What are XML sitemaps? And do I need one?

XML Sitemaps
Here is an example of my xml sitemap

Xml sitemaps are very important, but not to users, only to search engines. Did you read about html sitemaps or xml sitemaps? In this post I’m going to tell you why you not only need an XML sitemap but why you should maintain an xml sitemap.

What is an XML sitemap?

Sitemaps can help users on site on google navigate their way through your site. HTML sitemaps are most common for users as they allow users to see exactly what is on your site however XML sitemaps are the guidemap for Google. Google want to index your site so that they can serve their users with relevant information. They do this by crawling your site. They can crawl your site in many different ways but your XML sitemap is effectively the treasure map to your most valuable content. You need to tell google what’s on your site and why they should stick around. If you easily display to them what is on your site, they can easily find it and index it.

Why are XML sitemaps important?

Your sitemap should be connected to your robots.txt file – if it’s not, then read my blog on why it should be here. We all know Google will do what it wants, when it wants but with billions of pages available for Google bots to crawl you need to do as much as possible to push them in the right direction and this is what your XML sitemap is all about. If you have a page in your sitemap you are telling Google that it’s important and they should crawl and use it at their disposal. If you don’t want a page in Google’s index then remove it from your sitemap and eventually it will fall out.

What does an XML sitemap look like?

An XML sitemap looks different dependant on how yours in created. In the image above I have used a screenshot of my sitemap created with the Yoast wordpress plug in. This simply lists pages and breaks them in to categories for posts and pages however others will contain more mark up such as the example below:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
   <url>
      <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>
      <lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod>
      <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
      <priority>0.8</priority>
   </url>
</urlset>

 

The list above is taken from Google sitemap example here and contains more specific details about when the page was last updated as well as other instructions for Google.

 

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