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XML Sitemap: What It Is & How to Create One

An XML sitemap is a file listing your site’s essential URLs, helping search engines index your content. Regularly update it, use canonical URLs, prioritize key pages, and submit it to tools.

Home / Blogs / XML Sitemap: What It Is & How to Create One
Raghav Tayal

Head Of Operations - Digital Web Solutions

July 1, 2024

If you develop a website, you need it to appear in searches so people can find your content. The most effective way for search engines to comprehend and index your website is an XML sitemap. An XML sitemap shows the most important pages on your website so search engines can find and crawl them.

Whether you have a big, complicated website or a tiny blog, an XML sitemap can boost the indexing of your site’s crucial information. In this post, you will discover an XML sitemap, why it matters, and how to develop and keep one for your website.

What Is an XML Sitemap?

An XML sitemap lists the critical pages of your website to ensure that search engines can discover and list them on search pages. XML is an acronym for Extensible Markup Language, a language for encoding human and machine-readable documents. An XML sitemap offers a set-up list of your website’s URLs so search engines like Google understand your website’s organization and locate new or updated content.

XML sitemaps are particularly helpful for big sites, websites with complicated buildings, or websites with lots of archived content. They might include additional details regarding each URL, including the last changed date, frequency of updates, and URL priority about other site web pages. This extra data helps search engines determine how frequently your website needs to be crawled and which web pages are critical.

What Does an XML Sitemap Look Like?

An XML sitemap is a basic text file possessing a certain structure. Tags designate each URL within the sitemap, along with sub-tags that specify further details regarding each URL. A good example XML sitemap looks just like this:

In this example, the sitemap includes two URLs, each with a location (), a last modification date (), a change frequency (), and a priority (). This information helps search engines decide how often to crawl each page and how important the page is relative to others on the site.

Do You Need an XML Sitemap?

Not every website requires an XML sitemap. However, one may be very helpful – particularly in several instances. Following are several situations where an XML sitemap is helpful :

  • Large Websites: If your site contains a few hundred or even thousands of pages, an XML sitemap helps search engines locate and list them all. It also avoids missing crucial pages when crawling.
  • New Websites: An XML sitemap may accelerate discovery and indexing for brand-new sites with few external links. It helps search engines find your content even if it has not seen much exposure.
  • Complex Structures: Sites with complicated navigation or a deeply hierarchical structure also appreciate an XML sitemap that helps search engines understand the layout and significance of every page.
  • Frequent Updates: If you frequently add new content or upgrade existing pages, an XML sitemap tells search engines of these changes and can re-crawl your website accordingly.

An XML sitemap will boost your SEO efforts, even if your website is small or simple. It is a straightforward method for search engines to index all your essential content.

Which Pages Should Be in Your XML Sitemap?

An XML sitemap is an application that optimizes your website for search engines. It points search engines to the most significant pages so they are indexed and appear in searches. However, not all web pages on your website have to be included. Kinds of pages to put in your XML sitemap:

Important Pages

Your XML sitemap should contain the main pages you wish to appear on search results. These usually include:

  • Home Page: Your site’s anchor text must be indexed.
  • Essential Product or Service Pages: Include pages showcasing your primary products or services. Those are the pages that drive business objectives.
  • Blog Posts: If you have a blog, include all the posts – particularly quality content and appropriate keywords.
  • Contact Pages: Make it simple for search engines to locate your contact information, which might help people find you.

Updated Content

Pages that are often updated should appear in your sitemap. It lets search engines know to re-crawl them for brand-new info. This may include:

  • Pages with News or Announcements: Include these pages if you post regular updates or news.
  • Updates on Products: Any pages that change frequently due to new product releases or updates should be indexed with the latest offerings.
  • Events Pages: If your website includes frequently changing event information, add these to help search engines understand.

High-Quality Content

Include pages with helpful content that you want search engines to prioritize. This includes:

  • Educational Content: Pages with in-depth articles, manuals, tutorials, or whitepapers that readers find invaluable.
  • Landing Pages: Landing pages that are part of your marketing mix.
  • Case Studies or Testimonials: Pages featuring customer success stories or reviews.

