Top sitemap questions
In this post we will discuss the importance of a sitemap on your website and clarify some common sitemap questions that might arise regarding the topic.
What is the purpose of a sitemap
A sitemap is a url file with a list of all the web pages that should be indexed for a domain.
Using a sitemap allows the search engine to focus on reading the content of your site and finding a spot to rank it within the search index.
Think of the site map as a living table of content or outline for your website that helps users and search engines understand your site’s structure.
A sitemap entry also includes metadata information such as when the page was last updated, number of revisions, subject matter, license, etc.
What happens when you dont have a site map
When a search engine crawls a webpage it can actively record and interpret the data found on the page. Important element in this data includes headings and links. From those links a crawler can go deeper and deeper within a site..
If you do not have a web of links to every page you want users and search engines to know about, you run the risk of having important content not being indexed, affecting your site’s search optimization.
In the picture below we can see that blog post A has a link to blog post B. Blog post B has a link to blog post A. This is great.
Unfortunately blog post c does not have a link to blog post A or blog post B. This can cause a crawl from a search engine or a user navigating through your website to completely miss blog post c.
Do I want to index every page on my site
Really depends on the website and the content. Lets use an ecommerce website for an example. You probably dont need google to index information such as product sizes, product release dates etc.
Another example would be if you wanted to include blog post to a specific type of user. Here is an early look how geekyboss website will be indexed.
Examples content used on our sitemap
Examples content not used on our sitemap
Thank You page
How can I create a sitemap and what are the tools
First we need to understand there are two types of sitemaps.
- The html sitemap which is used for users and crawlers.
- The xml sitemap which is used for crawlers.
Ideally you would want to start of creating an information architecture of the site taxonomy which serves as a blue print of how your users will navigate through the website.
Once that is created, you can structure your pages and url to follow the guide.
Creating an xml site map
Instead of coding the sitemap in a text editor we will use yoast wordpress plugin to create an xml sitemap. There are other dedicated plugins you can download to get the task done. Since I try to limit the number of plugins I use on websites I will be using yoast as I can also use it for other SEO tasks.
below is an example of Geekyboss xml sitemap submitted to Google Search Console.
How do I know when to submit my sitemap
Our recommendation for sitemap submission would be to it as soon as you have a few pages live and you are happy with your seo settings for your pages. Always make sure your permalinks are set correctly.
You might want to wait before submiting if you are still building the web site.
Don’t get discouraged if your sitemap is not ready. It can be a bit overwhelming creating a sitemap that covers all aspect of your vision.
Give yourself room to grow. This image is an example of an incomplete sitemap that is starting to evolve.
Not ready for submission but is a brainstorming spark.
How do I know if my sitemap is working
After your sitemap is created you want to proactively go to your webmaster tools and submit your sitemap. This helps to speed up the crawl. Some of the tools provided on the web are Google Webmaster Tools.
Google webmaster tools
First step is to create a google webmaster tools account This tool will inform you if there are any errors in the back end or any errors in the sitemap.
- Go to Google search console
- Add a property / enter url
- Go to crawl / Sitemaps
- Then add sitemap url https://www.geekyboss.com/sitemap_index.xml
- View test results and verify if you received an error
- If no errors click ADD/TEST SITEMAP paste url, submit sitemap
- Verify the sitemap has been submitted. You will see a pending if the crawl has not taken place yet
Google search bar
Typing the following site:geekyboss.com will show you how many pages are indexed in google. Its a quick way to see if a page is missing or if you have any outdated pages that have been indexed. Just make sure to replace the domain for yours.
The recap on creating an xml sitemap
Our goal with the sitemap is to get our web pages indexed so we can get crawled faster increasing search traffic. Regardless of the tools used creating a sitemap is absolutely necessary. It helps humans and search engines understand the structure of your website.
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