What is a Sitemap And How do you create a sitemap?

From the perspective of an SEO strategy, every site needs to have a sitemap. But the concept of sitemap can be quite confusing. So if you are wondering what a sitemap is and why you need it, this blog is just for you. So stick with us and continue reading on:

What Is Sitemap?

It is essential that Google can crawl all the crucial pages on your site. However, sometimes there are various pages that might not have inbound links. Without significant link building, Google crawlers might not be able to find crucial pages on your site and rank them. Such pages are usually called orphan pages. But with the help of a sitemap, all the critical pages of your website can be quickly listed down, ensuring that Google can easily find and crawl them. The XML sitemap also helps in understanding the website structure. An XML sitemap also helps in identifying essential files on the website.

There are two types of sitemaps called HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps.

HTML sitemap

An HTML sitemap is basically an HTML page where all the subpages of a site are listed. This sitemap is basically available in the footer of a website. Any visitor can view this sitemap and interact with it. In this way, the HTML sitemaps are basically created for the visitors, so they can easily navigate through a website by understanding its structure and viewing all of its subpages.

If the visuals are considered, then an HTML sitemap basically looks like a navigation tab where all the tabs can be opened, and the users can link on every links to get to the concerned subpage. HTML sitemaps are preferred because they link all the existing subpages in the form of a list. This is usually important for large websites where it can be difficult through different sites.

If you have an incredibly large website, you can divide the sitemap into different hierarchy levels. For instance, all the sites can be linked in alphabetical order, so when the user clicks a particular letter, pages beginning with the litter will pop up only. The pages can be further subdivided until the links can be managed easily.

For smaller websites, on the other hand, a single HTML page is enough. The links on this page can be arranged chronologically. Which is mainly considered necessary if the site contains editorial content like blog articles and news. However, you cannot have more than 800 pages on your sitemap, as such a large number does not contribute to anything.

XML sitemap

An XML sitemap helps the Google bots in crawling a site in a very effective way. It can help the bots in understanding the most important URLs present in a site. An XML sitemap consists of details of all the URLs present on the site as well, such as the time when they were last updated, how essential they are, and if the same pages exist in a different language. There are various tags that can be included in a XML sitemap such as <lastmod>, <priority>, and <changefreq>.

Basically, the <lastmod> tag provides the date when the last modification was made to the file. In this way, it is crucial that the <lastmod> tag is in the following format: YYYY-MM-DD. On the other hand, the <changefreq> tag informs the crawler about the number of times the page changes.  The <priority> tag instead provides information regarding the importance of individual pages by signalling to Google and other related search engines.

Although the XML sitemap does not guarantee that your pages will be crawled and eventually indexed by the search engines, it does increase the chances of this occurring especially if there are less inbound links on your site. XML sitemap itself has many types.

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Types Of XML Sitemap

Image Sitemaps

Just like the name suggests, the image sitemap is reserved for the images. With an image sitemap, your images on the site can get featured in the Image search of Google and other search engines. Some mandatory tags for an image sitemap are <image:loc> and <image:image>. Some optional tags for image sitemap are <image:title> and <image:caption>.

Video Sitemaps

Video sitemaps ensure that the videos on your site can get featured in the search engine result pages. It also helps the bots to understand the content of the video and show it in the relevant SERPs. Just like image sitemap, video sitemap also has some mandatory tags. These include <video:video>, <url>, video:thumbnail_loc>, <video:description>, <video:title>, <loc>, and <video:content_loc>.

News Sitemaps

This sitemap is essential for all the news-related websites. It allows the news articles to be featured in the “News” section of the SERPs. However, there are various restrictions when it comes to creating news sitemaps. For instance, these sitemaps can only have articles that are published within 2 days. It does not allow more than 1000 URLs to be featured. Therefore, if there are more than 1000 pages that have to be indexed and crawled, it is better to categorize the URLs in different categories or sitemaps and employ a sitemap index file.

Mobile Sitemaps

While this is not a compulsory sitemap, you can have a mobile sitemap only if you have designed a particular version of your site for the mobile devices. The sitemap allows the search engines to crawl your sites better, serve the search request coming from mobile phones, and lead the users to your pages.

How do you create a sitemap?

So now, it is essential to ask how you can create a sitemap. This can be done in five simple steps, which are highlighted below.

Assess the structure of your pages

To start with, you need to first review how the content and pages are structured and organized on your site. One way to consider the structure of your pages is to think of them like a pyramid. On the topmost level of the pyramid lies the homepage. The homepage then links to multiple category pages on the menu options available at your site.

These category pages further divide into subcategory pages. However, when SEO is considered, not all pages are created equally. The pages that are further away from the homepage of the site is much challenging to rank for. Therefore, it is recommended to create a shallow depth. This means only three clicks are required to access a specific page on your site.

What you need to do is prioritize your content and create a constructive hierarchy. For instance, if the About Us page is essential for your site, it should be on the top-level navigation, so it can be indexed and crawled adequately.

Code the page URLs

XML tags can be used to format the URL. Location, changed frequency, the priority of page, and last changed are just some of the most important tags that should be added when creating the URL.

Authenticate the code

It is likely that you might make mistakes in creating the code manually. After all, human error is quite possible when it comes to code creation. However, without a proper code, your sitemap will be unable to function correctly. Therefore, you can use various tools to help authenticate your code and ensure the syntax is correct. You can easily search for these codes on Google and access them.

Add to the root and robots.txt

For the fourth step, you should start by locating the root folder of your site. Once you have found it, you can add the sitemap file to the folder. In this way, your page will be added to the site. To see the sitemap of different websites, you can type “/sitemap/’ to the URL. You can also search for the code on various sites by adding “/sitemap.xml” to the URL.

Other than the root file, it is also crucial to add the sitemap in the robots.txt file. This will provide instructions to the crawlers for indexing the site. However, not everyone adds the sitemaps to the robots.txt file, so it technically depends upon your preferences.

Submit your sitemap

Once your sitemap is created and added to the site map, it is crucial to submit them to the search engines. For this, you need to search Google Search Console. You can easily set this up if you don’t have one already.

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Is there something else you can do?

While the steps mentioned above are straightforward to perform, you might be still uncomfortable in performing them. Luckily, there are various options to create sitemaps. For instance, you can install plugins on your site to generate the sitemap like Yoast plugin for a WordPress website. You can also employ a digital marketing agency in Malaysia as well to create sitemaps and facilitate the SEO strategy for you.

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In The End

So it should be evident by now that a sitemap is exceptionally crucial for your site. If you don’t have one already, think about structuring one today. In this way, your site will have more chances of showing up on the search engine result pages.