101 Guide to the Sitemaps in 2021. | SEOTips | Digital marketing

101 Guide to the Sitemaps in 2021. | SEOTips | Digital marketing

When it comes to SiteMaps and Digital Marketing, Everyone likes quick and easy wins. To get your website ranked on the internet, you need to take advantage of as many SEO tricks. Creating a sitemap is one technique that will definitely help improve your SEO strategy.

In this Article, You Will find Everything Important:
  1. How sitemaps can help you with SEO
  2. Do you really need a sitemap? Find it out
  3. Choose the most suitable types of sitemaps for your website
  4. Make your sitemaps in 4 steps:
  5. The last important step: Notify search engines about sitemaps

Quick tip for WordPress users: Use One SEO Plugin for sitemap. As it automatically creates your sitemap and much more, for your WordPress site.

What is XML SiteMap?

Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site.

According to the official site

What is the Main Purpose of Sitemap?

A Sitemap is a list of web pages created for web crawlers so they can find your web content fast and easily.  The search engine can use sitemaps to see the newest pages on a website, or all the web pages together, including all images, video content, etc.

sitemap-vs-website
A search engine will find page page1.3.2 in a sitemap immediately, within one visit of the file. On the website illustrated above, it will have to jump through 9web pages to find page 1.3.2.

How sitemaps can help you with SEO?

Unfortunately, webmasters often give sitemaps credit, which they actually don’t deserve. I have to say it clear and loud

SiteMaps don’t help you with better Search Rankings.

A Sitemap is not a Ranking Factor. Listing URLs into sitemaps has zero influence on the higher search rankings. But still, there are a few SEO benefits of Sitemaps:

  • Faster indexation: The search Engine will find out about new pages much faster, therefore, the indexation process and displaying the website in search results will be faster as well. Sitemaps can help you with the deindexation too.
  • Better indexation of deep pages: Search engines will find out the pages that were not discovered while crawling the website. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that all of them will be indexed.
  • Monitoring of indexed pages: In combination with Google Search Console, it is possible to find out which URLs are covered in the sitemaps that Google indexes.

Do you need a sitemap?

A sitemap isn’t necessary for every Website. And if you need one, it doesn’t exactly have to be a sitemap.xml. You can implement several types of sitemaps, like an RSS feed or special extensions for a sitemap.xml.

A SiteMap is for you, if:
  • You have a large website: A website with 100 pages isn’t large. Even a website with 1,000 pages is still pretty small, and a sitemap isn’t really necessary. For bigger sites, however, you should definitely consider it. Do you have one million pages? Then you need a sitemap.
  • You have a new site:  A sitemap helps crawlers to find a New website just after launch and index the new pages much faster.
  • Need change your website’s content frequently
  • Need to index your fresh content very fast: A sitemap helps to accelerate the indexation of newly added pages after adding them to the sitemap, especially, when your site is in Google News.
Don’t need a SiteMap if your website is:
  • One-page presentation
  • A portfolio website
  • A website with just one page.
  • SaaS application

Quick tip for Blog users: If a blog is part of your website, you should use an RSS feed for it.

Which types of sitemaps are most suitable for your website?

Before you start to think about how to code and implement sitemaps, you have to choose the right type of sitemaps to fit your needs. Here is the complete table:

TypePurposeWhere to Use it
XML sitemap
Better indexation of deep linked HTML pages
New or extensive website with complex navigation
Image XML sitemapExtension for videoThe website with video content
Video XML sitemapExtension for imagesThe website with important image content
Google News SitemapRapid indexation of newsThe website involved in Google News
RSS feed / AtomNewest or updated HTML sites, imagesThe website with often added or updated content

Quick Tip: Avoid Static Sitemap Generators

Sitemap generator tools like XML-sitemaps are very popular. You enter the URL of your website, and then the generator starts to crawl it and creates the sitemap. After that, you upload the generated sitemap file to the webserver. It is easy to use, but it’s also mostly useless and counterproductive.

If you create new web pages, the sitemap remains the same. It will not reflect the chaHnges.

How to create a Sitemap?

If you’re ready to get started on creating your own sitemap. All of the sitemaps described above are in XML format. There are two basic formats: XML sitemaps and RSS.

