Understanding XML Sitemap

A sitemap is essentially a road map of your website, but whereas an HTML sitemap is designed for the user, to navigate your site, the xml sitemap is aimed at search engines. But why is this important and how do you create and submit one?

An xml sitemap is a complete list of all your URLs, with the ability for the webmaster to include additional information, such as hierarchy of importance, when the URL was added, when it was last updated and how often it changes.

What is the function of an xml sitemap?

Your sitemap is created as an, which is submitted to search engines. This tells them which pages to crawl. The xml sitemap is an xml file inclusion protocol and works in conjunction with a robots.txt file, which is an exclusion protocol. The robots.txt file is a list of URLs you don’t want to be crawled, such as your privacy policy page, payment pages etc.

Why is an xml sitemap important?

An xml sitemap makes it much easier for search engines to locate and rank your website’s pages. It does this by understanding context and relevancy, looking at URL architecture and hierarchy, to determine where best to rank them. It basically makes Google’s job easier, ensuring a better SEO performance.

How do you create and submit an xml sitemap?

There are several different ways to create these, depending on your site. For static websites with no CMS or admin panel, you may need your developer to manually create this file and upload it to your site via FTP access, using a tool like FileZilla.  For sites that have a CMS (content management system) or are built on platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, you can download an add on like Yoast (for WordPress) which will create an xml sitemap for you. You can then submit this using the Google Search Console.

The Google Search Console does also allow you to create an xml sitemap. Simply select Sitemaps > Dashboard > Add/Test Sitemap and then submit the file.

How often do I need to submit an xml sitemap?

Once you have generated and submitted your sitemap to search engines like Google, you shouldn’t have to do this again. However, if you regularly add new content and make changes to your URLs, in terms of content or structure, you can force a re-crawl intermittently, using the Google Search Console. This speeds up re-indexing and minimises any drops in rankings.

Need some advice on your SEO performance? Whitefish Marketing is an established Kent based digital marketing agency with expertise in helping businesses to grow their online presence, providing a range of online marketing services from SEOPPC to website development and social media management. Give our friendly team a call on 01303 720 288.

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