Pages to Exclude

Avoid including pages you don’t want search engines to index – it will dilute your sitemap. These pages often contain:

  • Pages for Login: Pages that call for user authentication are inconvenient when searching indexing.
  • Admin Pages: Backend pages that only administrators access shouldn’t be indexed.
  • Duplicate Content: Any pages that duplicate content somewhere else on your website should be excluded to avoid content redundancy problems.

Are There Any Limitations for XML Sitemaps?

Although XML sitemaps are a fantastic SEO tool, you should understand their limitations. Knowing these limitations will enable you to control your sitemaps and make them work for the site.

Size Limits

An XML sitemap can not exceed 50,000 URLs or 50MB in size. If your site exceeds these limits, you must create numerous sitemaps. This is usually the case for big sites with lots of content. 

You can use a sitemap file for several sitemaps or a single sitemap showing all of them. This enables search engines to find and crawl each sitemap separately without being overwhelmed by one huge file.

URL Limits

Each URL mentioned in your XML sitemap must be a professional URL starting with “http” or “https”. This means relative URLs like/page1 aren’t permitted. All URLs must be absolute, so search engines can locate and crawl them. Keep your URLs neat and free from unneeded parameters that may cause duplicate content issues.

Frequency of Updates

Search engines can not promise how frequently they will crawl your sitemap. Though you might often update your sitemap to reflect changes in your website, search engines crawl it on their schedules. So, you have to keep your sitemap current. If you add brand new content or significantly modify an existing page, promptly update your sitemap to offer search engines the most correct information on the subject.

Priority Misconceptions

The top priority value within your XML sitemap (from 0.0 to 1.0) recommends to search engines the significance of your web pages. It doesn’t promise higher rankings or even increased crawling frequency. Search engines base page rankings and crawl schedules on numerous factors, so setting priority values is helpful but is just part of the SEO puzzle.

Some other Considerations

  • Static vs. Dynamic Content: If your site changes frequently, be sure your sitemap is also dynamically updating. For static websites, a manually updated sitemap may be adequate.
  • Broken Links: Look at your sitemap for broken links regularly. Broken links hurt SEO because search engines can not index your website correctly.
  • Correct Formatting: Guarantee your sitemap utilizes the appropriate XML format and schema outlined by www.sitemaps.org. Appropriate formatting could result in errors and stop search engines from reading your sitemap correctly.
  • Duplicate Content: Avoid including URLs that duplicate content. It could muddy your SEO efforts and confuse search engines regarding what version of a page to index.
  • Server Resources: Huge sitemaps, particularly huge sites, require many server resources to produce and update. Consider the effect on your server’s performance—be certain it can handle the load.

How to Create an XML Sitemap

Making an XML sitemap is simple, and numerous methods are based on your technical comfort level and equipment.

Using Online Tools:

An XML sitemap is the simplest to generate using online tools. Sites like XML-sitemaps.com let you enter your site URL, and they produce a sitemap for you. This is a quick fix for smaller websites.

Using CMS Plugins:

Plugins can produce and keep your sitemap automatically if your site is hosted on a CMS like WordPress. Popular plugins are Yoast SEO and Google XML Sitemaps. These plugins produce a sitemap and instantly update it whenever you include or modify content on your website. And here’s how you can with Yoast SEO:

  • Install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin.
  • Head over to Yoast SEO settings in your WordPress dashboard.
  • Navigate to the “Features” tab and ensure the “XML sitemaps” option is enabled.
  • Click on the question mark icon next to “XML sitemaps” and click the “See the XML sitemap” link to view your sitemap.

Manually Creating a Sitemap:

For all those more hands-on, you can generate an XML sitemap for yourself :

  • List Your URLs: Compile a list of all the URLs you want to include.
  • Create the XML File: Use a text editor to create your XML file. Follow the standard format, including <urlset>, <url>, <loc>, <lastmod>, <changefreq>, and <priority> tags for each URL.
  • Upload the File: Save it as sitemap.xml and upload it to your website’s root directory using an FTP client or your web hosting control panel.

Final Steps:

You must submit your sitemap to the search engines when it is produced. For Google, do this right from Google Search Console:

  • Sign in to Google Search Console and select your website.
  • Go to the “Sitemaps” section.
  • Enter the URL of your sitemap (e.g., http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml).
  • Click “Submit”.

