LET’S GET STARTED
- 1 Types Of Sitemaps
- 2 Importance Of Sitemap
- 3 How to Add A Sitemap To Your Website
- 4 How To Check If Your Website Has A Sitemap?
- 5 Bonus Tip: How To Find Your Sitemap On WordPress
- 6 Conclusion
Being around for ages, your website would create a roadmap for the pages within the coded framework which is called Web Page Sitemaps.
But today the importance of sitemap structure is emphasized by SEO (Search Engine Optimization) experts as well as Google crawlers. Now, website developers can choose the part of your website that has to be indexed and others that should remain out of the reach of search engine bots.
Google, in regards to the query, what is a sitemap in web design, states that:
“A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them.”
Simply put, sitemap structures are blueprints of your website’s content and virtual roadmap of your website that guides search engines like Google to easily find, crawl, and index important webpages on your website more effectively.
Well, don’t you want every page on your website to be indexed?
Yes, of course, but due to some technical errors, your pages might not get indexed which can cause issues in future.
In this blog, I am going to provide you with all things that are sitemaps so that you would understand, learn, and provide a better sitemaps UX for search engines as well as end-users.
So, let’s get started.
Types Of Sitemaps
Sitemaps have URLs of all the webpages your website provides search engines with a list of all the pages on your website that are to be crawled, indexed, and ranked.
These URLs mentioned in the sitemaps promote your visibility online and are found in two major formats:
The XML sitemap is a pathway for search engines so that the bots could easily crawl your website and get better visibility online.
Here is an XML Sitemap is a list of your website URLs provided for search engines and is written in a code format outlined by sitemaps.org which has the authority on XML sitemaps.
The HTML sitemap is a second primary type pathway for end-users which is usually found in the footer of a website and is used for easy navigation to a specific page. That is why it is more helpful from a user experience point of view.
HTML sitemap SEO is usually done to provide easy navigation to users such as on Apple’s HTML sitemap where you can see the categorization and hyperlinks available under them to easily navigate the website.
Most available location of an HTML sitemap is placed at the footer section of a website and by selecting the option, you can perform an HTML sitemap checker for the website too.
So, collectively the sitemaps are majorly categorized in XML sitemaps (dedicated to search engines) are used by search engines and HTML sitemaps (dedicated to your target users) have a specific function for specific users.
The XML format is further divided into ‘index’ and ‘URL’ sitemaps as shown in the flowchart below.
Here, the URL sitemaps become more specific for elements of your website and provide informational pathways for content such as video, image, page, mobile, and news content.
The importance of Sitemap could be wrapped up in its being a pathway to search engines and providing smooth navigation to your website visitors.
And the difference between these principal sitemaps is the users – XML sitemaps are used by search engine bots and HTML sitemaps are used by target users as shown in the sitemap example website presented below.
From here, you must know that XML sitemaps are the most commonly used sitemap, and so its web page sitemaps files should be present in the root folder of your domain for immediate access by Google bots.
And, for enhancing the sitemaps UX of your domain, the question remains as to which types of web pages should be included and excluded.
Well, when you are including the URLs of web pages, it is quite simple to choose from the webpages and elements which are:
i) Relevant to your target audience,
ii) Provide your domain with certain authority through ranking, and
iii) Webpages with data that you want your target users to explore.
Now, some elements of your website sitemap examples of excluded ones are:
i) Non-canonical pages,
ii) Duplicated URLs due to filtering options,
iii) Archive pages,
iv) Pages that are accessible only to form filling prospects (PDFs, Docs, Excel),
v) Login pages, or
vi) Customized pages for your consumers (such as dashboards, wishlists, the cart)
The list is quite long if you consider which pages of your website you won’t want on sitemaps.
They can’t list more than 50,000 urls and 50MB in size, so if your sitemap exceeds any of these statistics, your domain would need more than one sitemap as shown in the screenshot of my domains’ XML Sitemap.
Importance Of Sitemap
Sitemap structures are the basic items of a healthy website.
If you have a small website with an absolute system of internal links and no media files, you don’t need a sitemap.
But, if you have a large website with few external links and a large archive of information, webpages, and media files; you must upload a sitemap so that Google knows about your website.
The importance of sitemaps in a website is due to the following reasons:
Organize Information Of A Large Website
Sitemaps have URLs that provide information about all of the pages on your domain and even have extensions to point out specific elements as well to the search engine bots so that they could all be crawled and indexed.
