When making your website more SEO-friendly, one of the key factors to keep in mind is to provide search engines with the right signals that aid in better crawlability and indexing. A well-optimized site map is one of these signals that can help search engines find your website easily, index it, and attribute higher rankings. But what is sitemap and how you can optimize it for SEO? Let’s understand here.
What is a Sitemap?
A site map is your website’s blueprint – a file that provides comprehensive information about all your web pages, videos, or other files on your website. It provides a roadmap that indicates the most important pages on your site, enabling search engines to quickly crawl these pages for better indexing and search engine ranking. It gives signals to search engine bots as to how you want the web pages to be crawled.
Additionally, a site map provides some valuable metadata, such as:
- How different important pages on your website are related to each other
- How frequently the pages are updated
- When was the last time the pages were modified
You can also include a sitemap on your website to provide additional information about any particular type of content, including news, image, or video.
Though often overlooked, a site map is an integral component of technical SEO.
Do You Need a Sitemap?
Now that you know what is sitemap, you’d ask – do I really need a sitemap? Here are some instances when it is ideal to have a sitemap to improve SEO:
- Your website is significantly large, causing web crawlers to often overlook some of your recently updated or new pages
- The website is new, having very few external links. If other websites do not link to you, the search engine may not identify your pages
- The website has a large number of pages that are not efficiently linked to each other or are isolated. Listing these pages on a site map will help ensure that search engines easily discover the pages
- Your website contains a large amount of rich media content, such as images and videos, or is displayed on Google News
How to Create an SEO-Optimized Sitemap?
Here are some effective ways to make your site map SEO-friendly.
1. Create your sitemap automatically
To understand what is sitemap and how to optimize it efficiently, you need to first create a sitemap. Generating your website’s site map is simple when you have access to the right tools and plugins. These tools enable you to build a sitemap automatically and submit it to popular search engines, such as Google. The most widely-used plugins are Google XML Sitemap Generator, Yoast, etc. You can also use auditing software that comes with an in-built XML Sitemap generator.
You can also build a site map manually using an XML sitemap code structure or in any other format. Once you build the site map, submit it to Google via Google Search Console. Before submitting it, test the site map and check the results to identify errors that may prevent the search engine from indexing your landing pages.
2. Structure the Sitemap Using Site Section
One of the best uses of a site map is the ability to monitor excluded as well as valid URLs by using the site section in Google Search Console. For this, you have to set up a sitemap index file for every section of your site. This is an important aspect of understanding what is sitemap and how it works. For example, blog.xml, blog-1.xml, blog-2.xml, etc. This enables Google to crawl each of your web pages, while also making the process easier for you.
3. Include Only ‘Money Pages’ in Your Sitemap
For better crawlability and indexing, the site map should only include the most important URLs that you want to get discovered or those that drive more clicks and conversions. These are often called ‘money pages.’
4. Avoid Using Noindexed or Canonicalized URLs
Noindex URLs do not drive organic traffic from Google and therefore, they should not be included in your site map. Similarly, you do not want canonicalized URLs to rank on search engines. So, avoid including them in the site map for Googlebot to crawl them.
Understanding what is sitemap is important because it is integral to your technical SEO strategy. Optimizing it using the above tactics can help search engines easily discover all your pages, index them, and rank them for relevant search queries. A well-optimized site map can eventually help improve your SEO search results.
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