What Is A Sitemap XML File?
To put it another way, sitemaps serve as a directory listing of all the URLs and other material on a domain's website. When creating a website, be sure to include the most significant and useful URLs.
In an SEO setting, you're most likely to find sitemaps in the XML or HTML forms. When it comes to XML sitemaps, they're mostly for search engine crawlers, but HTML sitemaps are designed to help website visitors navigate and comprehend the structure of their site.
In order to explain the links that are found on a specific website, an XML sitemap employs XML (Extensible Markup Language). In the most basic version of an XML sitemap, the URLs to each page are listed in descending order (i.e., the URLs on the website). These URLs can also include information about when the page was last edited or the foreign variations of that page (known as "hreflang" annotations) if the site has different country and language versions.
SEO Relies Heavily On XML Sitemaps, But Why?
The XML sitemap helps search engine crawlers find the URLs you wish to be crawled and indexed more quickly. Basically, you're telling Google's crawler that this is the collection of pages you think would be most useful to searchers by submitting an XML sitemap through Google Search Console. There is no need for the crawler to go through the entire site to discover these URLs because of this.
Although the XML sitemap allows us to specify which sites we wish to be indexed by search engines, there is no assurance that they will index all of the pages in the sitemap. While the sitemap makes it easier for a search engine crawler to discover the pages, the search engines will still assess each page to determine its relevance and overall quality.
Dos And Don'ts For XML Sitemaps
Don't forget to enter all of the URLs you'd like to rank for!
Make sure that the crawlers know which sites they should be looking at by providing them with an XML sitemap Make sure all of your search-friendly and important pages are included.
If the sitemap is too large, divide it into many sitemaps
50,000 URLs can be included in a sitemap at a time. Multiple sitemaps and a "sitemap index" file can be used to assist crawlers locate all of your sitemaps and view all of your URLs if your site is vast and requires more pages than the restriction allows.
A sitemap that is regularly updated by adding and deleting pages is essential
By regularly updating your sitemaps, you can prevent crawlers from seeing old or out-of-date material, which can lead to lost traffic. Automating this procedure is ideal, and it doesn't need to be difficult! It is possible to utilize plugins to build and maintain XML sitemaps for WordPress-based websites.
Do not forget to publish your XML sitemap to crawlers using tools such as Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools
A majority of websites put their XML sitemaps in their domain's root directory (such as /sitemap/sitemap.xml). Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools should be used to submit the sitemap to the search engines. Your provided URLs will be indexed and you will be able to check which ones did and did not.
DO NOT include URLs that redirect or are otherwise broken (4xx codes, etc) (3xx codes)
Broken or redirected URLs in your sitemap irritate crawlers. Only URLs that return a status code of 200 should be included in the site map. When there are a lot of broken or redirected URLs in the sitemap, crawlers may perceive the sitemap as a poor source of information about which pages are significant and begin to neglect it.
Remove the need for a separate picture sitemap (unless images are the main focus of your site)
You don't need a distinct "image" sitemap unless photos are a big part of your business (for example, a photography showcase website or stock image platform). When pages are crawled, images that are only background elements will be indexed, even if they don't provide much in terms of value or relevancy on their own.
Avoid using low-quality narrow tag / category pages!
It is possible for blogs and even some e-commerce sites to have a large number of low-quality, low-value tag/category pages. As a general rule, you don't need to include tag or category sites in your sitemap unless they're of high quality and you want them to rank for certain keywords.
Sitemaps in XML: advanced applications
XML sitemaps can be used in more complex ways if you have a very large site, a specific use case (picture galleries, news publishers), or a lot of international copies of your material (hreflang). These are some examples:
Your Sitemap Should Be Broken Up Into Sections For Easier Navigation
Sectioning your sitemap into files for distinct sorts of pages is an option if you have a large site (or even if you just want additional specificity in understanding how spiders interpret various page types). You could, for example, create separate sitemaps for your category pages and your product pages, or you might create one sitemap for your men's clothing and another for your women's clothing. Automated tools like Botify may be used to produce and evaluate these segmented sitemaps.
Making use of hreflang
The hreflang elements (which notify crawlers which version is meant for which nation or language use case) can be implemented in your XML sitemap if you have numerous language and country versions of your sites.
Sitemaps that are updated on a regular basis
A more efficient technique to maintain your sitemaps current is to use dynamic sitemaps if your pages are constantly changed (for example, with new product information).