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Search engine robots reach a huge number of websites every day. However, they have limited resources and navigating through each subpage of the site is very difficult. To make this task easier for the robots, it is necessary to create a site map. What is a site map and what impact does it have on SEO?
What is a sitemap and what are its types?”
Site map (sitemap) is a list of pages on a website. It shows the hierarchical structure of the site and its content. Often it also contains information about the date of the last update of a subpage and language versions.
However, the most important task of a sitemap is to help crawlers and search engines index the site’s pages.
We can encounter two formats of maps.
Sitemap in XML format
Sitemap in XML format (Extensible Markup Language) is a text file containing a list of all the URLs of a given website that should appear in search results. It is placed directly on the server, and the XML format allows its structure to be standardized so that anyone can adapt it to specific requirements.
There are several rules that define what a map should look like. Among the most important of these are its size, which should not exceed 50 MB, the number of addresses (maximum 50,000) and UTF-8 encoding.
Some sites, due to their size, have several maps. Most often they are divided into separate maps for categories, products and blog posts. Using such a solution, remember to create collective map (index sitemap), which will contain information about all existing maps of a given site.
Sitemap for graphics and images
Many sites, in order to organize the data, also use the division of sitemaps according to the type of data that is on the website.
In almost every website there are graphics and images. In the case of the e-commerce industry, the number of them is huge, as each product has at least one image assigned to it and in most cases there are several.
Considering the number of categories and products that are in an online store, we can imagine how many graphics are on the site. Creating a separate sitemap dedicated to graphics and photos will allow you to organize the data and make it easier for the robots to index.
Sitemap for video files
If there are videos on the site it is a good idea to create a separate sitemap for them as well. This will allow you to provide the robots with additional information and parameters of the videos. It is worth remembering to include in the sitemap pages that are closely related to the site’s subject matter. Pointing robots to other videos on the site will result in a loss of crawl budget for content that is not very relevant to the positioning of the website.
The HTML site map is mainly used in large sites with quite a number of sub-pages. It is usually placed in the footer and is a kind of navigational element for users and search engine robots. The most important advantage of an HTML sitemap is the strengthening of internal linking within the site.
How to create a sitemap file?
When creating a sitemap, follow generally accepted rules and principles.
- avoidance of Polish characters – in order for the sitemap to read sub-page URLs correctly, they must not contain Polish characters. The entire sitemap should be made in UTF-8 format
- verify the directives in the robots.txt file – it is worth checking that the addresses included in the sitemap are not blocked by the guidelines in the robots.txt file. Conflicting information contained in both of these sources will certainly negatively affect the indexing status of your site
- negotiated URL format – links included in the sitemap must match the sub-page addresses of the site. Note the address notation with or without ‘www’
- acceptable size and number of addresses – for large sites, it is a good idea to create several smaller sitemaps and place them in a collective map
- Exclude certain URLs from the map – in order not to waste the crawl budget, you should exclude from the sitemap addresses that search engine robots should not index. These include sites that contain terms and conditions or privacy policies, sites that require login or contain 404 errors and redirects
Automatic sitemap creation
Creating a sitemap for small websites consisting of a few or a dozen or so subpages does not require a lot of work and we can include all the applicable rules in it.
However, in the case when the site has many subpages, is an online store with a large number of products or categories, it may turn out that the manual creation of the map is beyond our capabilities.
There are many tools and plug-ins that make map generation automatic.
A popular crawler that SEO specialists often use is Screaming Frog If our planned map is to include less than 500 URLs, we can do it for free. For more extensive sites, we must have a license that allows us to operate on a larger scale. To create a map in Screming Frog, all we have to do is crawl the site and use the ‘Sitemaps -> XML Sitemap’ option. After we specify the parameters and addresses we want, the sitemap will be automatically generated in xml format.
There are also several online tools that allow you to automatically and quickly create a sitemap. They are available for free, but have their limitations. Some of them allow you to generate sitemaps for sites whose size does not exceed 1,000 subpages.
The easiest solution is plug-ins, allowing you to generate maps for sites that are CMS-based. Each content management system has plugins tailored to its technical requirements. One of the most popular plugins to help SEO is Yoast SEO, available for WordPress users. In addition, the RankMath plugin and the XML Sitemaps plugin dedicated to site mapping are also worth noting.
By using tools for automatic sitemap generation, we can gain time and be sure. that the map will not contain errors.
Where to submit a site map?
With the site map ready, we should inform search engine robots that they can use it. To do this, we need to report it to Google using the tool Google Search Console
The Site Map tab is where we can put all existing site maps and check if it has already been noticed by robots and when.
In addition, sitemap information in XML format should be placed in the robots.txt file using the appropriate directive (Sitemap: namanaszejdomeny.com/sitemap.xml).
The impact of Sitemap on SEO
Creating a sitemap, especially with the tools currently available, is not a time-consuming process and can definitely benefit a site. Properly creating a sitemap and submitting it to the GSC allows search engine robots to optimally scan the site’s pages and content.
In addition, an HTML sitemap allows you to improve internal linking within the site, which definitely increases the site’s position in the search engine. Properly created sitemap is one of the most important elements of website positioning