What is Sitemap XML?
An XML sitemap is a file that lists the most important pages of a website so that Google can find them all and crawl them. It also makes it easier for search engines to figure out how your website is set up.
You want Google to crawl all of your site’s important pages. But sometimes, pages don’t have internal links that lead to them, which makes them hard to find. A sitemap can make it faster to find content.
What Does an XML Sitemap Look Like?
An XML sitemap gives you a standard way to list your posts and pages, which helps search engines find them. Here’s a very simple sitemap with only one URL:
It is made up of a few parts:
- A search engine crawler uses an XML version declaration to figure out what kind of file it is reading.
- The protocol is told to search engines by the set: part of the URL.
- The page’s URL is written in the URL: field.
- Lastmod is a formatted date that shows when the page was last changed.
- For a sitemap to be valid, it must follow this standard.
- There are also other properties, such as priority> and changefreq>, but these don’t change how the sitemap works or how well it works.
What Websites Need an XML Sitemap?
Google’s documentation says that sitemaps are helpful for “really large websites,” “websites with large archives,” “new websites with only a few links from other sites,” and “websites with rich media content.”
Google says that if you have good internal links, it should be easy for it to find all of your content. Unfortunately, there are a lot of sites out there whose content is not linked in a way that makes sense.
We agree that these sites will benefit the most from having an XML sitemap, but at Yoast, we think that every site can benefit from having one. Every website needs Google to make it easy to find important pages and see when they were last changed. The Yoast SEO plugin has this feature because of this.
Which Pages Should Be in Your XML Sitemap?
How do you choose which pages to include in your XML sitemap? Always start by figuring out if a URL is useful: if a visitor lands on a certain URL, does it lead to a good result? Do you want people to go to that web address? If it doesn’t, it probably doesn’t belong in it.
But if you don’t want that URL to show up in search results, you’ll need to add a “noindex” tag. Even if it’s not in your sitemap, Google will still find the URL. Google can index the URL if it can find it by following links.
How to Make Google Find Your Sitemap
Add your XML sitemap to your Google Search Console account so that Google can find it faster. Under “Sitemaps,” you can find all of your sitemaps. If not, you can put your sitemap at the top of the page.
By adding your sitemap, you can see if Google has indexed all of the pages in it. If there is a big difference between the “submitted” and “indexed” numbers on a sitemap, this is something you should look into. There might be a mistake that keeps some pages from being indexed. You could also need more links that lead to the content that hasn’t been indexed yet.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What Happens When Google Search Console Says an Xml Sitemap Has Errors?
Find out what kind of error is listed if the XML sitemap isn’t valid or if search engines can’t read it correctly. If the XML sitemap isn’t being read by search engines, make sure it’s been sent to the search engine webmaster tools. If it doesn’t work, check for errors and make sure you find the right answers to your problems.
How to Check if a Website Has an Xml Sitemap?
Most of the time, adding sitemap.xml to a root domain will tell you if a site has an XML sitemap. So, example.com/sitemap.xml would be the address. If Yoast SEO is installed on a site, you will see that it goes to example.com/sitemap index.xml. Sitemap index.xml is the main sitemap that brings together all of your other sitemaps on one page.
How Can I Update an Xml Sitemap?
You can make and update sitemaps by hand, but we don’t think that’s a good idea. Also, there are tools out there called static generators that can help you make a sitemap at any time. But again, you would have to do this process every time you added or changed content. Use Yoast SEO, which is the best way to do this. If you turn on the XML sitemap in Yoast SEO and then go back to your site, all your changes will be made for you.