XML Sitemaps

A Clearer Understanding of XML Sitemaps And The Benefits It Offers

It is utmost important to submit a sitemap to Google Search Console. But just submitting it to GSC won’t fetch you the desired benefits. You’ve to know the proper ways of implementing them to smoothly drive your SEO KPIs or key performance indicators.

To make things easier for everyone, let’s start from the scratch.

What is an XML sitemaps?

A renowned search engine marketer explains an XML sitemap in simple words as a list of your website’s URLs. More like a roadmap, it tells search engines what content is available on your website and how it can be reached.

The expert from the SEO agency further explains the concept of XML sitemap in the following paragraphs.

Read More: 10 Effective SEO Tips for 2018

Suppose, your website has 9 pages when you submit a sitemap, a search engine finds all 9 pages of your website just by visiting your XML sitemap once. While on the website, it has to jump five internal links to reach page 9.

Thus, XML sitemaps help to crawl bots in faster indexation. An XML sitemap proves to be more than crucial for websites that:

  • Add new pages frequently
  • Change their web content frequently
  • Have thousands of pages or have a deep website structure
  • Lack robust external link profile
  • Have orphan pages or weak internal linking

What’s the format of an XML sitemap?

An XML sitemap of a single-page site with all available tags will look like the one below:

(XML sitemap format and tags)

  • Loc is the ‘location’ tag. It’s a compulsory tag that contains the absolute canonical version of URL location. It also correctly reflects your site’s chosen protocol (https vs. HTTP) and whether you’ve included or excluded www.
  • International websites can also implement their hreflang handling at the Loc tag. They can use the HTML: link attribute, to specify the region and language variants for each of the URL. This approach cuts down page load time to a sufficient extent.
  • Lastmod is the Last Modified Tag. Though it’s an optional tag, yet it is a highly recommended one, as it can be used to access the last modified date and time stamps. Google uses the Last mod metadata to understand if the page needs to be crawled once again.
  • Change freq indicates the Change Frequency Tag. This is another optional tag and in the past, it hinted how often the search engines expected the content on the URL to change.
  • Priority Tag is another optional tag. Unlike the other tags, it tells search engines how relevant a page is compared to your other URLs on a scale of 0.0 to 1.0.

What are the different types of Sitemap?

According to our SEO agency expert in London, there’re different types of sitemap in existence.

XML sitemap: This category of sitemaps has two major limitations.

  • They can accommodate a maximum of 50,000 URLs.
  • They allow an uncompressed file size of 50 MB.
  • These sitemaps can be compressed using gzip, as a result of which, your filename will be somewhat similar to sitemap.xml.gz. The problem with XML sitemaps is they can easily cross both the limits mention above, once they’re unzipped.
  • In that case, split your URLs across different XML sitemaps. Then, combine all those files into a single XML sitemap index file. This XML sitemap index file is usually named as sitemap-index.xml.
  • Submit the sitemap index to Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • In your robots.txt file, do specify the sitemap index URL.

XML image sitemap: As the name suggests, XML image sitemaps are meant to improve indexation of image content. However, now images are embedded in the page content. Thus, they’re crawled along with the page URL.

There’re also other factors that make XML image sitemap somewhat unnecessary for the majority of websites. However, if your images drive your business, you should have a well-maintained XML image sitemap.

XML video sitemap: If the videos are crucial to fetch your business, you must submit an XML video sitemap. Else, you can omit this as well.

Read More: 7 Google Tips to Increase Organic Traffic

Google news sitemap: It is restricted only for the sites that are registered with Google News. Remember, this one doesn’t support image URL.

Mobile sitemap: Don’t be confused by its name. It is only for feature phone pages and NOT for the ones with smartphone compatibility.

HTML sitemap: HTML sitemaps were meant to help humans find desired content. Now, the question that pops up is if you have got a superb UX (user experience) and smart internal links, then do you need an HTML sitemap? The best reply to this question for your site is given on Google Analytics. If Google Analytics suggests you to have one, it indicates you’ve to rework on your site’s navigation.

Dynamic XML sitemap: Dynamic XML sitemaps are automatically updated by the server to reflect the changes that occur to your website from time to time. On the other hand, static sitemaps are easy to create but they become outdated, as soon as you remove an existing page or create a new one. If the content is changed, it automatically updates the last mod tag. Thus, a dynamic sitemap is more user-friendly than a static one.

Tips to create a dynamic XML sitemap:

  • Make use of the dynamic sitemap generator tool
  • Get your developer to code a custom script
  • Install a plugin for your CMS

XML sitemap indexation optimization: Here are some tried and tested tips to use your XML sitemap to boost SEO KPIs.

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Include the pages relevant to SEO in your XML sitemaps. This will allow search engine bots to crawl your site more efficiently and you can reap the better rewards of indexation. Exclude the following from your XML sitemap:

  • Non-canonical pages.
  • Duplicate pages.
  • Paginated pages.
  • Parameter or session ID-based URLs.
  • Site search result pages.
  • Reply to comment URLs.
  • Share via email URLs.
  • URLs created by filtering that are unnecessary for SEO.
  • Archive pages.
  • Any redirections (3xx), missing pages (4xx) or server error pages (5xx).
  • Pages blocked by robots.txt.
  • Pages with no index.
  • Resource pages accessible by a lead gen form (e.g., white paper PDFs).
  • Utility pages that are useful to users, but not intended to be landing pages (login page, contact us, privacy policy, account pages, etc.).

The expert from our chosen SEO agency says, steadfastly following the tips discussed above will not only help you get a clearer understanding of XML sitemap but also how you can use it to reap the optimum benefits.


Sanjiv Barnwal

Sanjiv Barnwal has associated with a reputed SEO agency in London and has great expertise in improving organic search result of companies on Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines. He loves to write articles and blogs on different topics. His great works include – how to write informative blogs on SEO, how to do successful Instagram marketing, why online marketing has gained immense popularity in the recent years and much more. He finds great interest in creating and launching SEO, Pay per Click and Facebook campaigns. He has even worked on certain areas of improvement for optimizing site content and improving the ranking of DubSEO on major search engines.

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