Sitemaps are a guide to help your website visitors on where they want to visit and go. Sitemaps are considered a technical component for SEO which can intimidate individuals to build it themselves.

It’s hard to know whether or not you need a sitemap for your pages site. When your site’s pages  properly link together, Google can usually discover most of your site. Even if they are properly linked, a sitemap can help improve the crawling of larger, complex sites.

In reality, sitemaps are easier to build than you may think. We will dive in and discuss the different types of sitemaps and what you should include in yours.

 

What is a sitemap?

To put it simply, a sitemap is a list of different pages on a website. These pages provide information about the pages and content within the page such as videos, images or wording. They all create a relationship together and a map as to where they are located and connect to one another. Search engines such as Google use sitemaps to crawl and index your site’s important information. Page information could include when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and any alternative language versions of a page. Your content information could include the content’s running time, the category it falls into, and the age rating. 

There are two types of sitemaps which are HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps. HTML sitemaps focus more on website visitors and include every page on the website. It mainly includes a clickable list of pages on a website. This type of sitemap is a great opportunity to create order out of chaos that is worth making the effort out of for your site.

XML Sitemaps focus more on helping search engines and spiders discover the pages on your website. These sitemaps give a complete map of your website and the importance of all of the pages on a site. This sitemap tends to be more useful for larger websites that might otherwise take search engines and spiders a longer time to crawl through it. In general, an XML sitemap is a good way for search engines to build a queue of the pages it wants to serve.

 

Do I need a sitemap?

It can be hard to know if building a sitemap is the right thing for your site. Google goes over details of why your site may or may not need a sitemap:

You might need a sitemap if:

  • Your site is large. As a result, it’s more likely Google web crawlers might overlook crawling some of your new or recently updated pages.
  • Your site has a large archive of content pages that are isolated or not well linked to each other. If your site pages do not naturally reference each other, you can list them in a sitemap to ensure that Google does not overlook some of your pages.
  • Your site is new and has few external links to it. Googlebot and other web crawlers crawl the web by following links from one page to another. As a result, Google might not discover your pages if no other sites link to them.
  • Your site has a lot of rich media content (video, images) or is shown in Google News. Google can take additional information from sitemaps into account for search, where appropriate.

You might not need a sitemap if:

  • Your site is “small”. By small, we mean about 500 pages or less on your site. (Only pages that you think need to be in search results count toward this total.)
  • You’re on a simple site hosting service like Blogger or Wix. If your site is on a service that helps you set up a site quickly with pre-formatted pages and navigation elements, your service might create a sitemap for you automatically, and you don’t need to do anything. Search your service’s documentation for the word “sitemap” to see if a sitemap is generated automatically, or if they recommend creating your own (and if so, how to submit a sitemap on your hosting service).
  • Your site is comprehensively linked internally. This means that Google can find all the important pages on your site by following links starting from the homepage.
  • You don’t have many media files (video, image) or news pages that you need to appear in the index. Sitemaps can help Google find and understand video and image files, or news articles, on your site, if you want them to appear in Google Search results. If you don’t need these results to appear in Image, Video, or News results, you might not need a sitemap.

 

What to Include

A sitemap is important for websites with many pages and is hard to know what to include in it. Make sure to include pages and posts within the sitemap that are most important to your website. These are the higher quality pages that are more likely to bring organic traffic to your website. Be sure to exclude pages that have duplicate content or thin content. Thin content means content or pages that have lower quality to your website. Quantity is not as important as quality in the sense of content. 

Some ways to separate your good pages from the bad are to include in your sitemap a ‘no-index’ category and exclude them from the sitemap file. You could also organize your sitemap into sub-sitemaps. This has the additional advantages of making sitemaps smaller and faster to process. You could also include URLs that Google already has access to. When pages tend to be blocked or don’t have access, this will make your sitemap harder to crawl. The last important thing to factor into your sitemap is the ‘last modification time’ field. This gives search engines such as Google a value that provides important information to them.

Sitemaps aren’t as tricky as they may appear to be, but if you’re looking for additional assistance, learn more about Boostability can help improve your SEO services.

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Ansley is a Content Marketing Specialist at Boostability. Ansley recently graduated from Utah State University with two degrees in Communication Studies and Journalism: Public Relations. When she’s not writing, she loves to travel, visit National Parks, and loves all things Disney.