Sitemap Examples: How To Get Your Sitemaps In Shape And Boost Your SEO

10 Jun 2022 Last updated: 21 Jun 2022 By The Agile Digital Team

It is important to ensure that your website is accessible to search engines in order to maximise its potential reach. One way to do this is to include a sitemap on your website. Sitemaps can help users and search engine crawlers find and navigate your website more easily. They offer a simple way for site owners to share information with search engines about the content they have on their site.

In this article, we will explain what a sitemap is, describe the different types of sitemaps that exist, add sitemap examples for each type, and guide you on how to create and submit your XML sitemap in less than 10 minutes.

Table of contents:

What is a sitemap for a website?

A sitemap is a file that lists the web pages on your site. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to better understand your site’s organisation and content.

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Search engines such as Google or Bing use this file to crawl your site more efficiently. A sitemap helps search engines understand which pages and files on your site are important, and provides valuable information about these files. For example, when the page was last updated and any alternate language versions of the page.

Sitemaps and their importance in SEO

One of the key Search Engine Optimisation strategies for web sites is to have high quality sitemaps that help search engines discover and access all relevant content posted on that web site.

This ensures that all of your site’s content is properly indexed and can be found by users who are searching for it.

A sitemap can be a valuable asset for any website, providing a clear and concise overview of all the available content. Including a sitemap can be a simple and effective way to improve your SEO efforts.

Sitemap examples: Agile Digital Agency Sitemap

Types of sitemaps

There are two types of sitemaps commonly used on websites: XML sitemaps and HTML sitemaps.

XML sitemaps

What’s an XML sitemap?

An XML sitemap is a file that contains a list of all the pages on your website. Search engines use XML sitemaps to discover new and updated pages on websites.

XML sitemaps are designed for search engines to read. Bing and Google support different formats such as XML, text, RSS and atom feed, all of which should follow the standard sitemap protocol.

XML sitemaps are submitted to search engines to help them crawl a website. Text sitemaps are not as common, but can also be used to provide a list of pages to search engines.

Do I need an XML sitemap?

You don’t need an XML sitemap if your website is small or it is comprehensively linked internally, allowing Google and Bing to discover all important pages on your site through links starting from the homepage.

However, today there are many tools that can help you create an XML sitemap easily. With a sitemap, search engines will quickly understand which pages and files you think are important on your site. They also provide valuable information about these files. For example, when the page was last updated, and any alternate language versions of the page.

Why are XML sitemaps important?

An XML sitemap is a list of all the pages on your website that is designed to be read by search engine robots. It is important because it helps search engines to crawl and index your website more efficiently.

Your XML sitemap tells search engines like Google what pages are on your site and how often they change. XML sitemaps can also include additional information about each page, such as when it was last updated. This helps search engines understand when to come back and crawl your website for new or updated content.

Are XML sitemaps good for SEO?

A well-optimised XML sitemap can help search engines find and index all the pages on your website, which can lead to better website rankings.

Here are a few tips on how to optimise your XML sitemap for better rankings:

  • Make sure that your sitemap is well-structured and easy to read.
  • Include all of your important pages in your sitemap.
  • Do not include low-quality pages on your website to avoid wasting your crawl budget.
  • Exclude duplicate pages and non canonical URLs.
  • Use keyword-rich titles for your pages.
  • Make sure your sitemap is updated regularly.

HTML sitemaps

What’s an HTML sitemap?

HTML sitemaps are good for both users and SEO

An HTML sitemap is a page that lists all the subpages of a website. It is structured using the HTML language.

HTML sitemaps are designed to help humans navigate your website. They provide an overview of your website’s content and can be a useful tool for visitors to find what they’re looking for.

The goal is to give users a general idea of the website’s structure so they can easily navigate its different pages.

Do I need an HTML sitemap?

As confirmed by John Mueller, if your website is small or all of its important pages are linked internally, you do not need an HTML sitemap. Google and Bing can discover these pages through links starting from the homepage.

HTML sitemaps are not really necessary on small websites.

Why are HTML sitemaps important?

HTML sitemaps are important because they provide a roadmap for both visitors and search engine crawlers to follow.

Besides, adding an HTML sitemap to your site provides visitors using a screen reader with an alternative to the main navigation. This can be helpful in providing them with access to the entire site.

In summary:

  • HTML sitemaps are handy, as they can reduce the clicks it takes to reach your pages.
  • HTML sitemaps provide good usability.
  • HTML sitemaps can be great for search results.

Are HTML sitemaps good for SEO?

The HTML sitemap is not submitted to search engines, but it can help them crawl and index your website.

This sitemap is a comprehensive list of all the pages on your website. It helps search engines like Google understand the internal structure of your site and where to find specific pieces of content. Whenever you add a new page to your site, be sure to add it to your sitemap so the search engine can find it.

One of the main benefits of having an HTML sitemap is that it helps to distribute page rank across the entire website, which can be beneficial for SEO purposes.

What is the difference between XML and HTML sitemap?