XML sitemap and RSS Format
XML sitemap and RSS Format

With XML sitemap and RSS Formats, you will Cover Everything. Each Bing, Google & don’t Forget Yandex sitemaps. So, you don’t need to use or know more about other Formats, such as an Atom feed and others.

1. Declaration

Crawlers recognize the sitemap by this declaration

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
 
</urlset>
2. Adding URLs

Tag <urlset> wraps URLs. Here is a simple sitemap with one URL

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"> 
   <url>
      <loc>http://www.example.com/page1.html</loc> 
   </url>
</urlset>

For adding more URLs, you just put more <url> tags in there. Only one tag is required in a <url> tag and that is its location. Thanks to using  <loc> tag, Google will know about all of the important URLs.

3. Adding lastmod to URLs

I also strongly recommend wrapping an information about the last update of URL in the <url> tag. It can accelerate the recrawling of the URL with fresh content. You can do it with a <lastmod> tag like this:

<url>
   <loc>http://www.example.com/page1.html</loc>
   <lastmod>2021-04-04T12:58:15+00:00</lastmod>
</url>
4. Lastmod formatting

Lastmod uses a W3C date and time format. Let’s take a look at the value in the example above

  Description of value 2017-10-20T17:30:00-02:00.

Part of the valueDescription
2017-10-20The date, 20th of October, 2017
TThe separator between date and time
17:30:0017 hours, 30 minutes, 0 seconds
-02:00Time is observed in the UTC time zone, and -02:00 means time is shifted 2 hours backward. If you want to use the exact UTC, put a “Z” character instead (2017-10-20T17:30:00Z)
5. Priority

The Priority of this URL relative to other URLs on your site. Valid values range from 0.0 to 1.0. This value does not affect how your pages are compared to pages on other sites—it only lets the search engines know which pages you deem most important for the crawlers.

The Default Priority of a Page is 0.5

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"> 
   <url>
      <loc>http://www.example.com/page1.html</loc>
      <lastmod>2021-04-04T12:58:15+00:00</lastmod>
      <priority>0.95<priority>
   </url>
</urlset>

Please note that the priority you assign to a page is not likely to influence the position of your URLs in a search engine’s result pages. Search engines may use this information when selecting between URLs on the same site, so you can use this tag to increase the likelihood that your most important pages are present in a search index.

6. Sitemap Guidelines

When you will be creating a sitemap, you have to fulfill some limits and follow these rules: 

Correct Encoding, Character Escaping, and URL format.

  • Use UTF-8 encoding
  • Use absolute URLs If you have the sitemap placed in http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml, you can’t specify a relative URL like /page1.html. You have to use http://www.example.com/page1.html instead.
  • You can compress the sitemap with the gzip method.
  • Each Sitemap should contain less than 50,000 URLs, or the file size should not exceed 50MB uncompressed.
  • Entity escaping:
CharacterEscape code
Ampersand&&amp;
Single quote&apos;
Double quote&quot;
Greater than>&gt;
Less than<&lt;

For example, the URL http://www.example.com/page1.html&lang=en requires escaping of character (&): http://www.example.com/page1.html&amp;lang=en

7. Image Sitemap Extension

You can extend the XML Sitemap with images. just add the XML namespace for the images:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
xmlns:image="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1"> 
  <url>
    <loc>http://www.example.com/page1.html</loc> 
  </url>
</urlset>

Then, add images in the <url> and image sitemap will be done:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9" 
xmlns:image="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1">
   <url>
      <loc>http://www.example.com/page1.html</loc>
      <image:image>
         <image:loc>http://example.com/photo.jpg</image:loc>
      </image:image>
      <image:image>
         <image:loc>http://example.com/image.jpg</image:loc>
      </image:image>
   </url>
</urlset>

<image:image> and <image:loc> tags are required.

