Sitemap | Importance and How to Create It
What is a sitemap?
A sitemap is a complete map of your website that is uploaded to your site’s server in the main path of your website files.
It allows search engines and visitors to find their way into your website pages and content.
It can be broadly divided into two types:
- XML sitemaps
- HTML sitemaps.
Both of them must contain all the links on the site, to help Google and other search engine spiders crawl your site.
Types of sitemaps:
Sitemaps are usually divided into two types (HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps), both of them can help improve SEO.
It is very important that you know the important differences between them:
are a page that outlines the overall structure of your website, which links all important pages on your site under one page.
An HTML sitemap is a hub that places your site’s table of contents in a visual format to the user, and adding Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) can make the experience even more attractive for them.
In addition to enhancing your site’s usability, owning an HTML sitemap can improve your website’s SEO.
But XML sitemaps make this a higher priority.
The XML sitemap
is primarily a SEO file, and it shouldn’t be visible to site visitors.
It stores information about the pages, news, videos, and other content on your site as well as the relationship between them (this depends on what data you add to the file yourself).
When there is an XML sitemap, search engines can crawl to a website more accurately and easily, knowing:
- When it was recently updated.
- The number of times its content has been updated.
- The importance of each of the website links.
- Are alternative language versions available or not?
This gives search engines a guide to the nature of the site’s pages and their links.
Here’s how the initial entry code for a standard XML sitemap looks like:
The code above transfers basic information to search engines:
- Where is this page located (loc)?
- Last update time (lasted).
- How often has its content been updated (changefreq).
- How important is it in the context of the website (priority)?
Priority and frequency of updates, in particular, are important signs because they may determine when and how often search engine crawlers visit your website, which can have far-reaching implications.
And if you’re creating a site map manually, you’ll need to master these tags.
While standard XML sitemaps give search engines the data they need on your website pages, search engines will also need to know the anatomy of the supporting XML sitemaps to provide them with basic information about images, videos, and news content, which includes:
Image XML Sitemaps:
Convey information about your website images and direct search engines to the pages on them.
XML Video Sitemaps:
Provide search engines with basic information about the clips they host.
XML News Sitemaps:
Helps search engines capture any news content they may host.
Mobile XML sitemaps:
Many websites are now optimizing their content for tablets and smartphones.
- And by using the supporting sitemaps, you can let search engines know exactly where your mobile-responsive pages are.
A sitemap allows webmasters to tag the most important pages and most important content on their website, and relay this information to search engines.
This gives Google and the rest of the search engines a clearer idea of the structure of your site and the nature of the content it provides.
This includes precise details about the video, images, and other media files on your website.
A specific video entry into the sitemap can tell Google how long the clip has run, which category it belongs to and whether there is an age-appropriate rating that users should be aware of.
Also, entering an image can shed light on its subject, file type, usage rights, etc.
There is no doubt that giving this basic information to the search engines and helping them to better understand the context of your website and how it is classified can give your site a great opportunity for SEO.
The main reasons for creating a site map can also be summarized in three points, namely:
Planning all of your website pages in advance suggests that you pay great attention to the content.
This step includes; Research, writing, image acquisition, general design, and all the other elements that go into creating a great website.
Improve user experience:
With location maps, you can easily visualize the user journey.
This will help you search for broken paths in your content, give you opportunities to add links between pages, and make sure there is nothing unexpected.
Optimizing your site for specific goals:
One of the most important questions that you must answer when planning a website is:
“What is the impression, value, and benefit that your visitors will benefit from? How will this help you develop your business? And encourage your customers to make more visits?”
By defining what you want to put on your website, and how to direct users, sitemaps help you keep your business goals on track.
Just as you can create a sitemap for your site pages, you can also create a sitemap for the videos and images within your site.
And here something very important must be mentioned; And that is that the sitemap does not force Google or the rest of the search engines to crawl to your site in a specific way, but it is just a guide through which the search engines provide information about your site’s links and help in archiving it.
Although all search engines emphasize the importance of the site map file, and the need to create it, they have the right to adopt this directory or not.
What does a sitemap consist of?
An XML sitemap consists of code as shown in the following figure:
- The first and second lines of the code are not repeated, and they represent the opening of the file.
- The line written in green indicates the service through which the sitemap was created.
Here is a detailed explanation of the code contained in the sitemap for each link:
- Any code for any link that starts with this <url> symbol.
- you will find a code that begins and ends with this code <loc>, and contains the link that this part of the code talks about.
- find a code that begins and ends with this symbol <lastmod>. This is a signal through which the site map informs the search engines of the last time a change or amendment was made to this link.
- In the line following the rate of change, you will find another line that begins and ends with this symbol <priority>, indicating the priority or importance of this link.
- The priority is measured from zero to one integer, for example, the priority of your home page will take an integer one, and other pages maybe 0.7 or 0.8, and so on.