XML sitemaps, sometimes called Google sitemaps, are typically used to provide search engines with a list of all the pages on a website, while HTML sitemaps are meant to be used as a navigation guide for humans.

Matt Cutts: HTML Sitemap or XML Sitemap?

Sitemap examples

XML sitemap examples

A basic XML Sitemap looks like this:

Simple XML Sitemap Example

Creating an XML sitemap may sound like a daunting task, but it’s actually not too difficult, and can be a helpful tool in improving your site’s SEO.

There are plenty of tools that can generate an XML sitemap for you, but here are some things to consider:

  • They are written in the XML language.
  • The <urlset> element is mandatory and it encapsulates the file and references the current protocol standard.
  • The <url> element is used to describe each URL from your website.
    • The <loc> element is required and represents the URL of a page.
    • The <lastmod> element is optional and represents the date of last modification of the page.
    • The <changefreq> element is optional and represents how frequently the page is likely to change. 
    • The <priority> element is optional and represents the priority of this URL relative to other URLs on your site.

Video sitemaps

A video sitemap is a type of sitemap that includes additional information about videos hosted on your website. Creating a video sitemap can help Google discover and understand the video content on your site, especially new or lesser-known content.

Video sitemap example

In the example above note the added namespace in the <urlset> element and the video element tag to describe a video contained in the <loc> page.

See more information about video sitemaps and Google.

Image sitemaps

You can add images to your sitemap in two ways: either by including them in your existing sitemap, or by creating a separate sitemap specifically for images. Adding images to your sitemap helps Google discover images that may not be found otherwise, such as those reached with JavaScript code.

XML Sitemap example with images

In the example above note the added namespace in the <urlset> element and the image element tag to describe an image contained in the <loc> page.

See more information about image sitemaps and Google.

What if you have a multilingual website?

Multilingual websites can inform search engines about all of the language and region variants for each URL using additional element<xhtml:link> within the <url> element.

XML Sitemap Example - multilingual website

Here you list your URLs using the <url> element as explained before, including in the <loc> element the URL of your page.

Then you use an <xhtml:link> tag to list every language/locale variant of the page including itself.

From the example above:

  • You see 3 URLs listed in this sitemap
  • Each URL uses the <loc> element to show the page URL
  • And then you can see the <xhtml:link> elements used to inform the search engine about the alternate URL versions of this page. Note that the same URL listed in the <loc>element appears also listed in the <xhtml:link> element to show search engines the language used on the page.
  • The hreflang parameter informs about the page language/locale. You can use the value “x-default” if you want to tell search engines that this is the page version that should be used when no other language/region matches the user’s browser setting.
<url>
	<loc>https://www.example.com/english/page.html</loc>
	<xhtml:link
	   rel="alternate"
	   hreflang="de"
	   href="https://www.example.com/deutsch/page.html"/>
	<xhtml:link
	   rel="alternate"
	   hreflang="de-ch"
	   href="https://www.example.com/schweiz-deutsch/page.html"/>
	<xhtml:link
	   rel="alternate"
	   hreflang="en"
	   href="https://www.example.com/english/page.html"/>
</url>

Things to know about Google and XML Sitemaps:

  • Google does not pledge to crawl every URL in a sitemap.
  • Google ignores <priority> and <changefreq> values.
  • Google uses the <lastmod> value if it’s consistently and verifiably (for example by comparing to the last modification of the page) accurate.
  • The position of a URL in a sitemap is not important; Google does not crawl URLs in the order in which they appear in your sitemap.
  • The size limit for a single XML sitemap must be 50 MB or less (uncompressed), and the number of URLs contained in the file must not exceed 50,000.
  • If you have a larger file or more URLs, you will need to break your list into multiple sitemaps. You can create a sitemap index file (a file that points to a list of sitemaps) and submit that single index file to Google.

What if I have a large website and my sitemap goes beyond the limits accepted by Google and Bing?

 If your site is large, consider breaking up large sitemaps into smaller sitemaps and, then use a sitemap index file to list all individual sitemaps.

The XML format of a sitemap index file is very similar to the XML format of a sitemap file.

XML Sitemap Index example

Here:

  • The <sitemapindex> element is the parent tag surrounds the file.
  • The <sitemap> element is the parent tag for each sitemap listed in the file (a child of the sitemapindex tag)
  • The <loc> element shows the location of the sitemap (a child of the sitemap tag).
  • The <lastmod> element shows when this sitemap was last modified (a child of the sitemap tag).

Text sitemap example

If your sitemap includes only web page URLs, you can provide Google with a simple text file that contains one URL per line. For example:

Simple Text Sitemap Example

HTML sitemap example

If you’re running a website, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with HTML sitemaps. For those who aren’t, a quick rundown: an HTML sitemap is a page on your website that lists all of the other pages on your site, usually in a hierarchical fashion. They’re used to help visitors find their way around, and to give search engines a better idea of your site’s structure.

HTML Sitemap Example - Agile

There’s no real difference between HTML sitemaps for small and large websites. The only real difference is the amount of effort that goes into creating and maintaining them.

