Every day, there’s almost something new about the web. These constant developments result in changes in the way Google and SEO works. It’s gradually becoming more human-centered.
Even though the Sitemaps have been around for ages, the advances of SEO have caught up with them. The process of sorting valuable advice from misinformation becomes complicated.
This is where the sitemap steps in. It helps search crawlers discover areas of your website that they haven’t visited before and ensure they don’t miss the crucial pages.
What are the Sitemaps?
Just like a book and its ‘table of content,’ Sitemaps are specific files with a list of all links containing additional information about the pages. It is used to tell both crawlers and users about the available pages for crawling.
Types of Sitemaps
Although the sitemaps can be grouped into multiple categories based on their purpose, there are two main types HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps. Search engines will find your pages, more importantly, if they are all in a sitemap, whether it’s HTML or XML.
HTML sitemaps are meant for both users and the search engine. These are web pages with href tags to link to other pages. Usually, when a crawler clicks from link to link and discovers your site, they keep moving to other likes while learning the important sections and pages of your website until there’s no new link to be found.
Using simple HTML codes in the backend, the design of the HTML sitemap is to quickly help people and not robots navigate across the main sections of the website. Also, you can always add CSS to style the HTML sitemap page and include navigation menus, titles, or structure.
The XML sitemap is a type of XML file found in the website’s root folder. It specifies the links, titles, page modification dates, and other parameters that the search engines might need. In other words, the XML sitemap is a way for search engines to find and read more information about a page directly from the sitemaps.
The XML code contains all the metadata about the page in a standardized format making it difficult to write and even look unappealing. However, there’s too much SEO value in it to be ignored. It gives crawlers a better understanding of the structure, exposes them to new content, presents your website in a holistic view, and much more.
While we already understand the importance of submitting a sitemap to Google, you need to know when to have an XML sitemap and how to properly set one up in a way that can drive SEO performance.
When is an XML sitemap important to have?
From search engine optimization’s point of view, Sitemaps are always needed. It may not have much impact on search ranking. But it helps search engines locate pages on your site that are not indexed.
The XML sitemaps are most valuable when you first start a blog or when you have just created a new website. Since these new websites don’t yet have backlinks, the search engines find it difficult to locate all the content.
Google and Bing also try to help their search engine bots easily discover content from new websites by allowing their owners to submit a sitemap in their webmaster tool. This doesn’t mean that they are not necessary for established websites. They enable search engines to visit and index your content by highlighting your more relevant pages and the parts that get more frequent updates.
That being said, let’s see how you can properly set up an XML sitemap
How to properly set up an XML sitemap
One of the most straightforward ways to set up the sitemap is the content management system (CMS). The CMS already has all data about all pages on the website and every adjustment you make. It can feed all this information into the dynamic sitemap.
Some popular CMS such as WordPress, Joomla, Open cart, and a few others can generate sitemaps, but you will need to use special plugins. When selecting the one for your site, check out the plugin features. Look out for those that are SEO-friendly and allows you to exclude 404, non-index, redirected, canonicalized, and other inappropriate pages from your sitemap. You may also want to amend the list of pages in the sitemaps, and these CMS have customization capabilities to make it easy.
There are also many free and paid options of sitemap generator tools available in the market for non-CMS-based websites. Only that you may have to deal with the basic nature and lack of some crucial features if you go for the free solution. You may even end up with redirect URLs, canonicalized, and non-indexed pages. But with one of the paid generators, you should be able to generate a customizable dynamic sitemap.
How to submit your XLM sitemap to Google
The sitemaps should already be on your site, but you need to manually add them if it isn’t. Generally, if you used a CMS to generate the XML sitemap and it’s automatically added to your website, you should find your sitemap at yoursite.com/sitemap.
However, if you used one of the tools to generate the XLM sitemap file, you should go to your website’s root folder and manually do the upload. Use your cPanel or an FTP client like Total Commander or FileZilla. But before uploading, check the sitemap’s validity to ensure it operates as you have intended.
You can also add a reference in the Robot.txt file to your sitemaps. Once the sitemap is validated, you should submit it to Google Search Console (GSC). The status will be ‘Success’ if it goes right. However, if there are errors, ensure to fix them until your sitemap status reads ‘success.’