Do Sitemaps Help SEO? The Importance of Sitemaps for SEO

Last Edited April 28, 2017 by Garenne Bigby in Sitemaps

sitemaps and seo

Sitemaps are a necessity for SEO

A sitemap is defined as a simple directory or guide that holds information along with other details on web pages that are contained on a website, in addition to the content on these pages. Search engines will do their job in crawling a sitemap to find and identify all information that is applicable to a specific search query that has been performed. The pages within the directory are listed in a logical hierarchical order, where the most relevant pages will be listed at the top, and the least relevant pages will be placed closer to the bottom.

There are two main types of sitemaps, XML, and HTML. XML sitemaps have a unique structure, in that they are not ever seen by the end user, and are only used as a way to inform a search-engine of: the content within a web page on a site, how often the content of the pages is updated, and finally the general importance of the pages in relation to each other.

For users, a sitemap will enhance the navigation capabilities while making the website more user-friendly overall. The theme of the site will be more cohesive, and users will be able to view the sections of the website and the links all on one page. It can be thought of as a skeleton that should be built upon.

A sitemap is an important part of any website, and although creating one from scratch will take time, it can be considered an investment. Aside from it being very important to just have a website, you should be taking the time to optimize it the best that you can. If the spiders are not able to crawl the site, it will not get indexed, and the content will not get ranked in search engines results pages. If it is not ranked within a search results page, it will likely not be visited by users. As a result of this, it will not generate traffic, revenue, or advertising.

An HTML sitemap is structured in a way to be used by individuals using the internet so that they are aided in finding the content they are searching for on the internet. The sitemaps do not contain all pages of a website, making it easy for all search engines and individual users to find the information that they are looking for from a site. When a sitemap is created, it is vital to know that some formats cannot be submitted to Google's Webmaster tools—only a few supported formats can be submitted.

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What is a sitemap in SEO?

These days, search engine optimization is not enough for a website to rank high in search engines and earn great visibility online. The competition between website is fierce, with all of them doing their best to rank as high as possible in search engines and gain more visibility. This has brought to light the use of site maps with SEO used together to rank better within search engines.

Search engines crawl a website and check for meta-tags as well as .txt files, alongside other data that can be relevant in guiding the rating of the importance of the content regarding the search query. When an HTML sitemap is created, it is placed on the homepage of the website to make sure that it will contain all individual pages within the website. This will let website visitors have access to all of the information from each page of the website, right there at the first page that they see. Because of this, a number of pages that are crawled and indexed by the search engine will grow, which leads to a higher page rank.

An XML sitemap will let a website owner feed specific information about the pages to be crawled by the search engines. Additionally, website owners can customize the hierarchy or priority of the content of the website, as well as view more information, like when the content was updated last. When a sitemap is created, it is important that you must understand information like keyword searches, this will enable you to create content that is keyword specific for the website. This result is a higher ranking for the web site within search engines.

When an HTML sitemap is created, you have to be sure that each individual link is paired with a brief description of the content contained within the link. As this is done, you'll need to add keywords about the information in these tags. As a result of this, the search engine will find the sitemap to be rich with the relevant keywords. When this happens you are able to climb up the rankings in the search engine results pages.

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Why are XML sitemaps important for SEO?

While XML sitemaps have not been widely regarded as a tool specific for SEO, they actually ensure that a website is accurately ranked within a search engine results page. The search engine will use data from the site map located in a specific place. This is important because there are literally millions of website to be sifted through and you want to make sure that you are not doing your own website a disservice by forgoing an XML sitemap.

XML sitemaps are recognized by all of the most popular search engines, enabling one single file to be submitted; and when there are changes made to the website, the file can simply be updated as needed. This makes it so that you can improve the content contained on the website without a whole lot of hassle. And when you employ a sitemap generator, it gets even easier.

Because web pages have been ranked based on their relevance of content regarding specific keywords, SEO was a bit tricky before HTML. This is because content on the web encompasses blogs, multimedia files, and the like. Having XML sitemaps allows search engines to crawl and index a website sufficiently, and allowing all search engines to be notified of the site map by inserting it into the robots.txt file.

In a nutshell, sitemaps enhance the ranking of a website in search engine results, thus boosting the SEO efforts. When a website is ranked high on a search engine results page, the website will become visible to a greater number of internet users, thus increasing the traffic to the website. All in all, this is beneficial to both the website creator as well as the user. The user is provided with information about the best websites that match their search query and make the websites available to users as soon as they request it. This is all thanks to the successful crawling and indexing of the website done by the search engine's spiders.

It is best practice when using a single XML sitemap that it be updated at least one time per day if the website changes that often. Then, you will want to ping Google to process these changes so that they are accurately reflected within the search results pages. One tip is to put as many URLs in each XML sitemap that you can—many times only a few links are put into each sitemap, and this makes it hard for Google to download all of the individual sitemaps in a time that is reasonable—in essence, it slows down the load time. Utilize all of the space in each sitemap so that your website does not lag while you are trying your best to keep it optimized.

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What is the use of robots txt file in SEO?

Ideally, search engines visit and index a website and content frequently, but sometimes there will be content that should not be indexed, as it is not intended to be available for the visitors of your website. An example of this would be having two versions of one page – like a recipe, one is for viewing in the browser and the other one is to be printed. The version for printing can be excluded from crawling, otherwise, you may be penalized by the search engine for having duplicate content. Also, if there is sensitive information on the website that should not be seen by the world, these pages should not be indexed. Best practice, in this case, would be to not have this information on the website in the first place if it is so sensitive. When you make the effort to exclude images, JavaScript, and stylesheets from being indexed, you will also save some bandwidth—but you will need to communicate to the crawlers to stay away from these items. This is where the robots.txt comes in.

One way to do this is to use a robots.txt file. This is the text file to be put on a website that will tell search robots which pages that they should not be crawling or indexing. It is not mandatory for SEO, but search engines will obey what they are asked on a robots.txt file. Extremely sensitive data should not be put on files within a website and be only protected with a robots.txt file—it is like putting a do not enter sign on an unlocked door. The location of the robots.txt file is vital. It has to be in the main directory or else search engines will not be able to find it. They do not search an entire website just to find the robots.txt file. They look in the main directory first, and if it is not there they assume that it does not exist. So if it is put in the wrong place, your entire website may be indexed when that is not your intention.

What does this have to do with SEO? Robots.txt file prevents extra or sensitive information from being crawled and indexed. This will ensure that your website is being indexed with only the information that you want your users to see. Regarding search engine optimization, it is vital that your website only gives the information that you intend to your visitors. This means that the information not be presented to search engines as well. When you crawl and index everything that is contained on a website, you run the risk of duplicate content which can come with a penalty.

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How do I submit a sitemap to Google?

Once the site map has been built, it will need to be uploaded to the website and then submitted to Google. This can be done directly through Google's search console. Before you can submit your sitemap, you must verify your domain through the Google search console. Then, Google will be able to identify you as the website owner.

For you submit your sitemap you must:

Select your website on the search console homepage.

  1. Click on crawl.
  2. Click on sitemaps.
  3. Click on add/test site map.
  4. Type in site map.XML.
  5. Lastly, click on submit site map.

It is highly recommended to submit a site map after updating or publishing your own website. This will ensure that the search engines have the most updated version of your website to better serve those who are performing a search query for it. A sitemap is vital for good SEO practices, and SEO is vital in bringing in traffic and revenue to the website. On the flip side, sitemaps are essential to having search engines crawl and index the website so that the content within it can be ranked within the search results. It will aid the user in navigating and understanding your website, but it will also help communicate with search engines. It is important that SEO in regards to a sitemap not be overlooked. It is a vital part of getting spiders to crawl and index a website. Invest the time needed to develop a great sitemap. There is so much effort that goes into developing great content and taking the time to make sure that all of that wonderful content is crawled and indexed will ensure that you are really making it worth it to put the effort in.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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