- The code for any link ends as it began with this code </url>
- At the end of the site, the map is final, you will find it also ends as it began, with this symbol </urlset>.
How to create a sitemap? What are the most important tools for doing this?
Creating a sitemap manually involves a lot of work. First, you will need to go through a great brainstorming process, carefully review your site’s structure, and prepare a template for its pages, content, and all the details you think you will need while converting your listings into a diagram.
Now that you have a large list of things to include, it is time to start organizing it, creating a hierarchy of pages based on how you want them to be indexed.
(You can do this with a diagramming tool like Gliffy Online or an Atlassian app that lets you share your diagram with anyone.)
Once you’ve brainstormed for a competition sitemap, it’s time to digitally arrange things again.
Pay attention to the main pages, subpages, and all other existing pages.
Use different shapes, colors, and fonts to indicate the relationships between them.
Next, you need to define the main categories your website will include.
Here you will think about the following:
- What am I going to put in the top bar or sidebar to direct people?
- The sub-pages for each home page?
- Pages fit each sub-page?
And after that; Time to focus your thoughts!
And at this stage; You may find that there are a lot of ideas that you want to put on your website, but they do not fit into the categories or subcategories, and this will be a sign that you have to schedule these things for later, or in another website, or you will have to redesign the website to have the appropriate space in your website.
You may also find that you have some very similar ideas with each other, and you should group them together into one idea so that you do not end up on two different pages containing duplicate information.
Not only does this require a degree of technical knowledge, but there is also always a chance of error that you must take into account.
You can also include your sitemap annotations to let people know what it all means, especially if you plan to share your map with clients or an outside team.
Even for internal use, legends are a good practice to keep things organized and easy to read and access.
Here’s an example of what a draft sitemap might look like when you launch a product.
Fortunately, there are handy tools that can take the hassle out of creating and checking your sitemap file.
“20 I Sitemap Generator” is an interesting example of these tools.
It is a simple tool, and with one click that uses a robot to crawl to your website, it will create a sitemap for the accessible pages automatically, keeping in mind all the robots.txt restrictions along the way.
Moreover, you can set it to automatically update the sitemap file at preset intervals to ensure that your latest content is included.
After creating the sitemap file, you must upload it to your site’s server in the site root (public_html).
There are many sites that provide a site map service, some are free and others are paid.
Here is a list of the most important tools for creating a sitemap file:
- XML-Sitemaps: Free, up to 500 links.
- Sitemap Writer Pro (paid software).
- Inspyder: a paid program that specializes in creating a sitemap for the Google search engine.
- Dynomapper: a comprehensive tool for crawling your site, discovering broken links, and creating a sitemap file.
- Slickplan: a professional paid sitemap tool that contains many other services.
How do I add a sitemap to Google Search Console?
You should have a Google Search Console account here.
And if you don’t have an account, you can create it with a Gmail account.
After creating the account and activating your site
you can follow the following steps to add your sitemap to the Google Search Console:
- Once in the control panel, go to the Crawl (Index section).
- Click on the small arrow next to it.
- Click on the add/test sitemaps button in the top right.
- Put the name of the file you previously uploaded, which might be called sitemap.xml.
- Click on the submit button.
- Wait for Google to scan and approve the sitemap.
- Every time you log in to your account on Google Tools for Webmasters, you will find a report on the site map, in terms of the number of links that have been indexed from Google out of the number of links on the site map.
How important is the sitemap to Google?
A site map is an essential factor for every website, and its importance lies in that it gives a clear, direct, and explicit map for Google spiders, and the rest of the search engine spiders, to crawl all the pages of the site correctly and smarter in order to archive them.
According to Google itself, the sitemap has great importance in the following cases:
- your website is new, and you want an easy way to introduce it to search engines.
- website is large and contains a large number of internal pages.
- the pages of your website are not linked properly, or there are certain pages that are not linked to the rest of the pages.
What are Google’s terms for the sitemap?
- Use UTF-8 encoding.
- The maximum number of links within the file should not exceed 50 thousand links.
- Links must match the name of the website.
- If the file is very large and contains a large number of links, split it into several files and add it to Google.
- The server response when requested should be 200OK.
- Links should not contain other extensions such as GET parameters and other parameters.
Some misconceptions about a sitemap:
There are many misconceptions about the sitemap, the most famous of which are:
The sitemap file ensures that all links are archived:
This is not correct, as the sitemap file informs Google about the structure of the site and helps it to archive faster, but it does not give any guarantee for that.
Removing any link from the sitemap leads to its removal from search engines:
It is a common mistake, as the archiving of the site by the search engines and your site map do not communicate
It is difficult to create a sitemap file:
Exactly the contrary; In this content, we explained how to do this with just a few simple clicks (even if there is no prior programming experience).
A sitemap is a visual representation of your website, helping you see how users are searching for information.
And it’s a vital step in building a practical, usable website that takes your users where you want them to go.
Therefore, whether you’re building a website from scratch or planning full maintenance, you need a site map.