What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file that provides search engines with detailed information about all the pages and content that your website contains. Sitemaps use organization, navigation and labeling systems to help Google and other search engines to more intelligently crawl your site.
Why are sitemaps important?
In general, your website will benefit from having a sitemap because search engines treat it like an invitation to crawl and index the pages listed. There are two types of sitemaps: HTML and XML, each with its own uses and values for search engine optimization. However, since the primary focus of HTML sitemaps is to guide shoppers, we’ll focus on the benefits of the XML type, which exists solely to ensure the URLs listed on a site are discovered and indexed by search engine crawlers.
Before we go into more detail, let’s establish what XML sitemaps don’t do:
- Submitting an XML sitemap does not guarantee page indexation. The sitemaps are seen more as recommendations of the URLs you want the search engines to crawl and index.
- XML sitemaps do not add authority. Unlike the HTML links on your website, the URLs listed in an XML sitemap do not pass link authority and have little effect on improving rankings.
So how can an XML sitemap benefit your website? To put it simply, having an XML sitemaps passes more data to search engines, which in turn:
- Can help search engine crawlers find and index new URLs on your site. If your website is very large, as most eCommerce websites are, web crawlers might find it difficult to discover and index new or updated pages. Having an XML sitemap will point them in the right direction.
- Can help search engine crawlers to understand your site content better. If you have a lot of content pages on your site that aren’t well linked and do not naturally reference each other, you can use an XML sitemap to inform Google or other search engines about those pages and make sure they don’t get overlooked. Additionally, if your site uses rich media content or other sitemap compatible annotations, an XML sitemap will ensure the bots take the extra information in consideration for search, where appropriate.
- Can help boost your SEO. If your website is fairly new and you don’t have many external links pointing to it, web crawlers might not discover your pages because they crawl the web by following links from one page to another. You can use an XML sitemap to list all the URLs of your website.
- Can help web crawlers prioritize your pages correctly. XML sitemaps allow you to add tags to identify the most important pages of your website, telling the bots which pages to focus on first.
You should also consider submitting a separate sitemap for images. Sitemap for images is an extension of an XML sitemap file that will help you optimize images and get them indexed by search engines. The purpose of an image sitemap is to list all the images that are part of a page and get them indexed to generate traffic from image search results. The image sitemaps feature image-specific tags, such as ALT and Title attributes, image caption, and SEO friendly image name that give web crawlers more information about the images on your site’s URLs and improve their rankings in image search results.
How to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console?
To help Google quickly scan your pages for content, you can submit your XML sitemap in a few simple steps:
- Verify your site with Google.
- Sign in to Google Search Console.
- Select the website whose sitemap you want to submit.
- Click the Sitemaps button.
- Click Add/Test Sitemap.
- Type in “sitemap.xml” and click Submit Sitemap.
And that’s it!
Popular XML sitemap tools
There are a few popular sitemap tools that can help you generate an XML sitemap of your site automatically: