What is a sitemap and why is it important?
A sitemap is a list of web pages created for web crawlers so they can find your web content fast and easy. The search engine crawlers such as Google Search Console, Yahoo, Bing etc., can use a sitemap to see the newest pages on a website, or all the web pages together, including all images, video content, etc. This allows the search engine to offer the best, most relevant pages in search results.
- A sitemap allows search engines to find out about new pages and content much faster allowing search results to be updated faster as well.
- A sitemap offers a clear roadmap of the pages on your site. This site structure will help your website show up in more relevant searches.
- A sitemap allows you to overcome crawling and indexing challenges from weak linking; both internal and external.
Top 5 Sitemap Optimization Best Practices
- Prioritize High-Quality Pages – Include in your sitemap the pages (and that includes posts as well), that are important for your website. These are the pages that have high-quality content and are more likely to bring you organic traffic. This would include:
- Pages that are highly optimized.
- Pages that have images and/or video.
- Pages containing lots of unique content.
- Pages shown to have user engagement through comments and reviews.
- Include Only Canonical URLs – Duplicate content should always be avoided. Plus, Google will have an easier time crawling if you tell it which page is the “main” page and it doesn’t have to crawl URLs pointing to other URLs.
- Omit “no index” Pages – Include only URLs that Google can access. If you have pages that are blocked by robots or are behind a password-protected area, you are wasting your crawl budget.
- Organize Your Sitemap into Smaller Sub-Sitemaps – There are multiple benefits to this suggestion:
- Less strain on your server.
- Will not exceed the 50,000 pages limit.
- Easier and faster to process.
- Update Your Sitemap Often – As a best practice, you should be updating content on your website regularly. For example adding a new product page, posting a new blog, or changing site structure. Any time you do these things, you will want to update your sitemap.
Having a valid XML sitemap that search engines can read is important for SEO. The end goal to having and optimizing a sitemap is to allow for proper indexing of your site and subsequently better performance in the SERPs. Following these best practices will give you the maximum advantage.