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Shajith Ali
Shajith Ali

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What is the importance of the XML sitemap in SEO?

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For all the uninitiated, the XML sitemap is a file listing all the pages and urls (or almost) of a website . This file can be submitted to search engines to facilitate their task, both in terms of crawl and indexing. It acts as a roadmap to tell search engines what content is available and how to access it.

More simply, it's about providing a β€œmap” of your site to Google and other engines. It's up to them to follow the directions, but in general, they appreciate this kind of attention, insofar as it saves them resources. And as we know, the more we facilitate the work of an engine, the more it is grateful.

Attention, this simplistic presentation does not reflect all the interest that XML sitemaps can represent. Here are some tips on how this file can make your life and crawling robots easier, while representing a certain importance and usefulness in terms of SEO.

What is an XML sitemap?

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Some articles present in our blog sitemap

It is a protocol and a format that allows you to list all the urls of a website . Each url is ranked according to its position in the site. Thus, within the same sitemap, there is a part dedicated to articles (posts) and another for pages. It can also identify videos, photos, and other file types.

When we talk about sitemaps, we are talking about an inclusion protocol. Indeed, it allows you to submit urls to search engines, which will include them (or not) in their index. Where a robots.txt prevents an engine from crawling pages, a sitemap on the contrary encourages Google robots and engines in general (spider) to crawl certain urls.

The ending "XML" stands for "eXtensible Markup Language". This point means that like other protocols, the expected form is standardized.

HTML markup is expected in these files:

  • The tag
    <loc>
    is used to specify the location of the page.

  • The tag
    <lastmod>
    reports the date of the last update.

  • The tag
    <changefreq>
    specifies the frequency at which the page undergoes a modification.

  • The tag
    <priority>
    is used to stipulate the order of priority of a page across all submitted content.

Sitemap addresses can be integrated into the site's robots file which is crawled by search engines.

What is the SEO interest of a website plan?

In addition to the fact that it will facilitate the work of exploring the various online search engines, it will be able to be used in terms of SEO.

The content of a sitemap is the plan of your online site . However, perhaps it is more interesting to ensure the visibility of each page with an SEO or conversion interest, rather than letting Google index many less useful or profitable urls?

By considering things from this angle, we will be able to tackle the creation of a version of XML sitemap specially designed to optimize the indexing of its important pages. To do this, it will suffice to generate a file showing only the links to the most important urls in terms of business or traffic. The information it contains thus represents the essence of your site.

All you have to do is go to the Google Search Console and add your XML sitemap version there. From then on, Google is alerted and will certainly use it to discover the links of the pages that you have submitted to it. Like Google, Bing offers a "Webmaster tool" to do the same.

The usefulness of submitting only the most important pages is obvious . The crawl robots will first deploy on the urls present in the sitemaps. From an SEO point of view, this is an asset, especially if it concerns the most profitable or the most important pages. Their indexing is very decisive.

In SEO, during a change of domain name or site redesign and migration, the sitemap file is used to indicate URL changes to Google.

What tool can generate a sitemap?

There are several ways to create sitemaps.

You can take care of its creation by hand, via an XML editor, then you implement it on your site . This way of doing things can be tedious and time-consuming. In addition, the slightest tag problems can lead to disruptions in the indexing of your pages.

It is possible to go through the development box. By having the necessary skills to carry out this type of manipulation, you will obtain a tailor-made file, perfectly meeting your needs. Be careful though, this type of process can be resource intensive. To be put into practice only if you have the necessary know-how.

If these methods frighten you, it is possible to use specific tools, which will take care of this creation. You can either go through an XML generation site or program, or use a plugin capable of taking care of it.

In the case of WordPress for example, WP SEO extensions and plugins like Yoast or SEOpress will allow you to perform this task simply. In just a few clicks, your XML sitemap will be created and added to your site on its server. All you have to do is submit it to Google through your Search Console. This is by far the easiest and fastest solution.

It can also be found by the engines via a robots file hosted on your server according to the URLs indicated there.

Note : Even when using a plugin to create your sitemap, nothing prevents you from deleting the less important urls, those in noindex, as well as canonical urls. You will thus obtain an optimized file to improve your natural referencing…

Why does the sitemap allow you to optimize your crawl budget?

If sitemaps have a real interest, it is to allow engines to save their resources. Google and other engines seek to reduce the tasks of robots as much as possible, thus guaranteeing that they save their resources.

To put it simply, all sites are allocated a β€œ crawl budget ”, theoretically in line with their size and architecture. As soon as the robots in charge of crawling the sites find themselves faced with dead ends, old content not updated, or even faced with error pages, they tend to stigmatize the site concerned, to end up crawling it less often.

This point can be detrimental to the natural referencing of your site. It could suffer from downgrading over time.

Also, to avoid finding yourself in this kind of situation, be sure to make regular changes to your pages (as much as possible), to take care of your internal mesh and to correct any possible navigation errors present (errors 404, soft 404, etc).

The creation of an XML sitemap makes it possible to take stock of the structure of your sites , of each page and to ensure that the whole works correctly. The crawl of the bots will only be facilitated, thus making it possible to ensure a good general indexing. Do not hesitate to update your sitemap regularly, especially if you are used to publishing pages at an irregular rate. This will make it easier for you to attract search engine favors.

The analysis of logs in an SEO context will make it possible to determine the frequency of Google's crawl and to identify the errors encountered by the robots.

How to create effective sitemaps?

First of all, if your sites have large amounts of pages, do not hesitate to provide several files to Google . Beyond a certain amount of links per sitemap, it does not take them into account.

Also be sure to provide a different sitemap per resource type. By creating an XML sitemap for video content, one for image content, one for pages and another for articles, you will be guaranteed that Google will accurately capture the structure of your site. Even if the tags are there to stipulate the nature of the submitted content, it doesn't cost much to pre-chew the robots' work as much as possible.

Finally, do not hesitate to remove from the list the data that do not seem relevant or essential to you. The crawl budget will be saved, and there is a high chance that the engine will discover them through the internal mesh over time.

Note : if you have a very small site, it is not essential to create a sitemap. On the other hand, you can manually submit your few urls in the Google Search Console. Rather than waiting for your site to be discovered by chance during a crawl, do not hesitate to force the indexing of your pages. Obviously, after a certain size of infrastructure, forget this method and prefer a sitemap.

An XML sitemap can be useful for SEO and indexing

Like many other devices, the sitemap should be seen as a tool made available to you to facilitate the work of Google and search engines in general.

Be careful, this does not mean that the pages of your sites will end up monopolizing the first positions of the SERPs! But like many other factors, a well-designed and well-executed sitemap can have a beneficial effect on the indexing and referencing of your pages.

If your site requires it, why not provide it with an XML sitemap? If you doubt whether you need to create one, or if you're worried that you don't know how to implement it, contact us. We will study the possible possibilities together.

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