March 8, 2023

XML Sitemaps: What Are They & Why Are They Important?

When building a website, one of the most important pages to create is an XML sitemap. Without it, it is harder for search engine crawlers from Google, Bing, and Yahoo to find the pages that you want the search engines to index. You can think of it like a roadmap or blueprint, where search engines can take a quick look at the XML sitemap and find all of the valuable information it needs to index the page, quickly and easily. It is beneficial in search engine optimization (SEO) because the sitemap helps increase rankings and makes it easier for search engines to find content in large or poorly structured websites.

XML Sitemaps What Are They

So, What Is a Sitemap Exactly?

An XML sitemap is a specialized document that lists out all of your website’s pages and provides critical information on the site’s structure and when pages were last updated, how often the page changes, and what the priority of each page is in relation to other URLs on the site. 

What Is the Importance of Having One?

The main reason why you want an XML sitemap is that it tells search engines when website pages were last updated, ensuring that your updated content is crawled quickly and indexed. The quicker your pages are indexed and seen by the search engines, the quicker your search engine rankings can be influenced by your new content and keyword phrases. Other reasons of importance include the following:

  • If you are running an eCommerce website, these pages can change quickly and need to be updated as such. Having an XML sitemap will ensure that these dynamic pages are seen by search engines as soon as possible.
  • If your website isn’t well-linked, isn’t well-structured, or doesn’t have a lot of internal links that point to one another within your website, search engine crawlers will miss pages or skip over hard-to-read pages. A sitemap can help with this as it gives poorly structured websites better visibility. 
  • If your website is newly published (live) or has very few external links (low authority), then a sitemap will give it a much-needed boost in terms of online presence. It will be seen quicker by search engines despite having little to no content or pages with authority that have been newly updated.
  • If your website has a lot of archived content that isn’t well-linked with newer, updated content, a sitemap ensures that this content isn’t lost.
  • If your website is extremely large, despite being well-linked, a sitemap can be beneficial in enabling search engine crawlers to view the majority of your pages at a quicker pace. 
  • You do not need an XML sitemap for media or images as these are included in your “post” and “page” sitemaps. However, if you are a photographer and your website is nothing but images, you may want to show a separate sitemap to Google. 

Here is What You Need to Consider When Generating an XML Sitemap.

If you choose to auto-generate an XML sitemap with a website content management system (like WordPress & Yoast), go into the sitemap and make sure that it is error free and that the output is in the correct format. Google requires that your sitemaps begin with a <urlset> tag, end with a </urlset> tag,  and that they use UTF-8 encoding. You can view sitemap formatting, here

Other than this, once your XML sitemap is created, is error free, and has the correct formatting, make sure to verify it with Google using Google’s Webmasters Tools. Why verify? To ensure that the search engines are seeing your sitemap and that it is showing up correctly to them.  You can also add or test your XML sitemap using the Google Search Console

Do you need help with your website’s XML Sitemap? We can help! Contact us today to get started

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