Sitemap Examples: How To Get Your Sitemaps In Shape And Boost Your SEO
Table of contents:
- What is a sitemap for a website?
- Sitemaps and their importance in SEO
- Types of sitemaps
- What is the difference between XML and HTML sitemap?
- Sitemap examples
- How to create a sitemap
- How do I let Google and Bing know about my XML sitemap?
What is a sitemap for a website?
Sitemaps are files that list the web pages on your site. Web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to better understand your site’s content and organisation.
In addition to providing valuable information about your site’s pages and files, a sitemap helps search engines understand what information is relevant on your site. An example would be the date when the page was last updated and whether an alternate language version is available.
Sitemaps and their importance in SEO
Having high quality sitemaps is one of the key SEO strategies for web sites that allows search engines to discover all relevant content posted on them.
By doing so, you will ensure that all of your site’s content is properly indexed and found by users.
Sitemaps provide a clear and concise overview of all the available content on any website. By including a sitemap, you can improve your SEO efforts in a simple and effective manner.
Types of sitemaps
There are two types of sitemaps commonly used on websites: XML sitemaps and HTML sitemaps.
What’s an XML sitemap?
An XML sitemap lists all the pages on your website. Search engines use them to discover new and updated pages on websites.
Google and Bing support XML, text, RSS, and Atom feeds, all of which follow the standard sitemap protocol.
XML Sitemaps are submitted to search engines so they can crawl a website efficiently. Search engines can also use text-based sitemaps to provide a list of pages, although they are less common.
Do I need an XML sitemap?
In the case of a small website that is comprehensively linked internally, Google and Bing will be able to discover all of your site’s key pages without an XML sitemap.
It is, however, easy to create a sitemap with today’s tools. Your sitemap helps search engines determine which pages and files are most relevant to your site.
In addition, they provide valuable information about these files (such as the last time the page was updated and the alternate language version if available).
Why are XML sitemaps important?
XML Sitemaps are lists of pages on your website that search engine robots can read. This makes your website easier for search engines to crawl and index.
Google, for example, can use XML sitemaps to find out what pages are on your site and how often they are updated. This information is used by search engines to determine when to crawl your site 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 improve your website ranking.
For better rankings, here are some tips on optimising your XML sitemap:
- Your sitemap should be well-structured and easy to read.
- Your sitemap should include all of your important pages.
- To avoid wasting your crawl budget, do not include low-quality pages on your website.
- Don’t include duplicate pages or non-canonical URLs.
- Make your page titles keyword-rich.
- Keep your sitemap up-to-date.
What’s an HTML sitemap?
The HTML sitemap lists all the subpages of a website. It is structured using HTML.
The purpose of HTML sitemaps is to make it easier for humans to navigate your website.
Visitors can use them to find what they’re looking for by seeing an overview of your website’s content.
Do I need an HTML sitemap?
In accordance with John Mueller, if your website is small or all of its important pages are linked internally, you don’t need an HTML sitemap. Using the homepage as a starting point, Google and Bing can discover these pages.
Why are HTML sitemaps important?
HTML sitemaps are important because they provide a roadmap for both visitors and search engine crawlers to follow.
Additionally, an HTML sitemap provides an alternative to the main navigation for visitors using a screen reader. This allows them to access the entire website.
- HTML sitemaps can reduce the number of clicks needed to reach your pages.
- Sitemaps in HTML are user-friendly.
- Having an HTML sitemap can help with search engine optimisation.
Are HTML sitemaps good for SEO?
While the HTML sitemap is not submitted to search engines, it can assist them in crawling and indexing your site.
This sitemap contains a complete listing of all the pages on your website. It helps search engines like Google understand the internal structure of your site and where specific content can be found. Every time you add a page to your site, make sure you add it to your sitemap so search engines can find it.
As an SEO benefit, HTML sitemaps help distribute page rank across the entire website, which is one of the main benefits of having one.
