Blog/Why a sitemap is important for your website
2nd December 2022
There are currently around 1.14 billion websites on the world wide web, so how can you make yours stand out, and in front of the people you want to see it? Something that you should have in your site’s SEO armoury is a comprehensive sitemap.
Search engines are constantly crawling your website to find out what it contains, and how it’s changed/is changing. This is done by ‘bots’ which navigate your site, building up a picture of what’s there. But your site might contain lots of elements that aren’t linked from everywhere, or tucked away in dark corners, but are valuable content nonetheless, and that could contribute towards a higher search engine ranking, leading to more traffic, and more time and money spent on your site.
XML vs HTML sitemaps – what’s the difference?
The main difference is that an HTML website is primarily for the benefit of users, whereas an XML is written strictly for bots to benefit your SEO. The public will see an HTML sitemap, they will not see an XML sitemap.
Your site’s XML sitemap should contain a list of all your site’s pages, along with various other bits of information that bots find useful in assessing each page:
- Which version of XML the sitemap is written in
- The URL of the page
- The date the page was last modified
When the bot arrives at your sitemap, it knows where it is and what it’s looking at, and then a list of each of the pages on your site and when it was last updated. You’re effectively giving the bot a helping hand, and in return, search engines – who like things written in a particular way – reward you with a potentially higher SEO ranking.
Which pages/links should I include in my XML sitemap
Consider your users’ experience when landing on any given page. If that was the first page they saw, would they have the context and the info they need to make best use of that page? If not, then it probably shouldn’t be included in your XML sitemap. Additionally, if it’s a page that you don’t want the public to really see at all, then of course that shouldn’t be included in your sitemap.
Give Google a little nudge
Google will, sooner or later, find your sitemap organically. However, if you want to hurry it along a little, then you can submit your XML search engine to its search console – adding the URL of your sitemap to help it be found directly without any crawling.
Sitemaps and WordPress
The best way (in my opinion) of creating sitemap(s) in WordPress is the Yoast plugin, where with a single click of a toggle in Yoast’s settings you can automatically create sitemap(s) for all of your WP pages. Yoast will also update your sitemaps automatically when you make a change too.
The reason I’ve written sitemap(s) above is that you’re not limited to a single XML sitemap for your site – indeed, for much bigger sites you’re forced to have multiple sitemaps as there’s a limit on the number of records, and the maximum filesize you can have.
so if your site doesn’t have a sitemap, you should definitely create one. And even if you do, it’s worth checking on its health to make sure it’s functioning correctly, as a well written sitemap can not only help your SEO, but it can also make your site more discoverable, and reduce the time it takes for your pages to be indexed. Win win win!