An XML sitemap is a roadmap of your website containing lists of essential pages. It is a way to guide Google to find and crawl all of your web pages. With a good sitemap, you can help search engines understand your website’s structure.
In fact, an XML sitemap for Google is an XML file that lists relevant metadata and URLs of a website’s pages. It will become a blueprint for Google to speed up content discovery. Sitemaps provide essential information about site structure, hierarchy, and content.
From a technical SEO (search engine optimization) perspective, an XML sitemap for Google enables web crawlers to crawl and access all your important pages. It helps them discover pages that are buried deep in your website structure.
XML sitemaps allow you to prioritize certain content types or pages. This helps search engines understand essential pages on your site. Let’s demystify XML sitemaps:
Table of Contents
XML Sitemap Format
If you have a one-page website, create the following XML sitemap for Google:
Loc Tag (Location)
This tag contains the canonical version of the URL location. Loc tag should reflect site protocol (HTTP and HTTPs), and if you want to include or exclude www. For international websites, it allows you to implement hreflang handling.
Use the XHTML:link attribute to show region and language variants in each URL. It will reduce the page load time, which is complex with other link elements in HTTP headers.
Lastmod Tag (Last Modified)
It is an optional tag, but it is crucial to communicate the file’s last modified time and date. The last modified time can convey to Google that you are an original publisher. Moreover, it tells search engines that your content is fresh and updated.
Make sure to update the modification date after making meaningful changes. If you try to trick search engines, it may result in a Google penalty.
Two optional tags are priority tags (hint search engines about how a page is essential compared to other pages) and changefreq tags (how often a page is updated). You can ignore them because Google doesn’t need these tags.
How does an XML Sitemap for Google work?
Due to the XML sitemap for Google, search engines crawl relevant pages and understand the site architecture. Let’s understand how to submit an XML sitemap to Google and addresses multiple technical SEO issues related to crawling and indexing:
Submit Sitemaps to Introduce New URLs to Search Engines
A Search Engine like Google makes it easy to introduce a new URL to search engines. You can submit a new sitemap after adding a new URL to your website. It is an easy way to invite Google to your new pages ahead of the regular schedule.
After submitting a new sitemap, Google crawls or indexes new URLs after some time. Use this method to announce changes to your web pages by using the tag <lastmod> in your XML sitemap for Google to indicate the update date.
Assist Bots in Understanding Your Site Architecture
Crawling depends on links between web pages. So the architecture of your site is vital for users and search engine bots who navigate your website to find pages. With an XML Sitemap for Google, you can make it easy for bots and users to find deep pages.
What are deep pages?
These pages need many clicks from your landing pages or home page to discover. Deep pages are located deep in your website architecture. Keep in mind that depth can decrease popularity score and ranking. Here are some consequences of deep page depth:
- Deep pages have a low popularity score in the PageRank algorithm.
- Depth influences the crawling time of website pages.
- Depth may reduce the frequency of visitors visiting your pages.
However, sitemaps can’t solve issues like human visitors, popularity, and link juices. So build and submit sitemap index files to provide URL structure of deep pages to bots. It is a quick way to rework your internal linking strategy to help bots index URLs with extra page depth.
Speed up De-indexing from Google
De-indexing is a process to remove URLs of an obsolete, outdated, or broken page with low-quality content. Moreover, de-index pages with duplicate content to avoid a Google penalty. Google search console is a free tool to remove URLs from search engines. Here are some easy ways to speed up de-indexing:
To archive pages from the index, enter a URL in the corresponding option of Google Search Console. You can remove it directly from the search results or the cache.
The noindex meta tag is an excellent way to instruct Google to remove a page URL from its index. Its format is as follows: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>. You should add it to the HTML of a page you don’t want to index.
The robots.txt file can tell Google bots to de-index or index a page. You can use a disallow command in the robots.txt file to de-index URLs from the SERPs.
Find Orphan Pages to Add Them in XML Sitemap for Google
Orphaned pages on your website are a common technical SEO issue. Search engines find it difficult to discover an orphan page because these pages don’t have internal links pointing to your site. These pages have only a link in the navigation menu.
