Before we continue with the XML Sitemap, we need to know about benefits of using XML sitemap.
Why is it used? How to create an XML Sitemap? How to submit an XML sitemap to Google? Firstly, let’s start from the basics. What is a Sitemap? It is a list of pages on a website that are accessible to all users. An XML sitemap is a list of your pages on your site to inform Google and other search engines about the new or updated pages that are available for crawling. In other words, it provides the search engine with detailed information about the content of your website, so it can crawl your site more quickly and get more of your great content into the search results. The information that is stored there helps search engines better crawl your site. When creating a sitemap, there are some things you should keep in mind.
What is Sitemap.xml?
Sitemap.xml, as the extension suggests, is an XML document which helps webmasters to inform search engines such as Google and Bing about their recent changes to the blog. It is primarily focused on providing additional data, such as when the URL was last updated, what the priority of checking the updating frequency of the URL is, and so on and so forth.
Also, you must understand that using sitemap.xml on your website doesn’t guarantee that your web pages will be crawled or indexed by search engines. It is just a simple XML file which helps search engines to crawl websites “intelligently”.
Why Sitemap.xml is Important?
There are a bunch of reasons why sitemap.xml is so important. I’ve enlisted most of them below.
- An updated sitemap will be useful for search engines as it will help them understand the changes occurring on your blog.
- The Sitemap does help in classifying the site’s content according to type (this is not beneficial from the search engine’s point of view because they don’t really classify the content according to the category).
- The sitemaps do help readers as they are easy to navigate.
- It is observed that sites having sitemaps are indexed faster and better than those which do not.
- The sitemap is, so far, the best way of letting search engines know about the changes.
Sitemaps can be divided into two categories:-
- HTML Sitemap
- XML Sitemap
An HTML Sitemap: An HTML sitemap is really just a list of all the webpages of your website. HTML Sitemaps are designed for the user to help them find content on the webpage, and you don’t need to include each and every subpage. This helps visitors and spiders to find the pages on the site.
XML Sitemap: An XML Sitemap is a sitemap created for search engines. The XML Sitemap is a listing of all the URLs on your site that you want search engines to crawl and index. In other words, we can say that XML Sitemaps are only used by search engines. All of the biggest search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) utilize XML Sitemaps for the crawling process.
Why you need an XML Sitemap
Sitemaps are extremely important. First, you need to know that adding a sitemap does not affect search rankings. However, if there is some page on your site that is not crawled and indexed, then the sitemap provides you with a way to let search engines know about that page, so it can be indexed properly.
There are mainly three benefits to creating an XML Sitemap.
- Your sitemap can list all the URLs on your site: Once you have created your XML Sitemap and let the search engines know about it, make sure to keep it up-to-date. If you add or remove a page, make sure your sitemap reflects that.
- Giving the search engines priority information: There is an optional tag in the sitemap for the priority of the page. This is an indication of how important a given page is relevant to all the others on your site. This allows the search engines to order the crawling of their websites based on priority information.
- Passing temporal information: Two other optional tags (lastmod & changefreq) pass more information to the search engines that should help them crawl your site in a more optimal way. “lastmod” tells them when a page was last modified. “changefreq” indicates how often the page changes (such as hourly, daily, monthly, never).
How to create an XML sitemap?
Your website’s XML sitemap is one of the most important tools to help increase the traffic on your site. Having a good, effective sitemap submitted to the major search engines greatly increases your chances of your site’s content showing up in relevant searches. Creating an XML Sitemap is very easy and simple to create and manage.
The two most important pieces of information for Google are the URL itself and its last modification time.There are some guidelines below recently updated by Google.
- Only include URLs that can be fetched by Googlebot. A common mistake is including URLs disallowed by robots.txt — which can not be fetched by Googlebot, or including URLs of pages that don’t exist.
- Only include canonical URLs. A common mistake is to include URLs of duplicate pages. This increases the load on your server without improving indexing.
- Specify the last modification time for each URL in an XML sitemap. The last modification time should be the last time the content of the page changed meaningfully. If a change is meant to be visible in the search results, then the last modification time should be the time of this change.
When creating a sitemap, there are some things you should keep in mind.
- All URLs in a sitemap must come from the same host.
- A sitemap can contain a maximum of 50,000 URLs.
- Sitemaps should be no larger than 10MB.
Steps to creating an XML sitemap online.
Now, I will show you how to create an XML sitemap. Get it done by following some simple steps:-
1. Visit xml-sitemaps.com and enter your full website URL in the box.
2. Enter your full website URL. Choose your other options:
-Enter the frequency at which your website is usually updated from the drop-down list.
-Choose an option under ‘Last modification’. This is the time the URL was last modified.
-Leave the Priority at Automatic.
3. Click Start. Wait while your sitemap is being generated.
4. Click the link to download the.xml file. Now you can upload the.xml file to the root directory of your website by FTP.
Sitemap for WordPress Blogs
There is one simple plugin for WordPress bloggers to generate and control important settings about the sitemap. You should definitely install Google XML Sitemap and follow the steps that I’ve mentioned below.
- Once you’ve installed the plugin, go to settings > XML-sitemap to play with some settings.
- Keep most of the settings to default and simply scroll down to the section – Change frequency
- Now for the homepage, change the frequency to daily. Also, follow the frequency settings that I’ve mentioned below for other types of posts and pages.
- Posts – daily, static pages – weekly, categories – weekly, the current archive of this month – daily, older archives – yearly, tag pages – weekly, author pages – weekly.
What does this frequency mean?
The frequency mentioned here is used to tell the search engine crawlers about the time period they should consider before crawling for the next time. Although it doesn’t act as a command, it has been found useful to a certain extent. Do remember that crawlers can even crawl pages which are marked as never.
What does priority means?
Priority in simple language is the importance given to a certain web page. Pages with a higher priority will be crawled more frequently than those with a comparatively low priority.
Where is my sitemap located?
I’m currently using sitemap generated by Yoast SEO plugin and therefore it is generated at codingace.com/sitemap.xml.
Update – I’ve changed the URL structure of sitemap.xml to a simple one. It is advisable that you do not change your sitemap.xml URL after it has been generated and submitted to Google and other search engines.
How to submit a Sitemap to Google
Once you’ve created and uploaded an XML sitemap, you want to make sure that the search engines see it and index your site. You just need to follow some simple steps to submit a sitemap to Google.
1. Visit Google webmaster tools and simply login to your existing Google account username & password to get started.
2. If you have already configured your website with Google Webmaster Tool, then ignore these below steps.
- Add your site to Google by clicking on the Add a Site button.
- Add the URL of your website.
- On the next screen you will be asked to verify the ownership of the website you are trying to add. There are several methods to do that.
- Choose one method and verify your site
- After Verification You will see a notice like “Congratulations you have successfully verified your ownership of www.example.com”. Click continue to see Google Webmaster Tools dashboard for your site.
3. Click on the Sitemaps Menu which appears under Crawl Section.
4. Click on the red button labeled Add/Test Sitemap and provide the URL of your sitemap.
Once you have successfully added your sitemap, it will appear as pending. Google will take some time to crawl your website. After a while you would be able to see some stats about your sitemap like below image.