Every book is prepared with an Index page. This is because the index guides the reader on the available content. It sequentially gives the entire layout and, as such, makes it easy for the user to navigate through easily. The same case applies to the issue of sitemaps. Just as the book index guides the reader, site maps guide users and search engines to navigate the website.
As we delve through this article, we will understand what a site map is, its importance in SEO engine optimization, and how search engines use site maps to help discover and rank websites. We will also understand further what HTML and XML sitemap examples are.
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap refers to a structured file that lists all website pages, the contents available, and how they relate. Such include web pages, media files, and other resources, providing metadata about each item. It acts as a road map for website visitors and search engines as they navigate and understand the site content hierarchy.
Type of Sitemap
Site maps are subdivided into the HTML Sitemaps and the XML sitemaps.
HTML sitemaps are specially designed for website visitors, and they help them to navigate through in a user-friendly way as they explore a website’s content. They are categorized in a hierarchical or categorized fashion. The whole structure of the webpage is given in HTML sitemaps. Since it is visible to the user, it is improved by adding CSS to make it look better.
XML stands for Extensible Markup Language, making it better for the search engine crawlers to read the sitemaps.
Contrary to HTML, XML is machine-readable files specially designed for search engines. They provide a variety of information, which include;
- The URL that you would like to have indexed.
- A “hreflang” attribute that gives information about the local variants of the URLs in place.
- The “lastmod” informs one of the last time the URLs were updated and the frequency of change.
In as much as Google has it that XML sitemaps are suitable for large websites, they still work well with new websites, and it is easy to create one.
XML Sitemaps are further subdivided into the following types;
Manual creation of image sitemap using the following syntax:
Generate image sitemap with tool
There has a tool called angeldigital.marketing which help you to create image sitemap automatically.
Like image sitemaps, video sitemaps help videos to be featured well on SERPs. It also helps google to understand the video content more easily. Therefore, video sitemaps are files containing information about the videos uploaded to your site.
If the video was recently added, google can trace it quickly when a video sitemap is used rather than the standard crawling procedures.
The file contains a video’s metadata, including the title, length, description, and source of the video.
It is compulsory to have a news sitemap for all news websites. Remember that news must be delivered when they are still fresh to deliver accurate information as and when required. This, therefore, needs timely indexing of the word so that visitors access them promptly.
Therefore, News sitemaps are used to feed search engines with pertinent news content available on your websites. When used, Google News finds new items much faster, and the coverage is more comprehensive.
A mobile sitemap is a website sitemap that is enhanced for mobile devices. The search engines are integrated in such a way as to make it easy for mobile users to access information quickly.
If your site is only formatted for mobile device use, you must separate the mobile sitemap. This should be submitted to the search engines to serve better any search requests made from mobile devices.
How do search engines use sitemaps?
Google uses sitemaps to detect structured data on the web and then display it. For instance, google will show rich results, web crawlers follow the website’s backlinks and assign authority to them, and evaluate the website’s structure as it ranks them.
However, it is essential to note that search engines do not use sitemaps, but SEO experts do to get information about the website’s architecture.
To understand the entire system in a better way, let’s go through a step-by-step guide on how search engines utilize sitemaps.
- Site Submission
If you are a website owner, you can generate XML sitemaps to upload them to your server using several tools. These can be done using methods such as Robots.txt file or Search Console( Bing Webmaster tools or Google search console)
Crawling is done using search engine bots. They visit your website periodically and index the content. If they come across the sitemap, they fetch and parse it as they extract information regarding the site’s structure and URLs.
- Making Decisions on Indexing
Once the sitemap is parsed, the search engines decide on the pages to index based on the provided metadata for instance, the last modification date and the priority given.
- Discovering Content
Sitemaps also aid in discovering content that may not be easily discovered using the website navigation or external links. Note that this works well for deep and isolated pages.
- Prioritization of Crawling
The information provided in the sitemap helps to prioritize the pages to be crawled first. For instance, pages marked as high priority are crawled more often. Sitemaps use priority tags to tell Google how important a specific page is. These can be indexed as 1,2,3,4 depending on the priority level.
- Identification of Errors
Sitemaps also help to identify errors in a website. For example, broken links, such as 404 errors, frequently lead to non-existent pages.
In such cases, sitemaps notify the web admins for rectification of the site.
- Improved Rich Results
Rich results are more attractive and informative. When sitemaps are used in those websites with structured data, they include rich snippets that generate more informative information than if standard pages were used.
- Monitoring and Reporting
Sitemaps are also used to monitor and report the listed pages’ indexing status and make necessary changes when needed.
How to create a sitemap for a wordpress site?
Creating a sitemap for a WordPress site is a step further to see your site is frequently indexed by search. Search for the XML Sitemaps and engine crawlers and get viewed by prospective clients more often.