What is the difference between XML and HTML sitemap?
An XML sitemap, sometimes called a Google sitemap, is usually used to provide search engines with a list of all the pages on a website, while an HTML sitemap acts as a navigation guide.
XML sitemap examples
A basic XML Sitemap looks like this:
It may seem daunting to create an XML sitemap, but it’s actually not that difficult, and can be very helpful in improving your site’s search engine rankings.
Many tools can generate an XML sitemap for you, but here are a few things to consider:
- These documents 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 include additional information about videos on your website. Video sitemaps can help Google discover and understand the video content on your website, especially new or lesser-known videos.
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.
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.
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.
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?
In the case of a large site, consider breaking large sitemaps into smaller ones, and then using a sitemap index file to list all the individual sitemaps.
Sitemap index files use the same XML format as sitemap files.
- 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
A simple text file containing one URL per line can be used if your sitemap contains only web page URLs. An example would be:
HTML sitemap example
If you run a website, you’re probably already familiar with HTML sitemaps. For those not familiar, a HTML sitemap lists all of the other pages on your website in a hierarchical manner. Visitors can use them to find their way around your site, and search engines use them to understand how your site is structured.
There’s no real difference between HTML sitemaps for small and large websites. The only real difference is how much effort goes into creating and maintaining them.
A great example of an HTML sitemap is the one created by the New York Times, a very large website that has done a great job of making it easy for readers to find any article they have ever published.
Take a look at this great example of HTML sitemap: https://www.nytimes.com/sitemap/
Here you can see how easy it is to navigate the website and find articles published there.
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.
You can create both HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps using XML-Sitemaps.com. To do so, follow these simple steps:
- Go to https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
- Enter your website URL and press the start button
Once the process is completed, you will be able to preview and download your sitemaps.
Then, you need to add the sitemap.xml file to your web server, ideally in the root folder. Your sitemap URL will then be https://domain.com/sitemap.xml. Once you have completed this process, you can submit the URL for your sitemap.xml to the main search engines.
Your HTML sitemap must be integrated into your website using the HTML code you downloaded from xml-sitemaps.com.
Other online XML sitemap generators
Here are some other free tools you can use to create an XML sitemap:
If you are already using Screaming Frog for finding and fixing on-site issues, you probably already know it can also generate your XML sitemap.
If not, simply follow these steps:
- Select the “XML Sitemap” option from the Sitemaps menu.
- You will see a pop-up where you can customise your sitemap options.
- Then click “Export”.
More information about how to create an XML sitemap using Screaming Frog.
Create a sitemap using a WordPress plugin
You can add a sitemap to your WordPress website using several plugins.
How to create an XML sitemap for WordPress
Creating an XML sitemap for WordPress is simple.
Most SEO plugins automatically generate XML sitemaps for you if you use them.
Yoast and Rank Math are two popular SEO plugins:
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.
WordPress plugins eliminate the need to download and upload files to your server. WordPress plugin will handle any changes made to your XML sitemap and ping search engines accordingly.
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.
As an alternative, the FREE version of Rank Math SEO now includes an HTML Sitemap, which you can activate as follows:
- Download the latest version of Rank Math Free.
- Go to Rank Math > Sitemap Settings and enable HTML Sitemaps
- Include the shortcode on any page you want, whether you use Block Editor, Elementor, Divi, or any other WordPress Page Builder.
- You’re all set!
How do I let Google and Bing know about my XML sitemap?
One of the easiest ways to ensure that search engines are aware of your new website is to submit its XML sitemap to their webmaster tools.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare an XML sitemap as explained previously
- Be sure to include the URLs of your website’s most important pages
- 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:
- Click on the Sitemaps entry from the left menu
- Enter your sitemap URL and click Submit
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:
- Click on the Sitemaps entry from the left menu
- Click on the “Submit sitemap” button
A pop up will appear and you can enter your sitemap URL, which will typically be one of these options:
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.
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.
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