Boost Your SEO With An XML Sitemap

August 8, 2020
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Generally described as the table of contents of your website, an XML sitemap is designed for search engine crawlers. With the help of SEO experts, the following article will define XML sitemap, simplify different types of such maps, explain its format, and share the four components of how to optimize and create one.

What Is An XML Sitemap? 

A sitemap is an XML type of file that can make your content rank quickly on search engines because it organizes the vital pages of your website for search engine indexing. It’s better understood as a roadmap of your website that leads Google to the best pages on your site.  

Take a look at its perks below: 

  • Informs search engines on when, where, and what to crawl 
  • Conveys the type and nature of information on your website  
  • Indicates the modification history and frequency of the content  
  • Makes up for the shortcomings in internal and external linking structure  

Such a map is highly resourceful for websites with a large number of pages/archives, sites with a complex structure, sites with rich media content, and businesses that frequently create new pages or update old ones. 

Different Types Of Sitemaps  

Before you dive into making a sitemap, take a look at the top types of sitemaps below. 

  • Index: Did you know that XML sitemaps have an upper limit of 50,000 URLs? To create more, you need to make multiple maps, which must then be integrated into an index XML sitemap too 
  • Image: This is the ideal way to index large-scale image content since it helps your content get featured on Google Images. This map uses tags such as <image:loca>, <image:image>, <image:title>, and so forth 
  • Video: This is another way to be highlighted in SERPs. Such a map is necessary if your website runs mainly on videos. It includes tags like <video:video>, <video:player_loc>, <video:video>, <video:description> and more 
  • Mobile: These are unnecessary for mobile-optimized sites and are best for websites designed for special mobile devices   
  • Dynamic: This is an automatically updated sitemap alternative that’s dynamic and ideal for webmasters that modify website content frequently 
  • News: Exclusively for websites with Google News registration as it features the content on Google News SERPs. The limit is up to 1000 URLs 

XML Sitemap Structure  

Here are the four components as seen on single-page XML sitemaps: 

  • Location: Also known as a loc tag, this mandatory tag indicates the canonical location of the URL on the website. Webmasters can take a step ahead and add the language and region with the location tag to reduce the loading time of your page 

Example: <loc></loc> 

  • Last modified: This isn’t a must-have tag, but one that’s recommended as it indicates the timestamp of the latest modification on a page. Adding this tag can improve the ‘content freshness’ in the eyes of Google when accompanied by substantial changes 

Example: <lastmod>2020-08-08</lastmod> 

  • Change frequency: Called Changefreq, it shows the frequency of updates to the search engine. This is an optional tag that you can skip with a timestamp 

Example: <changefreq>weekly</changefreq> 

  • Priority: Referred to as an optional tag, this highlights the degree of importance of a page on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0 with other pages on the domain 

Example: <priority>0.9</priority> 

Indexing Optimization  

Choosing pages that are important for SEO and leveraging the reporting of a sitemap are two ways that you can optimize your pages for quick indexing on search engines.  

An XML sitemap isn’t a listing of all your pages. It’s a smart way to ensure the search engine focuses on the most important links without draining your crawl budget on unnecessary URLs. Hence, you must include high-quality pages that can improve the overall SEO score of your website.  

Leveraging your sitemap’s report includes making sure that you check for errors and warnings, assess indexing trends, select ‘Valid’ and look under ‘Indexed, not submitted’, and check details on ‘excluded’ pages.  

Best Practices  

Take a look at the dos and don’ts when using XML sitemaps below.   

  • Do add location and last modified tags  
  • Don’t forget to compress files via gzip  
  • Do use an XML index file for mapping the site 
  • Don’t go for static sitemaps; choose dynamic option instead  
  • Do submit your XML sitemap index to Bing and Google 
  • Don’t ignore the warnings and errors  
  • Do go through trends and types regularly 
  • Don’t add URLs more than once in sitemaps  
  • Do take note of the indexing rate of submitted pages 
  • Don’t use video or image XML if indexing isn’t the center of your KPI 

Bottom Line  

An XML sitemap is the anatomy of your website and a way to inform the search engine about URLs that are ready for crawling. While video XML is ideal for large businesses that run on videos, image XML favors sites like stock photo libraries.  

Now that you’ve learned the chief four components of such a sitemap and the best practices to make one, you can get started by choosing relevant SEO pages. 

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