Although sitemaps have been around for ages, the question is whether they are still important for SEO in 2020.
If you ask any SEO expert, they will tell you that having a sitemap on your website is a MUST! Ever wondered why every SEO emphasizes having a sitemap? What is a sitemap and what is its importance in SEO?
A sitemap lists a website’s most important pages, thus, making sure search engines can find and crawl them. Sitemaps also help in understanding your website structure, making it easier to navigate your website.
You would want Google or any other search engine to crawl every page of your website, correct? But at times, some pages could end up orphaned i.e. without any internal links pointing to them, making them invisible to any person visiting your website.
A decent sitemap acts as a roadmap of your website that enables search engines to instantly locate all your significant pages, regardless of whether your website has any internal linking structure or not. Not only are sitemaps crucial for search engines, but they can also be equally useful for people searching for a specific page on your website.
While sitemaps can profit both search engines and end-users, the two favour distinctive sitemap designs. XML for web crawlers and HTML for people. Irrespective of the design and style, allow us to clarify sitemaps and their significance in SEO.
Types of Sitemap:
There are two main types of sitemaps. While they each serve different purposes, both are recommended, and neither can hurt your website.
(1) XML Sitemap: XML Sitemap is the most common type of sitemap. It can be understood by search engines alone and hence are dedicated explicitly to them. XML sitemaps are generally present in the root folder of your domain. E.g. www.example.com/sitemap.xml
An XML sitemap can have a maximum of 50,000 URLs, and an uncompressed file size limit of 50MB. When you exceed either limit, you will need to split your URLs across multiple XML sitemaps. These sitemaps can then be combined into a single XML sitemap index file. Your sitemap index is your sitemap for all other sitemaps.
E.g., your sitemap index can have multiple sitemaps listed like, Blog Sitemap, Product Sitemap, Category Sitemap, Landing Pages Sitemap. It can also have your image and video sitemaps.
(2) HTML Sitemap: The second primary type, the HTML sitemaps is one that can be viewed by website visitors and can help them navigate to a specific page and are more helpful from a user experience point of view. HTML sitemaps are generally linked in website footers.
Apart from these two principle sitemaps, there are three additional types of sitemaps namely,
Video Sitemap: Used specifically to help search engines better understand the video content on your website.
News Sitemap: Used specifically to help search engines better find content on websites that are approved for Google News. For best results, include URLs of articles published in the last 2 days.
Image Sitemap: Used specifically to help search engines find all images hosted on your site.
Which pages to include in your sitemap?
There is an extremely simple way of deciding which pages to include in your sitemap. Think about the relevance of an URL. E.g.: when a person lands on a URL, does it provide any value to the person? Do you want people to arrive on that URL? If not, it shouldn’t be in it.
Although you leave out pages from your XML sitemap, it doesn’t necessarily mean search engines won’t index the URL. If they can find the URL through links, they can index it. To avoid this issue altogether, other than excluding that page URL from your sitemap, if you don’t want that URL to show up in the search results, you’ll need to add a ‘no-index’ and a ‘follow’ tag.
Which pages to exclude in your sitemap?
You need to exclude certain pages from your sitemap by default. These pages have been listed below.
- Non-canonical pages
- Duplicate pages
- Paginated pages
- Parameterized URLs
- Site search result pages
- URLs created by filtering options
- Archive pages
- Any redirections (3xx), missing pages (4xx) or server error pages (5xx)
- Pages blocked by robots.txt
- Pages with no-index
- Pages accessible by a lead gen form (PDFs, etc.)
- Utility pages (login page, wishlist/cart pages, etc.)
For search engines to easily find every one of your sitemap files at once, make sure you:
- Submit your sitemap index to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Specify your sitemap index URL in your robots.txt file.
To a few, sitemaps may appear to be an unnecessary task, and to others, a sitemap is may practically be a necessity for their website. A sitemap can be the most beneficial if:
- You have a big website
- You have a bad interlinking strategy
- Your website is new
- Your website has a lesser number of backlinks
Having a sitemap that is created considering a business goal could be the driving force to a website’s success.
Merkle Sokrati can prove to be your one-stop destination to strengthen your website’s structure and navigation. We provide a complete audit of your website covering all the aspects thoroughly that includes not only all the technical aspects like sitemaps, site speed, robots, etc. but also content and off-page aspects. Based on the audit and your requirement, we build an effective strategic plan for your website that will boost your brand’s visibility and help to steadily rank on the SERP.