As an example, the NYT is a very large website that has done a great job in creating an HTML sitemap which helps their readers to find any article that has ever been published on their site.

Take a look at this great example of HTML sitemap: https://www.nytimes.com/sitemap/

NYT HTML Sitemap

You can see how easy it is to navigate the website and find any article that has been published on the website.

Website sitemap examples - NYT HTML Sitemap

Sitemap examples – NYT HTML Sitemap

​How do I create a sitemap for my website?

There are a few different ways to create a sitemap for your website. Depending on how your website is built, you can use an online website sitemap generator or a sitemap plugin for your content management system.

Create a sitemap using an online sitemap generator

The best free sitemap generator is probably XML-Sitemaps.com. This website offers a range of options for creating your sitemap, including the ability to create a sitemap for a large website with up to 500 pages.

XML-Sitemaps.com

You can create both HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps using XML-Sitemaps.com. To do so, follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
  2. Enter your website URL and press the start button

Once the process is completed, you will be able to preview and download your sitemaps.

XML Sitemaps download page

Then, you need to add that sitemap.xml file to your web server, ideally placed in the root folder of your website. So the URL of your sitemap becomes https://www.yourcompany.com/sitemap.xml. After this, you can submit your sitemap.xml URL to the main search engines.

For your HTML sitemap, you’ll need to integrate to your website the HTML code you downloaded from xml-sitemaps.com.

Other online XML sitemap generators

Other free tools you can use to generate your XML sitemap are:

  • https://xmlsitemapgenerator.org/free-online-sitemap-generator.aspx
  • https://smallseotools.com/xml-sitemap-generator/
  • https://websiteseochecker.com/html-sitemap-generator/

Screaming Frog 

If you are already using Screaming Frog to find and fix any on-site issues, then you probably know that you can also use it to generate your XML sitemap.

If not, all you have to do is:

  • Head to the Sitemaps top menu and click “XML Sitemap”.
  • A pop up where you can customise your sitemap options will appear.
  • Click “Export”.
Screaming frog XML Sitemap pop up options

More information about how to create an XML sitemap using Screaming Frog.

Create a sitemap using a WordPress plugin

If you have built your website with WordPress, there are several plugins that can help you add a sitemap to your WordPress site.

How to create an XML sitemap for WordPress

There are a few easy ways to create an XML sitemap for WordPress. 

If you are using an SEO plugin, it is very likely that it automatically generates the XML sitemap for you.

Two popular SEO plugins are Yoast or Rank Math:

These plugins have premium options that allow you, for example, to generate video sitemaps.

If you need a plugin to generate just an XML sitemap for your website, check out the Google Sitemap Generator.

If you use a WordPress plugin, you don’t need to worry about downloading any files and adding them to your server. The WordPress plugin will handle all changes that happen to your XML sitemap and eventually ping search engines when this happens.

How to create an HTML sitemap for WordPress

If you need to create a responsive HTML sitemap for your WordPress site, take a look at the Simple Sitemap plugin. It’s very easy to use and gives you a variety of shortcodes that you can use to customise your sitemap page.

How do I let Google and Bing know about my XML sitemap?

If you have created a new website, one of the easiest ways to ensure that search engines are aware of it is by submitting your XML sitemap to their webmaster tools. 

All you need to do is: 

  1. Create an XML sitemap file as explained before
  2. Include your website’s important URLs
  3. Submit your sitemap to search engines

Submit your sitemap to Google

Before submitting your sitemap to Google, you must sign up for Google Search Console, unless you already have an account. After creating your account, you can add and verify your website.

Once you have your site added to Google Search Console, access your website property and:

  1. Click on the Sitemaps entry from the left menu
  2. Enter your sitemap file and click Submit
Submit your sitemap to Google

Submit your sitemap to Bing

Before submitting your sitemap to Bing, you must sign up for Bing Webmaster Tools, unless you already have an account. After creating your account, you can add your website by importing your website from Google Search Console or adding it manually (here you will need to prove that you own the site by uploading a file or adding a meta tag).

Once you have your site added to Bing Webmaster tools, access your website property and:

  1. Click on the Sitemaps entry from the left menu
  2. Click on the “Submit sitemap” button
Submit your sitemap to Bing

A pop up will appear and you can enter your sitemap URL, which will typically be one of these options:

  • http://mycompany.com/sitemap.xml
  • http://mycompany.com/sitemap_index.xml

Reference in robots.txt file

You can also leave a reference to your sitemap in your site’s robots.txt file. To do so, simply add a sitemap directive line in your robots.txt.

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Conclusion

If you have a website that you want to be recognised in the search engines, then you will need to have a sitemap. If your site does not have a sitemap, then there is a higher risk that it will not be indexed properly in the search engines. A well managed sitemap will increase Google and Bing’s ability to locate and access your website content.

Invest in SEO and grow your business

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The Agile Digital Team The Agile Digital Team

We’re a web design & digital marketing agency that helps SMEs achieve strong and long-lasting results on the internet, using the best digital marketing technologies.