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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.
These are the four types of sitemaps that most people use on their site:
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.
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>|
While sitemaps aren’t mandatory, having them can make a huge difference in particular cases:
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.
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:
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.