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XML Sitemaps and why you should care?

XML Sitemaps are an important aspect of SEO and being able to index websites.

Have you ever heard of a word called “XML sitemap”? What do you think the word means when you hear or see it? Do you use it by any means in your daily life? Is it a map of a place? You probably don’t have a set of definitive answers when asked these questions. It would be understandable because a sitemap isn’t something that is used in normal life’s context. But is rather talked about in the web design industry. In fact, its existence and significance don’t go in vain. If you’re currently interested or involved in web development, you should care to know at least the basics.

What’s a Sitemap

A sitemap is a file that contains links to pages that exists on a website. Information is usually made up of pages’ last updated time and their frequency of changes. It even includes the level of each page’s priority relative to others within the website. A sitemap is also made of varying types of media content, usually videos and/or images. The Google Sitemaps protocol enables quick indexing, according to Wikipedia.

HTML Sitemap

There are mainly 2 types of sitemaps: one human can see and one for web crawlers. Being in HTML format, the human-visible sitemaps are typically seen in a hierarchical view. It helps the users to find pages quickly. This type of sitemaps is beneficial for large-scale websites and web crawlers at the same time. The latter is presented in an XML format is specifically designed for web crawlers to scan through the links on the website. The XML format is helpful when crawling pages that are not well-connected with the rest of the site’s content.

XML Sitemap

History

The first sitemap protocol, named “Sitemaps,” was published by Google in 2005. A year later, Microsoft and “Yahoo!” and Google declared their joint support for it. Since then, the Sitemaps protocol has only been updated by one version and added an auto-discovery feature. The latter is represented as robots.txt, which helps specify the page’s priority level and its frequency of change. Sitemaps can be created either by hand or via the use of a generator. Manual construction of sitemap, whether it’s in HTML or XML, is usually time-consuming and exhausting. On top of that, it requires a moderate understanding of HTML and XML. 

Generators

A sitemap generator helps web developers and website owners automatically create, authenticate, submit, and revise the sitemaps. The generator supports the web developing process by speeding the production of sitemaps. In fact, there are many sitemap generators, free and paid. Free services generally operate on a smaller capacity, allowing a limited number of web pages to be crawled. But, premium generators, however, are capable of scanning complete websites. For example, large websites can be scanned and broken links detected.

Importance of XML Sitemaps

At times, sitemaps aren’t a necessity for some websites. In fact, most of the time, search engines can automatically locate and scan pages from the homepage hence, why sitemaps are more beneficial for large-scale websites.

There is no proof of the disadvantages or inconvenience whatsoever as to having a sitemap for any website. To be exact, having one sitemap will never get you penalized. 

Benefits of Sitemaps to Search Engines

Sitemap acts as a bridge between the website and search engines, improving the communication between the two. The web crawler is a robot that tells the search engine what pages or files to scan and index on the Internet. Hence, having a sitemap only benefits the website.  According to Amara, a website can be discovered by all search engines if the sitemap is well-structured.

Benefits of XML Sitemaps to Users and Developers

As a web designer and developer, one would make sure that its design is optimized. An optimized website maximizes the amount of traffic coming to the site. Hence, to increase the number of visitors, one must learn the strategies and tips of Search Engine Optimization. Also, why having a clear, thoughtful XML sitemap is one method that can help drive the website to success.

An HTML sitemap can let the search engine crawl and better understand the site structure. The accessibility leads to a higher page rank. On the other hand, an XML sitemap can give specific information about pages to be crawled and indexed. For example, when target keywords are included in page contents, they become the website’s focus. This, in turn, helps gives the website better search placement. Also, a sitemap with a natural flow and arrangement to users’ experience should be implemented. 

Benefits of Sitemaps to Website’s Internal Structure

The larger the website, the more structurally complicated it gets. Hence a website should be managed organized. An XML sitemap is the blueprint website developers utilize. Having a sitemap avoids the chance of the website looking unsystematic and messy. Generally, the entire view of the website can be provided by the sitemap. The relations between the web site’s pages and sub-pages likewise can be viewed via a sitemap.

A good sitemap always keeps every element of the website in a proper place and category.  An example of design issues would be that visitors not getting to their desired pages. Another would be the chance of being in top Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) affected by unnecessary content. In such cases, a good practice would be to re-design the website layout to maintain its functionality. 

Benefits of Sitemaps to Website’s Copyrights

For anything to outstand its competitors, it needs to be authentic and rich in content. The same principle applies to website structure. The more unique a website’s content, the more recognition and achievement it gets. In detail, the duplicated contents can be detected by  Google’s ranking algorithms. The result is a lower page ranking. Hence, each website structure, design, and content should be unique, and having an XML sitemap will only help bots and crawlers to understand this/quickly. 

Takeaway on Sitemaps

Hopefully, you are now aware of all there is to know about the basics of sitemaps. You’d no longer wonder if it’s perhaps a map. Although the limitation of sitemaps is not covered enough, none of them will impact negatively on the website’s future. It would be unfortunate for a website that does not have XML sitemaps. In fact, sitemaps prove to be one of the essential assets websites can have. 

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