3 SEO benefits of using a sitemap
It can be difficult to get the attention of major search engines. One way to communicate with them is by providing a sitemap inviting their crawlers to see your content.
Businesses rely on search engines to gain exposure online. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of strategies businesses use to try to increase their exposure and get their content, products, and services in front of more people and customers. If you’ve spent time working on SEO for your business, one thing is probably clear: it’s not easy.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could pick up the phone and call the search engines to solve your SEO problems? Unfortunately, when you say “Hi Google,“Chances are that you only get the virtual assistant’s attention on your smartphone, interactive speaker, or laptop.
So how can you talk to search engines? Well, in code of course! As a webmaster, you can speak robots.txtyou can talk structured dataand finally you can talk Sitemap with search engines.
Presentation: what is a sitemap?
When you enter a mall, there is a map of all the stores you can find there. The websites had the same thing: an HTML page with an overview of all the pages of the site. Users haven’t used sitemaps much, but search engines have!
Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft created a standard sitemap format that search engines could crawl to identify all pages on a website. This standard is detailed on sitemaps.orgwhere you will find all the technical specifications of the file format.
An XML sitemap is a file that you can place on your website to indicate the URLs of all pages on the site that should be indexed by search engines. It is a type of structured data that helps search engines better understand the structures of websites.
One important variable you can highlight is how often the sitemap changes for a page. This works as an invitation to search engines to revisit the page at the indicated frequency.
Another variable is the sitemap priority for a page. For each URL in the sitemap, it is possible to indicate its relative importance as a fraction of 1. You would probably put 1 for your homepage, which has the highest priority, but you can indicate a priority less on the other pages by putting 0.8 for the category pages for example, and why not 0.5 for your contact page which has little SEO importance.
It is important to note that providing information through a sitemap does not guarantee that the information will be used or applied to the index, but the odds do increase.
Where can you find your sitemap?
Sitemaps are XML files that can be read in a browser. They are often located at the root of the domain but can have a variety of names. A good guess is that the file will be called sitemap.xml and will be placed at the root of the domain. Try entering this address in your browser using your own domain: https://www.domain.com/sitemap.xml.
Another good guess if you’re using WordPress is https://www.domain.com/wp-sitemap.xml, as sitemaps are now a built-in feature since version 5.5.
But wait, if you don’t know where your sitemap is, you might not have one! Sitemaps are specific files generated on demand.
If someone else has worked on your site and created a sitemap, you may be able to locate it through your Webmaster Tools accounts. If you go to Google Search Console and click on Sitemaps in the menu, you will see any sitemap URLs that have been submitted.
3 Benefits a Sitemap Brings to Your SEO Efforts
Make sure your key pages are found
For larger sites, it may be useful to use an SEO tool to perform a site crawl before creating the sitemap. This will help you understand which pages are indexed and which are not.
By entering the main pages in the sitemap and sharing it with search engines, you ensure that there are no technical obstacles preventing search engines from finding and crawling these pages. It’s good practice to be on the safe side.
Help avoid duplicate content issues
Content management systems and online store builders for e-commerce are becoming increasingly complex. They can easily generate many more URLs than there are actual pages in a site.
They adapt pages to user needs or requests by adding parameters to the original URL. For a search engine, this second version of the same page can create a duplicate content problem.
To decide which of the two URLs is the canonical version, the sitemap can act as an arbiter, since it will only reference the original version of the page.
Allowing you to provide instructions to search engines
A sitemap is a structured communication channel with search engines. It allows you to provide instructions to search engines about your website, so they can better understand its structure and index its content.
4 best practices for sitemaps
One of the most important goals of technical SEO is to ensure that all good pages are indexed by search engines and all bad pages are not. The following sitemap best practices will help you achieve this goal.
1. Have a
The first and most important best practice is to have a sitemap for any site with more than a handful of pages. This is a way to reduce the risk of indexing problems for your website.
WordPress now automatically generates a sitemap, and many other content management systems include functionality to generate one at the push of a button.
There are also many plugins or external tools that can help you generate your sitemap. In rare cases of complex custom sites, your developers may need to create one. In most cases, however, existing tools can do the job just fine.
2. Create separate sitemaps per language
It is possible to generate several sitemaps for a site. This is especially useful for multilingual websites. It is recommended to submit a sitemap for each language.
3. Submit your sitemap to search engines
Search engines don’t automatically look for sitemaps unless you provide them with the URL. So, once you have generated a sitemap, you need to share it with search engines. This is done through Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools for major English language search engines. Most other search engines have similar functionality.
4. Respect the XML format
In Google Search Console, you will be notified if the file format is not correct. It must be strict XML as specified by the sitemaps.org protocol. If the format is incorrect, the file will be skipped – all of this works without result.
A sitemap is your website’s invitation to search engine crawlers.
In most cases, you won’t see an immediate SEO improvement just by adding a sitemap. But if you’ve had indexing issues, this may be part of the solution. And in most cases, this is a one-time solution.
Having a sitemap can improve your website crawling and gradually improve your rankings. Many SEO techniques provide small nudges of improvement, pushing your site a little higher. And the best part about sitemaps is that the technique is risk-free and certainly cannot harm your site.