To fulfill all image sitemaps best practices, you can add more info about each of them:

NameTagDescription
Title<image:title>The title of the image. You can use the same text as in the alt attribute of the <img> tag.
License URL
<image:license>
Choose the right license type or get the link to your license at http://creativecommons.org/choose/
Geographic location<image:geo_location>The geographic location of the image, for example, “Berlin, Germany”
Caption<image:caption>A longer description of the image

A complete example with optional tags:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9" 
xmlns:image="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1">
   <url>
      <loc>http://www.example.com/page1.html</loc>
      <image:image>
         <image:loc>http://example.com/photo.jpg</image:loc>
         <image:title>Grey cat on the table</image:title>
         <image:license>https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/</image:license>
         <image:geo_location>Berlin, Germany</image:geo_location>
         <image:caption>Funny cat on the table is looking at photographer.</image:caption>
      </image:image>
   </url>
</urlset>
8. Video sitemap extension

You can extend the XML Sitemap with video. just Provide the required information about the videos:

NameTag
Description
Thumbnail image file<video:thumbnail_loc>
A URL pointing to the video thumbnail image file. Images must be at least 160×90 pixels, and at most 1920×1080 pixels
Title<video:title>The title of the video. You can use the same text like in the alt attribute of <video> tag.
Description<video:description>
Video description must match the description displayed on the web page.
Location
<video:content_loc>
or
<video:player_loc>
At least one of these must be specified:
content_loc points to an URL with an actual video media file, but maybe indexed less well;  player_loc points to a URL with a video player. Usually, this is the information in the src element of a <embed> tag.

Don’t forget to add the XML namespace for video and use <video:video> tag for each URL.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
xmlns:video="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-video/1.1">
  <url>
     <loc>http://example.com/video-page.html</loc>
     <video:video>            
        <video:thumbnail_loc>http://example.com/thumb1.jpg
        </video: thumbnail_loc>
        <video:title>Clown in the garden</video:title>
        <video:description>Crazy clown is riding a rabbit.</video:description>    
        <video:content_loc>http://www.example.com/video1.mp4</video:content_loc>
     </video:video>
  </url>
</urlset>
9. Google News Sitemap

If you have a News site, build a Google News Sitemap. It lets you control which content you submit to Google News. For example, The Guardian has a very well-written news sitemap. 

Before you start to use Google News sitemaps, Register your site in Google News so that Google will be alerted to it. After the registration, add all of the news articles created in the last two days to it, with a limit of 1,000 URLs. An update of the sitemaps should be done each time a news article is published.

You can extend the XML Sitemaps with Google News. just Provide the required information about the Articles:

NameTagDescription
Publication <publication> with subtags <news:name> <news:language>First, include the name of the news publication, and then the language of your publication. Use an ISO 639 Language Code.
Date of publications<publication_date>Article publication date in W3C format
Title of articles<title>The title of the news article defined in <h1> heading
Keywords<news: keywords>Keywords describing the article topic, divided by commas
Genre<news:genres>Use <news:genres>Opinion
</news:genres> tag, if the article contains only opinions or comments.

When coding the news sitemap, add the XML namespace for news and use <news: news> tag for each URL. But For better displaying, your article in Google News, try to add <image: image> tag, along with the location of a representative image. Usually, Google picks the image from the article, but without defining the image in sitemaps, your article can be displayed in Google without it.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
xmlns:news="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-news/0.9">
  <url>
     <loc>http://www.exampletimes.com/business/articlel55.html</loc>
     <news:news>
        <news:publication>
           <news:name>The Example Times</news:name>
           <news:language>en</news:language>
        </news:publication>
        <news:publication_date>2021-04-04T12:58:15+00:00</news:publication_date>
        <news:title>Consumers appear loth to spend</news:title>
     </news:news>
     <image:image>
        <image:loc>http://example.com/photo.jpg</image:loc>
     </image:image>
  </url>
</urlset>

A big plus is that readers of RSS feed can add Google News sections to their RSS aggregators. Your articles will be shown in Google News and so will in the RSS feed.

10. RSS feed

An RSS feed is a small file containing the most ten recent fresh updates to your website.

Provide the required information about the URLs, You have to add all of this information for the channel in the <channel> tag and for each URL in the <item> tag: 

NameTagDescription
Title<title>The title of an article defined in the <h1> heading
Link URL<link>A link pointing to an article destination
Description<description>Description of an article
Image of blog<image>Image link points to an image/logo destination
Publication date<pubDate>Date and time of publication in RFC 822 date-time format
File enclosure<enclosure>A media file included with an item
Category<category>
Category division — RSS aggregators will group sites based on category.
If two or more categories are applicable, use the <category> tag separately for each category.