There are different ways to create a Sitemap for a WordPress site, and we will discuss three of them as detailed below.
1. Using the Yoast SEO plugin
Yoast SEO provides a list of defaults on what gets into the sitemap. It also eliminates sites that should not appear in the sitemap, providing more control for your WordPress site.
Below are the steps to use:
- Install the Yoast
- On the left-hand menu, click Yoast Seo
- Go to settings and site features to generate the sitemap and ensure it is turned on.
- View your Sitemap by viewing the XML sitemap- Yoast SEO generates your sitemap at abc.com/sitemap_index.xml. Replace this domain with your actual domain. Access your sitemap by opening the URL in your web browser.
- Yoast Seo will generate your XML sitemap at this point, and you are good to go.
2. Using Google XML sitemaps
Creating a sitemap for your WordPress site using Google XML sitemaps is an easy way to go around, and it will help site engines crawl and index your website as it improves its visibility.
Below are the steps to use :
Installation stage: Log in to your WordPress site and navigate plugins. On the left sidebar, click ADD New and look for Google XML Sitemaps. Install and activate the Google XML.
Configuration: Once you have activated the Google XML plugin, you will find a new menu called XML-Sitemap. Click on it to aid in generating the Sitemap.
Sitemap generation: When you open the Google XML Sitemaps settings page, click on the build the sitemap button, and by default, the plugin will create the XML Sitemap.
Notifying the site Engines: The plugin will automatically notify search engines like Google or Bing whenever your sitemap is updated. Confirm this by clicking the Search Engines tab and check the Notify Google or Notify Bing, whichever option you have.
Testing your Sitemap: This is paramount to confirm that your sitemap is working correctly. Click on the Debug tab in the plugin settings, and in the view options, click test for errors with the search engines.
Submitting your Sitemap to Google: If you have confirmed that the sitemap works correctly, submit it to Google. Do this by – Go to Google Search Console, and add your property. In the left sidebar, Click on Sitemaps and enter the URL of your sitemap.
Monitor and update it regularly to ensure that Google Indexes your Sitemaps to keep visibility in place.
3. Using AIOSEO
Creating a Sitemap for a WordPress site Using AIOSEO is similar to the other two. All you have to do is to follow the guidelines as follows:
Installation of AIOSEO Plugin: Login to your WordPress account and Navigate to the left sidebar. Click on Plugins and Add New.
Find the ALL In One SEO on the search bar and click the Install and activate button.
AIOSEO configuration: Once you activate the AIOSEO, in your WordPress, click the admin menu and follow the instructions given to configure the plugin.
Go to settings and navigate the XML sitemap tab in order to enable it.
Customize your Sitemap: You can customize the sitemap by choosing the taxonomies or individual posts depending on your preferences.
Sitemap Generation: Once you have configured your sitemap, ensure that you click on the save changes option and then generate your sitemap correctly. This is done by clicking the View Your XML sitemap button, where you will view a new tab in your browser.
Submit on Search Console: To ensure that your sitemap is viewed on your browser, submit it to Search engines by Going to Google Search Console and clicking on Sitemaps on the left sidebar. Type the URL of your sitemap and click submit.
You are good to go with the process. But of importance, ensure that you monitor your sitemap regularly to know the status of your sitemap. AIOSEO will automatically update your sitemap whenever you add content to your WordPress site.
How to create a wordpress sitemap without using plugins?
Creating sitemaps helps to provide all information relating to your site posts, videos, and pages and shows the relationships between one another. They are also crucial for Search Engine crawlers as they help effectively monitor your website.
There are several ways in which one can create a WordPress Sitemap without using Plugins, and these include;
Using sitemap generator tools like xml-sitemaps .com
Sitemap generator tools like XML-Sitemaps.com- XML-Sitemaps.com is one of the best free sitemap generator tools for small websites. All you need is to create a sitemap by entering your URL.
Some of the key features contained here include;
Automated Crawling: just as the search engine bots work to aid in discovering a list of pages, images, blogs, and any other content in place.
HTML Site Generation: It offers an option to create an HTML sitemap for your website, mainly for human visitors, by providing an organized link to help users navigate your site in an easy way
XML Sitemap Generation: It helps the search engines to provide a clear structure of the content contained in your website.
This is another website crawler that you can create without using plugins to help improve onsite SEO by auditing the common issues. You can download and crawl 500 URLs for free. However, you can purchase a license above this limit to get more advanced features.
If you have linked your site pages, it is likely that Google will discover most of them that you think are important when reached through some essence of navigation. However, a sitemap can help improve the crawling of more significant sites, enhancing visibility, early detection of errors, and higher ranking. As such, it is essential to have a sitemap in place.