Sitemap optimization is part of the indexing process of any website. The reason is not far from the fact that it makes search engines, including Google, to crawl your pages easily. Moreover, it aids better navigation on your site, thereby making you more visible on search engines.
While this is true, it requires lots of expertise. Like SEO, a sitemap is not a one-time tactic but an ongoing strategy. So, with all these in mind, I decided to explain what sitemaps are and show you the best sitemap to use for SEO.
Let’s dive in further.
What Is a Sitemap?
Ever wondered what makes it easy for search engines like Google to crawl and index your website pages? The term is called “Sitemaps.”
According to Google, a sitemap is:
“a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. A sitemap tells Google which pages and files you think are important in your site. Also, it provides valuable information about these files: for example, for pages, when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and any alternate language versions of a page.”
A sitemap is a pattern or blueprint of your site that makes your content visible and crawlable. Let’s discuss the available types.
Types of Sitemap
XML Sitemap Index
Let’s outline the limitation of XML Sitemap:
Maximum of 50,000 URLs.
Although XML sitemap can be compressed using gzip but once unzipped, it can’t exceed the limit of 50MB.
If you, by chance, exceed this limit, you must split the XML Sitemaps across the pages of your website. Eventually, it can then be combined into a single XML file (mostly called sitemap-index.xml).
For search engines to easily index your site, you can ping your sitemap index(es) to Google. Alternatively, you can indicate your sitemap index(es) in your robots.txt.file.
Another option is by linking them to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Google News Sitemap
Helps Google find content on sites that are approved for Google News.
Image sitemaps aid the indexation of image content.
Although search engines crawl images within page content, it still makes a lot of sense to use JSON-LD schema.org/ImageObject markup. This markup tool links image properties to search engines as it is more reliable than an image XML sitemap.
It may not be necessary to include an image sitemap. However, an exception to this is if you deal with images often or use them to connect with your customers.
If you have videos on your site or often do, remember to submit an XML Video Sitemap. All you need to do is use JSON-LD and schema.org/VideoObject markup on whichever page as applied.
Best Sitemap Practices to Use For SEO
Yes, as I promised, I will show you the best sitemap practices that will improve your SEO game. Here they are:
Create a Sitemap
First and foremost, create a sitemap.
If WordPress is your CMS, you can use dynamic SEO plugins like Google XML Sitemaps or Yoast to fetch a sitemap. This kind of plugins can help you update your XML sitemap automatically.
So, whenever you have a new page, the SEO plugin will add that link to your sitemap dynamically.
On the other hand, if you don’t use WordPress, the XML-Sitemaps.com generator tool comes in handy for you.
However, after creating a sitemap for your website, check manually to ensure that it displays all your pages.
Then, the next step is to submit to Google.
Submit Your Sitemap To Google
Submitting your sitemap to Google is just straightforward. All it takes is:
login to your Google Search Console account – go to “Index” – then, click on ”Sitemaps.”
Then, hit the submit button.
Sitemap Report to Detect Errors
Once your site is already indexed, click on “Submitted Sitemaps” to confirm it successfully.
Use Sitemap to Find Problems with Indexing
A sitemap also helps you estimate the number of pages you want indexing and those that are already indexed.
It can help you see if you have duplicate texts or content on your site. And as you know, Google will never index such pages.
Prioritize Your Webpages
Prioritizing your webpages means including SEO relevant pages in XML sitemaps.
This practice works pretty well because Google allows you to assign a score between 0.1 and 1 to each page.
Search engines, including Google, will give preference to crawl the page with the highest score more often than those with a low score.
A trick, however, is to prioritize higher scores to the page you publish content more often. For instance, if you have a blog on your site where you keep updating your posts, give them higher scores.
Likewise, pages like “about us” or “trademarks” that you barely update should get lower scores. Specifically, here is a list of pages you should not include:
Site search result pages.
Reply to comment URLs.
Pages with noindex.
Pages blocked by robots.txt
Utility pages such as login page, contact us, account pages, etc.
As much as all pages are important to your business, resist the urge to spread high scores evenly on all. The reason is simple – search engines won’t be able to know which is dynamic or static. This way, you could lose some ranking benefits.
Also, prioritizing your pages helps you crawl budget effectively.
Dynamic XML sitemaps
Here’s the fun part: you don’t have to sync your XML sitemap manually with meta robots on all your pages. XML sitemaps don’t essentially need to be static files.
It’s not a rule to add a .XML extension to their names before submitting to Google. Instead, setup logics that indicate which page gets added in the XML sitemap and which doesn’t. And apply the same logic to set meta robots index or noindex on such a page.
It all comes down to awareness for SEO professionals and webmasters to pay attention to the importance of sitemaps and its additions to websites.
Optimization of sitemap is one of the basic strategies you can use to improve your search visibility and online presence. Use the best practices I explained above to scale your SEO game.
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