What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file that contains information about a website’s pages, URLs, videos, and other items. A sitemap also tells a spider which files on a website are significant.
“Good SEO work only gets better over time. It only searches engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.” -Jill Whalen
Types of Sitemaps in SEO
There are two types of sitemaps:
- HTML Sitemaps
- XML Sitemaps
HTML sitemaps, for the most part, direct visitors. XML sitemaps direct search engine bots to the URLs on a site that they should index. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each will aid your search engine optimization efforts.
XML Sitemaps are further divided into the following types:
- Image Sitemaps
- Video Sitemaps
- News Sitemaps
- Mobile Sitemaps
1) HTML Sitemap
The users will benefit from an HTML Sitemap. It makes it simple for visitors to move about the website.
A screenshot of an HTML Sitemap is shown below:
2) XML Sitemap
It makes it easier for bots to crawl the website. XML makes information machine-readable. It also aids them in determining which of a site’s URLs are the most important.
When a bot visits a website, it first looks at the robots.txt file, which contains instructions such as which URLs to crawl and which to ignore. Your XML sitemap should be referenced in the robots.txt file, which instructs the bot to crawl the list of URLs.
XML sitemaps adhere to strict markup guidelines. The XML sitemap is generated automatically, ideally without human interaction, after it is formed. Check for problems on a regular basis, though, because outdated, erroneous, and duplicate URLs appear all too frequently.
A screenshot of an XML Sitemap is shown below:
There are a few tags that can be included in an XML Sitemap: <lastmod>, <changefreq> & <priority>.
The <lastmod> tag carries the date of the last modification of the file. The <lastmod> tag should always be in the format of YYYY-MM-DD
The changefreq> tag informs the crawler how often the page is updated. In the changefreq> tag, one of these values should be present – always, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly.
<priority> value can range from 0.0 to 1.0. The priority tag is used to inform Google and other search engines about the importance of specific sites.
In this situation, 1 represents the highest value and 0 represents the lowest value. If the priority> value for a certain page is not set, the value is set to 0.5 by default.
Types of XML Sitemaps
2.1) Image Sitemap:
- An image sitemap is for images.
- Having an image sitemap helps images get featured in Google Image Search
- <image:image> and <image:loc> tags are mandatory tags for an image sitemap
- <image:caption>, <image:title>, <image:title> and <image: geo_location > are optional tags for an image sitemap
A screenshot of an image sitemap is shown below:
2.2) Video Sitemap:
- A Video Sitemap, like an Image Sitemap, aids in the inclusion of videos in SERPs.
- It helps bots better understand video content
- <url>, <loc>, <video:video>, <video:thumbnail_loc>, <video:title>, <video:description>, <video:content_loc> and <video:player_loc> are mandatory tags for a video sitemap
ALSO READ: Best SEO plugins for WordPress in 2021
2.3) News Sitemap:
- For news websites, this sitemap is required.
- Articles published more than two days ago are not allowed in news sitemaps.
- Sitemaps can’t have more than 1000 URLs in them.
- If there are more than 1000 URLs, divide them into many sitemaps and utilise a sitemap index file to keep track of them.
- Having a news sitemap makes it easier for content to appear in Google’s “News Section.”
2.4) Mobile Sitemap:
- According to John Muller, a mobile-friendly website does not require a Mobile Sitemap.
- Only if you have a custom formatted version for mobile devices do you need a Mobile Sitemap.
What is the difference between an HTML sitemap and an XML sitemap?
The main difference between HTML and XML sitemaps is who they are intended for. Humans use HTML sitemaps, whereas search engines use XML sitemaps. An XML sitemap is written for search engine spiders to allow them to easily and quickly extract all of the pivotal pieces of information about your website simply by looking at the XML file.
HTML sitemaps would assist lost users on your website in finding a page that they are looking for, whereas an XML sitemap is written for search engine spiders to allow them to easily and quickly extract all of the pivotal pieces of information about your website simply by looking at the XML file.
In a way, if you want to improve your user experience, an HTML sitemap will help you the most because it will improve your site ranking in the long term. In addition, an expertly created HTML sitemap should ideally have an anchor link that points to each web page on the website. As a result, the entire site would be crawlable, and an XML sitemap would be unnecessary.
What are the Sitemap Advantages?
One of the most important advantages of sitemaps is that they can help in crawling. You may be confident that Google’s web crawlers will find practically every nook and cranny of your site, especially if the pages are properly linked.
Those who manage one or more websites will undoubtedly be interested in sitemap creation. But the major question is what are the benefits of using a sitemap.
MUST READ: Types of Digital Marketing (2021)
Which websites are the most likely to benefit from sitemaps?
While sitemaps are a useful addition to any website, they are especially useful for those that match a set of requirements. A site must be fresh, vast, ripe with content that is not properly linked, and rich with media content, according to Google, in order for sitemaps to be effective. It is easy to assume that most websites require a sitemap based on the criteria provided.
Although Google cannot guarantee that its bots will read the sitemap of a website. Sitemap offers no risk to site owners, according to them. In fact, having a sitemap has only positive consequences, as Google would never punish a website for having one.
So, if you want a specific site to rank, you should start by adding a sitemap to your website.
How might sitemaps help with content syndication and duplication?
The use of an XML sitemap is a good technique to address content duplication and syndication issues that plague most websites. Without a doubt, Google penalises websites that duplicate content in order to remove spammy sites from search results pages.
So, what are some examples of duplicate content?
Some websites, for example, publish a lot of information and syndicate it to other websites. Aside from that, certain websites may repost blog posts without the author’s permission. These are two examples of content duplication that Google prohibits and punishes. Google will recognise that you are the first and original creator of the content if you use an XML sitemap.
An XML sitemap would notify Google when you updated your website with fresh content, in addition to letting Google know that you are the original developer of the information. Regularly publishing high-quality content will boost your rating.
If Google could easily determine when you posted or modified a certain piece of content. Remember that content is king when it comes to competitive SEO. Websites with interesting and high-quality content are rewarded and highly valued by Google.
How to create a sitemap?
So you’ve decided to create a sitemap for your website since you’ve seen the benefits of having one. How do you go about doing it? A sitemap, as useful as it is, isn’t exactly a simple piece of programming.
It’s possible that the mechanics of making one will intimidate you. However, this should not stop you because many content management systems (CMS) will automatically generate sitemaps.
The Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress is a standard XML sitemap generator. If you don’t want to utilise WordPress, there are a number of free web applications that will produce a sitemap for you.
As previously stated, incorporating a sitemap into your website will only benefit it. Because there are no known risks, you will not be penalised by Google if you have one. It is the most advantageous of the sitemap benefits. You should include a Sitemap on your website if you want to improve your rankings and provide your users with a better and more satisfying experience. After all, what do you have to lose if there are no recognised dangers or penalties?