google to quickly find your new posts so that your target readers can find the blog in search results. It will be a wise idea to develop an XML sitemap from the get-go.

You can create several categories and first posts for them and a few tags to begin with. However, you still lack content for filling the tag overview pages that make them thin content with no value for visitors yet. Here, you shouldn’t include the URLs of the tags in your sitemap in the meantime. The tag pages should be set to ‘noindex, follow’ since you wouldn’t want people to see them in search results.

  • 2nd Example: Images and Media

Most sites don’t really need the image or media XML sitemap. It is because there is a chance that your images are used within your posts and pages so these will already be part of your page or post sitemap. Thus, it will be useless to have a separate image or media sitemap and it is recommended to just leave it out. There is only one exception here and that is if your main business is images. For instance, photographers will want to show Google a separate image or media XML sitemap.

How to Ensure That Google Finds Your XML Sitemap

You need to add your XML sitemap to your Google Search Console account so that Google can find it faster. You will see right away if the XML sitemap has been added already in the Sitemaps section. If not, it is also possible to add the sitemap on the upper portion of the page.

Adding your sitemap can help you check if Google was able to index all of the pages that you have in your XML sitemap. If you notice a significant difference between the index and submitted number on a certain sitemap, you might want to look into it further. It is possible that there might be an error that prevents some of your pages from getting indexed. One more option you have is that you might require more links that will point to that content that has not been indexed just yet.

It’s Time to Check Your XML Sitemap

There you have it. You now know what an XML sitemap is and why you need one – having one will help the SEO efforts you have for your site. Google will be able to access all of your key posts and pages if the right URLs are added to your sitemap. Give your XML sitemap a thorough checking today and be sure to  do it right!