Do you ever wonder that how search engines find or navigate your website and various pages in it? Well, Google uses the bots called 'Google spiders' or 'Google robots' to navigate to various pages of your website and discover what's inside.
This way, it establishes the relationship between different pages and useful links (internal links or external links) to understand the web page's relevancy. The structure of your website or the architecture is what we call a sitemap.
In this article, we will be sharing every detail about sitemap, different sitemap types, and the best practices to create a sitemap?
What is Sitemap?
A sitemap is a list of links to all pages on a website, typically hierarchical. Crawlers can use this content on the web to help index and organize websites for better navigation.
Sitemaps are created to make it easier for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to crawl your website.
In other words, a sitemap is a way of mapping the structure, organization, and content of your website pages in a way that defines the navigation of your website.
Sitemaps are an excellent way to get your site listed in search engines, but they aren't the only way. You can submit other types of content, such as RSS feeds or video files. There are many benefits to submitting a sitemap.
For example, it allows search engines to crawl your site more quickly, which will increase the number of people who see your website. It also makes pages easier for visitors to find on Google's search engine.
Web crawlers or search bots use a well-laid sitemap to crawl through the website and index it for search.
Different kinds of Sitemaps
Sitemaps are usually of two types- visual and XML.
Both these sitemaps may differ in structure, but they perform the same functionalities. Thus, SEO professionals use the sitemap to create their site architecture to make it easier for crawlers.
The XML Sitemaps protocol is a standard for web admins to let search engines like Google and Bing know about all the pages on their website. XML site maps are usually designed for search engine bots and not users.
The XML format is a markup language that defines a syntax for encoding documents that both humans and computers can read. The XML file works much the same way as the text file, but it is added through tags.
It helps crawlers go through your website's technical details, such as the total number of pages on your website and how often they are updated.
When you update or publish new content, the search engine bots will receive signals that the content is new and refreshed.
In the HTML sitemap, the index is created from a list of hyperlinks. The structure of this file is very similar to the XML sitemaps, but it has some differences.
HTML sitemap is a list of links inside a web page that shows the site's structure and hierarchy. The purpose of a sitemap is to enable search engines and web users to find pages on the website and understand its content.
A visual sitemap is a map of your website or blog. It can be created by hand or using software. This is helpful when you are optimizing for search engines because it makes it easier for them to determine the structure of your website.
A visual website map is a hierarchical diagram that allows people to understand the website structure, interrelationships between pages (sections), and navigation mechanism.
It is often used as an online guide for the use of the website as well as a way to organize it to help different parts of users
easier find information on different page sections related to their interest.
What is the difference between XML Sitemaps and HTML Sitemaps?
XML Sitemaps is a set of files that web admins use to inform search engines about the URLs on their websites. This is different from HTML sitemaps, which are simply HTML files with a .sitemap extension.
XML sitemaps are usually for the search bots offering easy crawling. On the other hand, HTML websites are designed keeping the users in mind. They are present in the footer of the website that helps users navigate to various pages.
XML Sitemap example
Here is an example of a sitemap created by a popular sitemap generator- the Yoast SEO plugin.
HTML sitemap example
The below image is a visual of HTML sitemap:
Best sitemap practices
A sitemap is a great way to optimize your website for search engines. It is also an essential tool for your SEO since it helps you with easy navigation of your website and helps with better indexing of your site.
If you are looking for the best Sitemap practices, then read further:
Use Dynamic Sitemaps
Using a dynamic sitemap means it can manage any new or modified page you add to your website quickly over time by itself without human intervention. With this method, you can add new pages on the fly without any issue.
Dynamically generating a sitemap is faster than writing to a static file. It also requires fewer resources than the traditional way of building sitemaps.
List All Important Pages
One of the most efficient methods of creating an XML sitemap and getting your site indexed faster is to list all of the pages in your sitemap file.
Include all the essential pages of your website that you want to index and keep checking if the new pages are getting indexed or not.
Make Your Sitemap Accessible
Always make sure that your sitemap is accessible for the search engines. If the sitemap is inaccessible, it may break down your site and show a 404 error to the bots. This way, the search spiders will find it hard to understand the site structure.
This, the sitemap, will be considered untrustworthy.
Exclude Noindex URLs from Your Sitemap
Sitemaps help crawl your site. However, you must not include the pages listed in the noindex meta tag because it will create an issue with the indexing of those pages.
The noindex pages in your sitemap index will confuse the search engine crawlers and negatively impact your crawl budget.
Avoid Redirects and Broken Pages
If you are getting an error message that says, "No URL is found in the sitemap, " this may be because of the redirects.
Also, broken pages will cause issues with your sitemap file. It would be best if you fixed these errors before publishing them on the website.
Sitemap Maintenance method
To keep your sitemap file updated, you should manually update it from time to time. You can also automate the process by using sitemap generators.
The maintenance usually consists of the methods that check for new pages and update the non-existing or the older ones in the sitemap.
How to create and submit a sitemap for your website?
Sitemaps are the best way to improve the search engine rankings of your website. Without sitemaps, search engines cannot understand the structure of your website and can't show you the results.
The best part is that you don't need to be a coder or professional web designer to create a sitemap; manually or using a CMS.
Creating a sitemap using CMS
With most CMS like WordPress, Wix, or Magento, the sitemap comes automatically generated. These CMS platforms make sitemaps available to search engines once the pages are added.
Several site plugins or extensions, such as the Yoast SEO plugin that generates the site map. In any case, the sitemap does not generate; you can Google search for the sitemap online.
Manually create a sitemap
If you have less than dozen or only a few URLs, you can create a sitemap manually. To do this, open a text editor like Notepad and create a list of these pages and subpages in the order you want to add.
Alternatively, you can use the sitemap generator or XMLSitemaps.com.
Automatically generate a sitemap
Many tools can make a sitemap for you. But the best way is to have your website create it for you with their software, not using other tools.
The best practice is to generate the sitemap from the website database and export the URLs to the webserver.
Maps are a great way to keep track of what you're doing on your website. They are helpful for SEO, but visitors can also use them to find your content.
Site audits are ways to find errors in how your site is built that might cause crawlers to have problems crawling it. You should do these regularly to check for any potential problems with your website and fix them before submitting a sitemap.