The sitemap is the first point of stop for search engine crawlers. The search bots read the info present on your sitemap, to crawl your website with ease. Simply put, your sitemap plays a crucial role in determining your search engine rankings.
Here, in this post, we show all that you need to know about sitemaps – how to create, submit and best practices.
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file that contains information about the pages on your site. Details from the sitemap are sent to Google and other search engines.
What does the Sitemap contain?
It contains several snippets of information, the key ones being:
- Metadata about your web pages like how frequently it is updated, when was the last date of update, and more.
- It also contains metadata about the content on your web pages like images, videos, and text blocks. For instance, the metadata of a video can help search engine bots know the videos run time, category, and rating.
Why does the Sitemap Matter?
When you have a properly-defined sitemap, web crawlers will be able to navigate your site with ease, especially when you have pages (like the archives section) that are not internally linked to the main pages.
Here’s an important point to note – just because you have a sitemap, it doesn’t mean Google search bots crawl over all your pages and get them indexed. With that said, having a sitemap is an efficient way to boost your site’s visibility for search engines.
3-Steps to Build a Sitemap for your Website
- You have to first, identify the pages that you want Google’s bots to crawl and discover on your site. The next step is to create a canonical version for each page on your list.
- Now, you have to decide the right sitemap format to use (RSS, XML, Google Sites or Text) and then build a sitemap from scratch. Alternatively, you can use any third-party tool to create your sitemap.
- Once you have built your sitemap, you have to make it available to Google. For this, you have to add the sitemap to your site’s “robots.txt,” file and then submit it to Google using the Search Console.
How to Submit your Sitemap to Google Search Console?
- Once your site is verified, head to Google Search Console.
- Key in the URL of your site and complete the verification of your ownership of the site.
- Then, click on Sitemaps -> ADD/TEST SITEMAP.
- Enter sitemap.xml and then finish by clicking Submit Sitemap.
Make sure that your sitemap has the name “Sitemap.xml.” Using any other name returns an error. Once you have added the sitemap to your site, Google will use it for future crawling references.
Best Practices for Sitemap Creation
- Use consistent and fully-qualified URLs.
- Make sure that the URLs for pages on your site don’t contain any session IDs.
- If URLs are a translated version, make sure you indicate it.
- Sitemaps should be UTF-8 encoded.
- Break large sitemaps into multiple files. If following this method, then make sure you have an index file for the sitemap.
- Irrespective of the sitemap format you use, it has to be lesser than 10MB and contain no more than 50,000 URLs.
Sitemaps are a great way to ensure that Google’s search bots have detailed information about your site, thereby boosting your search engine rankings and providing your site with better visibility online.