How to Submit Your XML Sitemap to Google

Submitting your XML sitemap to Google is a crucial way for Google to index your website correctly. Here is how you can do it:

Using Google Search Console

  • Sign in to Google Search Console.
  • Pick your website property from the dashboard. If you have not added your site yet, you must do so by following the on-screen directions.
  • Under “Index” in the right-hand menu, click “Sitemaps.”
  • Submit Sitemap URL: Under Add a new sitemap, enter your URL (e.g., http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml). Verify the URL is accessible and correct.

  • Then, simply click the “Submit” button to finish the procedure.

Once you submit your sitemap, Google will process it. You can track its status and potential problems from the exact same Sitemaps area in the Google Search Console.

Bing Webmaster Tools

  • Log into Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • If you have not added your website, type in your URL and confirm ownership.
  • Click on your site and go to the “Sitemaps” section
  • Submit Sitemap URL: Type the URL of your sitemap (e.g., http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml).
  • Then click the “Submit” button.

Because Bing drives Yahoo’s online search engine, your sitemap submission to Bing will also be submitted to Yahoo.

Other Search Engines

Other search engines have their own guidelines and tools for submitting sitemaps. The majority of major search engines operate similarly to Google and Bing.

Best Practices for XML Sitemap:

The following are good practices for taking advantage of your XML sitemap and helping search engines crawl and index your website. The key strategies to optimize your XML sitemap:

Keep It Updated

It is essential to update your XML sitemap frequently. Your sitemap should reflect the changes as you add new content or even modify existing pages. It helps search engines locate and index your latest content. Tools like Google Search Console will monitor when search engine crawlers last crawled and indexed your sitemap.

Use Canonical URLs

Only canonical URLs are required in your sitemap to prevent duplicate content issues. Canonical URLs are variants of your pages that search engines want to index. For instance, if a web page contains several URLs, you must include the canonical URL with your sitemap so that search engines recognize the main version. It consolidates your page rank power and prevents it from being dispersed among duplicates.

Prioritize Important Pages

The priority attribute in your XML sitemap shows how important different pages are on your site. This value ranges from 0 to 1.0 (1.0 is the top priority). Use this attribute to signal to search engines which web pages are important. 

However, this is a hint and does not guarantee higher rankings or more frequent crawling. For example, your homepage might have a 1.0 priority, and less crucial pages might have lower values.

Validate Your Sitemap

Validation ensures your XML sitemap is error-free and formatted correctly. Check your sitemap using Tools like Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, or web-based validators. Such tools might find messed-up links, incorrect syntax, or URLs that return errors. Regular validation keeps your sitemap clean and search engines able to read it.

Limit URL Parameters

URLs with unnecessary parameters can cause duplicate content issues and confuse search engines. For example, URLs like http://www.example.com/page?sessionid=123 and http://www.example.com/page should ideally point to the same canonical URL. Clean URLs are more effective for indexing. Ensure that your sitemap includes URLs without unnecessary parameters to provide a more transparent structure for search engines.

Use Sitemap Index Files

Use a sitemap index file if your site is big and requires several sitemaps. This file identifies all sitemaps and helps search engines locate and crawl your sitemaps. For instance, if your sitemaps have various sitemaps for images, product pages, and blog posts, the sitemap index file will list those sitemaps.

Some other Tips

  • Segment Sitemaps: For big websites, you can segment your sitemaps by content type (blog posts, merchandise, photos) to help search engines index them better.
  • Regular Audits: Inspect your sitemaps to ensure they reflect the site’s content and structure. Remove outdated and deleted URLs to keep the sitemap current and clean.
  • Include Multimedia Content: If your website has multimedia content like videos and images, create separate sitemaps for each type. This helps search engines index multimedia content.
  • Load Time Optimization: Ensure your sitemap is hosted on a server that can handle the load, particularly if you have numerous URLs. Fast server response times help search engines crawl your sitemap faster.
  • Monitor Indexing Status: Use tools like Google Search Console to monitor your sitemap indexing. Search for warnings or errors and correct them quickly.

Closing Thoughts

An XML sitemap helps search engines understand and index your website. Making and maintaining an XML sitemap enhances website indexing and makes your website appear in search results. Whether you have a big, new, or complex website, an XML sitemap will help search engines crawl and index your pages.

Maintain your sitemap current, use best practices, and submit it to search engines. A suitably maintained XML sitemap will help you obtain more search engine visibility and higher rankings.

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