And if you want to update them, check or update them, the sitemaps are available for editing too.
Convenience Of Content For Search Engine Bots
Although Google can usually discover most sites at times and web pages too but when proper linking is not done, it get confused and could rank a page that does not have much authority, decreasing your rank eventually.
The sitemap structures, for search engines like Google and Bing, produce an easy-to-follow pathway of URLs to crawl and accordingly index its pages and content by displaying the most relevant results to the users’ search query.
This provides you with a chance to improve your position on SERPs too.
Improve Linking Opportunities
Sitemaps are used by webmasters who want to improve the visibility of a business’ website in search results and if you are new to the digital world, then, sitemaps are the best way to go.
For example, your website that has 100 web pages is crawled by the search engine bots but the results show only 42 files crawled pages.
This may be due to no natural reference of one site page to the other or there are no other sites that are linked to them. The result would be Google might not discover your pages.
So, providing a framework of your website which has all the pages included helps the search engine crawlers recognize every page on your website.
Also, the provided data in the audits help webmasters to improve the crawling of larger or more complex sites. More specialized files on your website can be updated with the changes that were recently made and correcting the errors detected in GSC.
User-Friendly Sitemaps Opportunities
The HTML sitemaps are considered user navigation sitemaps that could be easily used by target users.
It is a text list with hyperlinks attached to them that are clickable for users’ easy navigation by simply selecting the URL of a required topic and for HTML sitemap SEO, the footer of a website contains the link to the HTML sitemaps.
Here is an illustration of a user-friendly sitemap present on an eCommerce website that sells men’s wear such as ‘Boys Fashion’, ‘Men’s Fashion’ and other human wear clothes and accessories.
So, the user-friendly sitemaps are available on the website so that your target audience could easily navigate from one webpage to another as per their requirements.
Read More: What is SEO Friendly Website Structure & Why is it Important?
How to Add A Sitemap To Your Website
Well, if you understood the importance of Sitemap on your website, you must check if you have one already attached to it.
But if you don’t have one, you can create one by following these steps.
i) Choose A Sitemap Format that you want to implement. Some of these sitemap formats are: XML, RSS, RSS, and Atom 1.0, or Text
ii) Create The Sitemap in any preferred method, whether it’s automatically or manually.
iii) Make Your Sitemap Available To Google. Add your sitemap file to your robots.txt file or directly submit it to the Search Console.
These are pretty simple steps to perform if you are thinking of including a sitemap on your website or even updating an old one with a new one.
How To Check If Your Website Has A Sitemap?
The requirement of sitemaps as I have already discussed above is not a compulsory element but is a necessity for business websites today.
The reason is simple, search engines crawl your site which may be large or has a large archive, and if they don’t crawl and index all the webpages that you want, your pages won’t be presented in results because of their inaccessibility to search engine bots.
The larger your website is the longer it would take to be crawled.
So, Google crawlers use sitemaps to get directed to the webpages through URLs by doing a simple crawl through the blueprint of your website’s content that you provided.
Let’s find the answer to your most burning question “How do I find my sitemap URL?”
During a website audit, every SEO expert identifies and analyses the XML sitemap of a website, so you can see the sitemap for your website in the following ways:
Checking General Locations
This is the easiest and the quickest way of checking for a sitemap on your website.
The general locations where you can easily find your sitemaps are:
ii) /sitemap_index.xml (which is the index of the sitemaps)
iii) /sitemap/ (which often redirects to sitemap.xml)
These three are the most common locations of sitemaps on your website, so the element before ‘/’ must be the domain name of your website.
For example, in the following sitemap location on the web,
https://www.incrementors.com/sitemap_index.xml, here the “https://www.incrementors.com” used before ‘/’ is the domain name of my website.
There are other possible filenames with which the sitemap or the sitemap index would be accessible such as /sitemap.txt, /sitemap.xml.gz (for gzip files), and /rss.xml (for the RSS feed format of a sitemap).
You see these possible locations may depend on the format chosen for sitemaps.
Checking Robots.txt Files
Robots.txt files are special files with directives for search engine robots and are also the place to include the link to the sitemap so that search engines could locate the sitemap file quickly to start its crawl.
Its standard file location is directly under the main site directory of the following representation: “https://www.XYZdomain.com/robots.txt”, where, XYZ domain is the name of your website.