The RSS sitemaps template with optional tags:

<rss xmlns:media=”http://search.yahoo.com/mrss/”version="2.0">
<channel>
  <title>Spotibo</title>
  <link>https://blog.spotibo.com/feed</link>
  <description>On-page and technical SEO tips</description>
  <language>en-gb</language>
  <image>
    <url>https://blog.spotibo.com/images/logo.png</url>
    <title>Spotibo</title>
    <link>https://blog.spotibo.com/</link>
  </image>
  <item>
    <title>Sitemaps</title>
    <link>https://blog.spotibo.com/article-about-sitemaps </link>
    <description>This article is about sitemaps.</description>
    <enclosure url="https://blog.spotibo.com/sitemap-tutorial.mp3"
    length="5000" type="audio/mpeg" />
    <category>SEO</category>
  </item>
</channel>
</rss>

If you run a blog on WordPress, an RSS feed is generated automatically and updated at the URL www.example.com/feed/.

The final step is submitting your feed to an aggregator that will match the interest. There are many popular aggregators where you should try to submit your website.

Validate the code

Any time you code manually, human error is possible. But, For your SiteMaps to function Properly, you can’t have any mistakes in the coding.

Fortunately, there are tools that will help validate your code to ensure the syntax is correct. There’s software available online that can help you do this. Just run a quick Google search for sitemap’s validation, and you’ll find something.

Quick Tip: Use the XML Sitemap Validator tool.

This will point out any errors in your code., as if you forget to add an end-tag or something like that, it can quickly be identified and fixed.
XML Sitemap Validator
XML Sitemap Validator

Add your sitemap.xml to the root.

Locate the root folder of your Website and add the SiteMaps file to this folder.

Doing this will actually add the page to your site as well. This is not a problem at all. As a matter of fact, lots of websites have this. Just type in a website and add “/sitemap/” to the URL and see what pops up.

Here’s an example from the hyCorve website.

hycorve-SiteMaps
hycorve SiteMaps.xml

Submit your Sitemaps

Now that your sitemap has been created and added to your site files, it’s time to submit them to search engines.

Google Search Console

  1. Open the Search Console and click on “Sitemaps” under “Crawl.”
  2. Click on “Add/Test Sitemap” and paste your XML Sitemap file here and click the “Test” button before hitting the “Submit” button.
  3. After this step, you can see how many web pages and other files were found in the sitemap; click “Close test” and hit “Submit.”
  4. Now repeat the process and copy all of the sitemaps you have one-by-one in the webmaster tools. If the sitemaps are listed in a sitemap index, you need to submit the index only.
Google Search Console Screenshot
You can Submit up to 500 Sitemaps index files in Search Console.

Bing Webmaster Tools

  1. Open Bing Webmaster Tools.
  2. Now click on Dashboard- > Configure my site -> Sitemap.
  3. Copy and paste the XML sitemap in the Bing sitemap box, and then hit the “Submit” button.

With Bing Webmaster Tools, you can only see the number of submitted pages, but not those that are indexed. Therefore, analyzing data is not as easy as in Search Console. The same is true for Yandex.

Yandex Webmaster Tools

  1. Open Yandex Webmaster Tools.
  2. Click on Dashboard -> Indexing -> Sitemaps file.
  3. Copy and paste the XML sitemap in the Yandex sitemap box and hit the “Add” button.

Conclusion

If you’re ready to take your SEO strategy to the next level, you need to create a sitemap for your website.

sitemaps help you with faster and better indexation, along with the monitoring of indexed pages. They are most suitable for websites with thousands of pages and for frequently updated content. When you want to implement sitemaps, you have to go through four steps:

  1. Create a Sitemap
  2. Validate your code
  3. Add the sitemap to the Root
  4. Submit the sitemap

You should follow sitemap guidelines, limitations and avoid static sitemap generators. Then you will benefit from all of the advantages of Sitemaps.

So, this was 101 Guide to the Sitemaps in 2021. Also, Check 8 Ways to Rank Your Website Without Backlinks.

If you need help with your website Devlopment or Digital Marketing, discover our Services.

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