A good XML sitemap acts as a roadmap of your website that leads Google to all your important pages. XML sitemaps can be good for SEO, as they allow Google to find your essential website pages quickly, even if your internal links aren’t perfect.
In other words, an XML sitemap is a file that lists a website’s essential pages, making sure Google can find and crawl them all.
It also helps search engines understand your website structure.
Think about it this way. To have your site or pages rank high, you’d want Google to “crawl” through every page of your website, and an XML sitemap can make it easier to locate you.
So, a sitemap can help speed up content discovery and drive more traffic toward it. In turn, it can lead to increased awareness and help you grow your audience.
Do You Need an XML Sitemap?
According to Google, sitemaps are beneficial for “extensive websites,” for “websites with large archives,” for “new websites with just a few external links to it,” and for “websites which use rich media content.”
While this is something to keep in mind, you should still remember that XML sitemaps can be valuable for any website. Even if your website is small or simple, it’ll still help Google if you had a sitemap for it. And if you want to increase your search engine rankings, you don’t want to miss out on this step.
Which Pages Should Be in Your XML Sitemap?
To decide what pages to include in your XML sitemap, you can start by considering the relevance of a particular URL.
Do you want visitors to land on that URL? If not, it probably shouldn’t be in it.
However, if you don’t want that URL to show up in the search results, you’ll need to add a no-index tag. Leaving it out of your sitemap doesn’t mean Google won’t index the URL. If Google can find it by following links, Google can index the URL.
Overall, you should aim to include the most important pages for your brand or audience and that are most relevant to you. It’s your chance to choose the content on your site according to its priority and add it accordingly to your sitemap.
Example 1: A new blog
Let’s take the example of a blog.
If you’ve recently started one, chances are you’d want Google to find recent posts quickly to make sure your target audience can find your blog in the search results. So, it’s an excellent idea to create an XML sitemap right from the start.
Now, it could be possible that you only create a few posts and categories at the beginning, which means it won’t be enough to fill the tag overview pages in a sitemap - making it less valuable to visitors.
In this case, you should just leave the tag’s URL out of the sitemap for the time being. To do this, you can set the tag pages to ‘noindex, follow’ so that people don’t find them in search results.
Example 2: Media and images
Meanwhile, another example is tagging media or images, which is unnecessary in an XML sitemap.
Well, because since your images are probably already part of your digital content, they’ll automatically be included in the sitemap of your web pages or posts. So, having a separate sitemap for them is just a waste of time.
However, the only exception to this is if images are your primary source of business. Photographers, for instance, will want to show a separate ‘media’ or ‘image’ sitemap to Google.
How to Help Google Find Your Sitemap
So, if you want Google to find your XML sitemap quicker, you’ll need to add it to your Google Search Console account. In the ‘Sitemaps’ section, you’ll immediately see if your XML sitemap is already added. If not, you can add your sitemap at the top of the page.
Adding your sitemap helps to check whether Google indexed all pages in your sitemap. And you should try to avoid any big differences between the ‘submitted’ and ‘indexed’ number on a particular sitemap. There could be an error preventing some pages from being indexed. Another option is that you may need more links pointing to the content that’s not been indexed yet.
An XML sitemap can help search engines track your site faster and improve your rankings by helping to make it more visible to the right searchers. By creating a sitemap for your pages, you’ll ensure that it allows Google to “crawl” through your pages quickly and reach the people looking for your content.