A sitemap generator tool is indispensable in technical optimization for any website, but it is not as simple as ABC for SEO practitioners. In this article, we will go through everything you need to know about how to create a sitemap using the right (and free!) generator tools.
Sitemap is a file that contains the information of a website, including all the URLs. Sitemaps help search engines crawl and index more efficiently all the content on the site.
In addition, sitemaps also inform search engines about which pages are important and which URLs should be prioritized in a website, hence optimizing for results shown on SERPs.
A popular way to classify sitemaps is by its structure: HTML or XML.
An HTML sitemap is designed with the purpose of helping users find and access information on a website. With this type of sitemap, you can improve your site rankings by optimizing user experience.
An XML sitemap is meant to help search engine bots crawl the site more easily and quickly.
Another way to classify sitemaps is by 4 main format types:
Besides the aforementioned types, we also have sitemap index, sitemap-category.xml, sitemap-products.xml, sitemap-articles.xml, sitemap-tags.xml, among other types.
Sitemaps play an essential role in any website. They send signals to Googlebot to quickly and automatically index all content on the site.
When detecting an error, sitemaps will send a message with suggestions to fix it to optimize the website, which makes the whole site more search-engine-friendly.
Note: The above benefits are only applicable for declared URLs. Also, if the sitemap structure is incorrect (URLs are missing or redundant), the website structure will encounter errors, thereby affecting Google SERP rankings.
Following are types of websites that should use XML sitemaps:
It is easy to view the sitemap of any website. Just add “sitemap.xml” to the end of the site address. If there is no result returned, it means this website has not created a sitemap.
Let’s look at the detailed instructions on how to make a sitemap for your website, both in HTML and XML structure.
Create an HTML sitemap for WordPress-based website
Create an HTML sitemap manually
An HTML sitemap can also be created manually using free generator tools to obtain the website data and page list. Many SEO practitioners opt for this method due to its convenience and utility. If you are interested in creating online sitemaps in this way, refer to check-domains.com/sitemap.
Before starting to gather data, paste the URL into the site and mark it in the HTML sitemap. Finally, paste the received link into the newly created website to complete the process.
XML sitemaps are important in helping SEO practitioners locate necessary information on Google. They support navigation to new pages through links on the sites. It is quite simple to create an XML sitemap, and you can choose one of these two ways.
Create an XML sitemap for WordPress-based website
Create an XML sitemap using XML-Sitemaps.com
It is now clear that a sitemap is essential for a site to be crawled and indexed correctly, which directly affects the site ranking. But not every sitemap works as intended, so there are some key notes to keep in mind when building a sitemap for your site.
Key notes when building sitemaps:
Here are 13 tips for you to optimize sitemaps quickly.
Sitemap creation is easier with the right tools, software and plugins such as Google XML Sitemaps and Yoast SEO.
Besides, you can create a sitemap manually using XML. In fact, it doesn’t need to be in XML format. You can just use a normal text file listing the URLs line by line. However, it is still recommended to create a complete XML sitemap if you want to implement the hreflang attribute.
So, if you are new to this, we recommend using an automatic sitemap generator to save time.
Visit the page Build and submit a sitemap of Google Search Central for more information on setting up sitemaps manually.
Similar to submitting URLs, you can also use Google Search Console to submit your sitemaps. But don’t rush. Take your time to check the files before clicking submit.
You need to ensure the sitemaps are free of errors and will not negatively affect Google indexing process.
When you submit your sitemaps, Google should understand more clearly how your website is structured. This should accelerate the crawling process and ensure proper indexing.
Website quality plays an important role in creating a sitemap. Moreover, this is one of the factors that directly impact the site ranking on Google SERPs.
If your sitemap contains too many low quality pages, search engines will definitely push it down the list. Therefore, when creating a sitemap, try to direct the bot to important pages.
To this end, those pages must fulfill the following requirements:
Google does not index pages in sitemaps. Previously, Google Search Console also did not notify you of problematic sites when indexing.
Therefore, in order for the website to be highly rated by Google, webmasters need to assign existing pages into different sitemaps. Then, remove URLs that are not indexed.
If your website contains many pages with similar design, use the tag 'link rel=canonical' to help Google identify the main site in the sitemap.
Putting the canonical version in the sitemap makes it easier for search engine bots to locate the main page, hence facilitating the crawling and indexing process.
If you want to remove a page from the indexing list, use the tag 'noindex, follow'. This keeps the URL out of the list but still ensures the link value.
However, robots.txt should only be used when you really want to remove certain unnecessary pages.
If you don't want the bot to crawl and index a particular URL, remove it from the sitemap. Grouping unnecessary pages with important ones in a sitemap file will do more harm than help.
So remember to check the entire sitemap to ensure it only consists of URLs that you want to index.
With large websites, it is virtually impossible to check each and every sitemap URL. Instead, try setting up automation rules to specify a page characteristics when included in an XML sitemap, or change from noindex to index or follow tag.
RSS/Atom feed is an XML sitemap that helps create a summary for all information on a site. RSS acts as a search engine whenever the site changes or updates new content.
This helps search engines like Google to keep most of the latest information updated from the website. Google also suggests the use of both RSS/Atom feeds and sitemaps to facilitate the understanding of Googlebot in identifying which pages to be indexed.
Do not skate on thin ice by updating the “last edited” time of your content in hope of better indexing results when there is no significant change. The bot is more intelligent than we think or would like to believe.
When discovering pages that keep updating but provide no additional value, Google will take action by removing the publishing date of the page. In short, don’t touch that button unless your pages really have gone through a notable makeover.
Some sitemaps have a Priority column to inform bots which sites are really important and necessary. However, whether it works or not is still open to debate. So don’t let it occupy your mind.
The smaller the sitemap file, the less strain on the server. Even if Google increases the maximum sitemap file size for your website, don’t be tempted. Keep it neat and small enough to host your main landing pages.
Each sitemap should not exceed 50,000 URLs. In fact, this number is more than enough for a website operating in Vietnam. But if yours consists of over 50,000 URLs, just split them into multiple sitemaps.
Here are the reasons why splitting sitemaps is a recommended practice for your site.
The order to add updated content to sitemap is from newest to oldest. When Google crawls the sitemap file, they will start indexing from the latest content.
However, if the sitemap contains over 50,000 links, it will take a long time for Google to complete the task, not to mention the risks that may arise when you submit new content continuously, because Google will have to constantly download to collect new data and evaluate.
The recommended number is 500 URLs per sitemap file if you use plugins for sitemap creation. Another way is to split the big sitemap into smaller parts and classify them by content type such as video sitemap, image sitemap, article sitemap, and so on.
We have reached the end of today’s sitemap generator guidelines. Hope you have obtained valuable information about the definition, benefits and how to make a sitemap that works for your website.
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