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What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a file that contains information about a website’s pages, images, videos, and other content. Search engines read this file to crawl and index all pages on your site more efficiently.  

The additional information inside a sitemap includes a web page’s location, update frequency, language alternatives, and its relation with other pages.

Types of sitemaps

These are the four types of sitemaps that most people use on their site:

  • Extensible Markup Language (XML) sitemap ‒ the most common type, which contains a structured list of information about the web pages on a website, used by search engine crawlers
  • Video sitemap ‒ holds all the information about the videos on your website, like title, duration, view count, and description
  • Image sitemap ‒ provides information about the images added on the site, such as URL, caption, title, and geolocation
  • News sitemap ‒ exclusively built to submit news articles to Google News

What is the purpose of a sitemap?

Though your web pages don’t immediately show on search engine results pages (SERP), having a sitemap makes it easier for search engines to find, crawl, and index your site’s content.

Sitemaps are also useful for tracking the number of indexed pages you have. If it is lower than expected, your site may have duplicate content or already exceed its crawl budget.

Crawl budget refers to the number of pages that can be crawled by search engines at a given time. Since Google has limited resources, such allowances are needed to make sure that all websites are crawled and indexed.

Two factors determine the limit: how much crawling your server can handle at a time and how popular your pages are. 

Sitemap Example

An XML sitemap has a straightforward structure that shows the URLs of the pages that form the website structure.

Here is a sample entry of an XML sitemap:

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?><urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″>   <url>      <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>      <lastmod>2020-01-01</lastmod>   </url>   <url>      <loc>http://www.example.com/page-1/</loc>      <lastmod>2020-02-01</lastmod>   </url></urlset>

Do you need a sitemap?

While sitemaps aren’t mandatory, having them can make a huge difference in particular cases:

  • Websites with lots of pages 
  • New websites with limited external links coming from other sites 
  • Sites with pages that aren’t linked to one another
  • Websites with rich media content

Do sitemaps affect SEO?

As sitemaps help search engines to discover and understand a website’s content, they boost the chances of ranking higher in SERPs.

On top of that, using a sitemap gives you more control over how your website is crawled. 

You can exclude unimportant pages — like tag and category pages — from your sitemap so that search engines know they should appear last in SERPs.

How to create a sitemap

There are two ways to create a sitemap:


Most website builders automatically generate a sitemap for websites created with their service. Some of them also provide add-ons to build, customize, and update a sitemap.

Alternatively, you can use third-party sitemap generators to create an XML sitemap. 

Keep in mind that some of these tools can only generate a site map for small websites that contain fewer than 500 pages.


If you have a large website, it would be better to build a sitemap manually. However, it requires basic coding knowledge to do it. Here are the steps of creating a sitemap on your own:

  1. Review the structure of your site and decide which pages are important
  2. Format the URLs of each page with appropriate XML tags
  3. Use an XML sitemap validator tool to verify your code’s accuracy
  4. Add the sitemap file to your site’s root folder and robots.txt, which you can find in the same folder
  5. Submit the sitemap to Google Search Console 

Google Search Console is a tool that tells the search engine that you’ve added or updated a new web page.

Though you can submit an URL to Google Search Console each time you add a new page, it would be easier to update the XML sitemap instead.

Written by

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Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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