If you’re a pirate trying to find a treasure chest, wouldn’t a map tell you exactly where the treasure is, making your life so much easier?
Okay, that’s essentially what the XML sitemap does for search engine crawlers— and that makes it easier for them to locate and index pages on your web.
In this article, I’m going to talk about what an XML sitemap is, how to build a sitemap, and how to upload one via the Google Search Console. Stay tuned to hold you updated.
Okay, first of all, what’s the XML sitemap?
Search engines rely on bots named crawlers to go to the World Wide Web and locate sites online.
While they’re pretty quick to do this, it can take quite a while until they find a specific link on your website, because of the sheer amount of content available online.
Here’s where the XML sitemap comes in handy!
An XML sitemap is a folder on your page that shows the search engine crawlers what you want them to look at on your web.
It looks something like this:
You can see a sitemap of one reference in this instance from sitemaps.org. There are three sections of the sitemap needed. The first one is <urlset>, which includes all the URLs in the sitemap.
The next needed element is the < url > label, which is the container for all information related to the individual URLs. Now we’re going to get to the individual URL data. Inside the URL tag is the place tag (< loc >) which is where you placed the URL to which you want to steer the crawler.
Certain apps are not needed by search engines, but are still very beneficial.
The last update attribute (< lastmod >) will inform you when the folder was last changed.
The shift rate label (< changefreq >) specifies how often you modify your sites, and the importance tag (< priority >) indicates the pages are most relevant on your web.
Here is an instance of a sitemap from the GLAD food storage and trash bag service.
Here’s another instance of a New Yorker XML sitemap. Here you’ll see all the usual sitemap components I talked about earlier, such as < urlset >, < url >, < loc >, and < lastmod > labels.
How do sitemaps affect SEO?
Sitemaps may have a positive effect on your SEO.
While we’re focused on XML sitemaps right now, HTML sitemaps are a very valuable SEO method.
Typically, a reference to the HTML sitemap can be found in the footer of the website. Here you can see an instance of an HTML sitemap.
The HTML sitemap was meant for people and crawlers, making it easy for crawlers to locate and search connections on your page. The XML sitemap is designed for crawlers and helps them find new index sites.
Crawling and indexing links on your web is a big part of how search engines find out where the site is going to rate.
How do you build an XML sitemap for your site?
If you build an XML sitemap, you want to include references to all sites that you want search bots to find.
If you don’t want a website to crawl, don’t add it to your XML sitemap. However, that’s not going to stop the search engine crawler from finding it. You should include pages that you don’t want to crawl in your robots.txt file.
Find out our robots.txt blog post after this article if you want to know more about it.
XML-Sitemaps.com is a great tool for generating a sitemap for your website. If your website is 500 words or less, you can use this resource free of charge.
If you are using a content management system like WordPress, there are plugins available that will render and modify the XML sitemap for you.
Let’s talk about how to upload your XML sitemap.
How do you send an XML sitemap to the Google Search Console?
If you don’t have a Google Search Console account linked to your page, you will need to build it first.
Once you’ve accomplished so, you’ll notice “Sitemaps” under “List” on the left sidebar of the Google Search Console.
Select “Sitemaps” and you’ll be guided to a section where you can add a link to your sitemap. Paste the URL in the box that says “Add a new sitemap” and select send.
You’ve downloaded the sitemap to Google!
Google won’t start browsing the site right away. It may take a few days, or even a few weeks, for Google to crawl your site, but if you look at your sitemap report, it will tell you how many URLs Google has found on your sitemap and if Google has scrolled through your sitemap.
It is important to keep the sitemap up-to-date by regularly changing which pages will or should not be there. But once you upload a sitemap to the Google Search Console, you should sit back and let the Google crawler do all the job! Nothing too wild, isn’t it?
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