Google crawlers can ignore these pages and URLs. GoogleBot can discover pages from the backlinks or an XML sitemap for Google. Moreover, Google will find these pages if they know their URLs. Due to their limited SEO performance, they will not contribute to your site’s profit.
It is essential to remove useless pages. If you find them suitable, link them to other pages within the site structure. Discover orphan pages to link them to your XML sitemap. So you can compare the URLs in your XML sitemap for Google with the URLs found by crawlers.
Enable crawl comparison in sitemaps to find information about orphan pages in sitemaps and crawl results. If you have a WordPress website, you can use the Yoast SEO plugin to create an XML Sitemap for Google.
Remove Duplicate Content
If similar content appears on multiple pages, it can harm the technical SEO of your website. To manage duplicate content, you should distinguish the content or use canonical declarations. Canonical tags signal search engines which duplicate pages must be indexed.
You can include canonical URLs to your XML sitemap for Google. These URLs serve as suggestions for canonical URLs. Google will use the URL to appear in a sitemap. You can add an HTML tag to particular pages if Google ignores canonical URLs.
The rel=canonical tag is a great way to transfer technical SEO juice from a duplicate page to other pages. Canonical URLs can be suggestions for Google to remove pages with duplicate content. Google supports valuable content like infographics, Google News, etc.
Diversify Your Content for Google as Videos and Images
You can diversify your content by using images and videos and indicate these elements in the sitemap. It will improve your website’s ranking and increase your content’s visibility.
Google recommends the use of schema.org markup on the page while adding images, news and videos. In an XML sitemap for Google, you can indicate them as NewsArticle, ImageObject and VideoObject.
Implement Technical SEO Best Practices
Technical SEO is essential to improve the technical aspects of your website. Website speed is a vital factor in engaging visitors with the content of your website. If your site speed is slow, users will not like to stay and wait around.
Page speed, user experience and core web vitals are significant for ranking algorithms. If a site loads slowly, Google will lower its rankings.
Structured data is another critical aspect of technical SEO. It explains the context of each web page to Google. You can add Schema.org types pages in your code. Plus, don’t forget off-page SEO and on-page SEO factors when implementing technical SEO.
Optimize Sitemap for Search Engines
With XML sitemap for Google, you can optimize the content of your website for all search engines like Google, Yahoo, Yandex and Bing. The XML sitemap index lists sitemap locations rather than actual URLs.
Search engines will read the sitemap index to discover and crawl the linked sitemap files, which, in turn, provide information about the URLs and content on the website.
Content Distribution Network (CDN)
With CDNs, you can deliver content across your website. It helps you add structured data to improve the user experience of your website. By using CDNs, you can improve the ranking of your website in search results. Moreover, you can expect a secure website and organic traffic.
Crawl Budget for XML Sitemap for Google
Keep in mind that an XML sitemap provides a list of URLs to search engine crawlers. So, you can’t ignore a crawl budget because it can affect an XML sitemap for Google. A crawl budget is a fusion of crawl demand and crawl rate. It is defined as the total URLs Googlebot can crawl.
Googlebot may crawl a particular number of URLs; therefore, you should efficiently use your crawl budget. With internal links in an XML sitemap, you can indicate important URLs for bots to focus on.
In conclusion, an XML sitemap for Google plays a crucial role in guiding search engines to crawl and understand the structure of your website effectively. They aid in prioritizing the following:
- Indexing of new and essential pages
- Facilitate the discovery of deep pages
- Aid in de-indexing obsolete or low-quality content
- Assist in identifying orphan pages
You can enhance your site’s visibility and ranking by diversifying your content with videos and images and optimizing your sitemap. It’s essential to consider factors like crawl budget and Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) to improve site performance and user experience.
Effectively optimize your website by integrating XML sitemap for Google with technical SEO best practices. It enables you to improve its ranking in search results, boost online visibility and attract more organic traffic.
Ultimately, an XML sitemap is indispensable to any robust technical SEO strategy. It ensures the technical optimization of your website’s valuable content.
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