The sitemap would be represented by simply adding /robots.txt as shown in the screenshot of my domain below.
You can find your sitemap URLs here in the “https://www.incrementors.com/robots.txt” line entry as this is the first place where the search engine looks for the sitemap.
Read More: Best Practices For Robots.txt SEO
Checking With Google Search Operators
The Google search operators are advanced tools used for specific searches and one such query is finding your website’s sitemap.
Take a look at the picture below:
You can do a site search on Google by typing “site:” with the domain address and a search for the “filetype:” with the type of file into the search engine such as XML.
Example: “site:XYZsite.com filetype:xml“
Or, if you get too many results from the operators used above, get more refined in search meaning you have to add more specific operators in search results. You can further add ‘sitemap’ in the URL operators.
Example: “site:XYZsite.com filetype:xml inurl:sitemap“
Checking In Google Search Console
Tools such as Google Search Console (GSC) provide you an option to find the sitemap on your website but you must have an account on such tools for your website.
You just have to follow two steps:
i) Log in to your GSC website account
ii) Select Index Option and go to the Sitemap option.
The Google Search Console provides you the option to either add more sitemaps or shows already submitted sitemaps on the web as shown in the screenshot below.
Then, you can easily survey your sitemap and even address other onsite problems through the data provided.
Checking The Content Management System (CMS)
Content Management System refers to the software platform that a website used to handle changes in content creation and allows multiple admins to develop, update, and publish material for your website.
Some of the major CMS used by websites on the web are WordPress, Shopify, and Wix as shown in the screenshot below from a tool called CMS Detect that detects the content management system (CMS) of your website.
Now, different CMS has certain default XML sitemap locations such as for
A) WordPress: The default XML sitemap is /wp-sitemap.xml but if you are using plugins like YoastSEO, then, they automatically generate the XML sitemap which is available at one of the addresses such as /sitemap.xml or /sitemap_index.xml.
B) Wix: Wix’s default main sitemap location is /sitemap.xml.
The webpages sitemap location for Wix has this URL path: /pages-sitemap.xml
The sitemap location for Wix Stores has this URL path: /store-products-sitemap.xml and so on the pathways of the sitemap location change as per the URL path taken.
Similarly, different CMS has different sitemap locations following the path of their standard sitemap.
Now, that you know how to see sitemaps on a website, you can check the sitemaps to update them, using competitor analysis for creating better content or correcting errors by accessing the lists of URLs.
Bonus Tip: How To Find Your Sitemap On WordPress
WordPress is a popular go-to platform for website owners in the digital marketing arena.
So you need to know that WordPress does not create XML sitemaps automatically but uses plugins to do so.
That means, if you are hosting your website through WordPress like more than 35% of the web, then you must start by adding any of the following plugins to your domain account on WordPress:
i) Google XML Sitemaps (used as a simple sitemap-only tool)
ii) Yoast SEO (Easy to create XML sitemap; also provides a bunch of other SEO tools)
So, if you are setting your website up for the first time then chances are you won’t have a sitemap, just use these plugins and upload your sitemap here.
But if an expert is involved in making your website, then you may already have a sitemap plugin in action.
To find these sitemaps you can either search:
i) /sitemap, /sitemap.xml or /sitemap_index.xml URLs
ii) yourwebsite.com/robots.txt file.
iii) Manually, Log in to your WordPress admin area, and look for sitemap-related active plugins such as Yoast Plugin.
As shown in the picture below, you can open the Yoast Plugin dashboard and select the SEO options, and there you can easily find the XML sitemap data and workspace.
You should use the Yoast SEO plugin as it is an extremely common plugin used by both small business owners as well as Fortune 500 companies because here you can easily find the option and make sure the XML sitemap auto-creation is enabled.
Sitemaps of a domain are pathways built by webmasters to let search engines easily access the files, pages, and content that you want your domain ranking to be based on.
Now, having a sitemap isn’t compulsory, but it does help search engines to find and index new website content, helps the website owner to update webpages fastly, and provides easy navigation to your site visitors.
Also, search engines use the information from the sitemaps to determine which pages to show in their results against users’ queries.
So, if you can’t find a sitemap, you might need to create one for your domain. But, if you already have one, then, you must make sure that Google knows about it and can easily access it too.
I hope that this blog must have your mind cleared of everything that sitemap structures. So, now be on your way to finding your sitemap and let search engines know about it with the steps provided and data provided to you.
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