XML Sitemap, top SEO strategy(connect to Google)

At some point during the development of your website, you will undoubtedly come across the term sitemap or XML sitemap.

Let’s first understand..

What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a file that, as the name implies, serves as the blueprint or map of your site. It must be placed in the root directory.

There are two types of sitemaps-

  • HTML sitemap.
  • XML sitemap.

It is further categorized as

  • Image Sitemaps
  • Video Sitemaps
  • News Sitemaps
  • Mobile Sitemaps

The HTML sitemap is a separate web page on your website where the whole navigation bar is easily demonstrated to assist users in navigating through the most important pages on your site.

HTML Sitemap
HTML Sitemap

These are extremely useful for those websites that have a lot of information to display. 

While, an XML sitemap is a being constructed for the search engines such as Google bot, Bing bot etc.

Today, we’ll be focusing on the second part i.e. XML Sitemaps, and the questions that go with them. 

So let’s begin with understanding what is XML and its related queries.

What is an XML code? 

An XML code, or Extensible Markup Language, is a code that allows us to store data in a structured fashion. 

It is intended to describe rather than display your data in this format.

What is an XML sitemap?

An XML sitemap is a file that website owners include on their sites for submitting it to the search console for search engine optimization to inform search engines about the activity on their site.

The XML sitemap is widely viewed as one of the most important tools in SEO strategy.

However, not every beginner knows how to embrace it and go through the process of developing a whole XML file for their website.

Working for an XML sitemap may feel like a tedious process if you don’t know what to anticipate or how to prepare.

So, to make things easier, let’s learn more about it. 

Where do I put XML sitemap?

As I mentioned earlier, you need to put XML Sitemap in your root directory.

Does that mean you cannot create a sitemap in subfolders?

Yes, you can.

For example, if you have a subfolder “dog” that concentrates on different sorts of dog breeds, whose URL for the sitemap is “http://example.com/dog/sitemap.xml” will only include a sitemap of the content located in “http://example.com/dog” but not “http://example.com/cat”.

As a result, the ideal strategy is to always generate a sitemap in the root directory, i.e. “http://example.com/sitemap.xml”.

Where, it can itself contains all the links from “http://example.com/sitemap-dogs” to “http:// /example.com/sitemap-cats” and so on.

So, should we avoid creating subfolders at all costs?

In the MOZ forum, it was mentioned that it is usually preferable not to overcomplicate things, such as creating sub folders.

However, if you have an unusually large number of sub-categories or directories controlled by various CMS (content management system), you can use it.

But the best method to create a sitemap in subcategory is http://example.com/sitemap-dogs rather than http//example.com/dogs/sitemap.xml.

What is the use of sitemap XML?

An XML sitemap is used as an instruction manual that directs web crawlers to find all the relevant pages of your website.

It is also used to assist webmasters in optimizing the structure of your website so that search engines can simply index it.

They also offer additional information to search engines, such as the last time you updated a page.

How does an XML sitemap help your site?

An XML sitemap help’s-

  • Find new pages on your website.
  • If you provide the correct URL, the search bot can quickly discover and index your article.
  • In providing crawlers with information about your site.
  • Provides information to the crawler about the development of a new page or when it was last changed.
  • The frequency with which a page is updated on your website.
  • Assists in determining the value of a page on your site, i.e. high-quality pages that should be indexed.
  • Helps to know of any additional languages used on your website.

Do I need Sitemap XML?

Yes, you need an XML Sitemap, specially when-

  • When your website is brand new.

Because your site URL is new, the pages may not be connected to anything specific. And you don’t want web spiders to rely on such links to locate and index your content.

Therefore, a sitemap helps search engines find pages on your site that aren’t linked to other sites or do not have proper internal linking.

  • If you have a large complex site.

In huge websites, linking isn’t a significant deal, but web spiders may overlook some of the pages you’ve changed.

This is because you may have hundreds of pages, resulting in the extremely complicated site architecture.

In such cases, your XML sitemap will come in handy since it will notify crawlers if such activity is being performed.

Is there any limit set for the number of URLs that can be added in sitemap?

Yes, there is a 50,000 URL limitation per sitemap.

When we look at the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress that automatically update your sitemap, we can observe that-

  • Yoast SEO : Yoast has set a 1000 URL restriction for each sitemap.

According to them, this is merely done to ensure that the sitemap loads as quickly as possible.

And when the sitemap completes its quota, the plugin produces a fresh sitemap for you, so you don’t have to worry if you ever face such situation.

I’m including a link to that shows a user encountering a problem with the limit imposed by Yoast and how it was handled.
This will undoubtedly assist you in learning more about your XML sitemaps. Click here.

  • Rank Math SEO : For each sitemap, Rank Math has set a restriction of 200 URLs.

According to their observations, Google prefers fewer URLs per page, therefore they have decreased it from the default level of 1000.

They also stated that once it hits 200, the plugin would automatically produce a new sitemap, which will be connected to the index sitemap.

Structure of an XML Sitemap

XML sitemaps use the following format to structure themselves.

Structure of an XML Sitemap
Structure of an XML Sitemap

Where,

  • < urlset > : The opening and closing tag encloses the essential features. It also refers to the current standard protocol.
  • < url > : It serves as a parent tag for each entered URL.
  • The optional tags-
    • < loc > : It specifies the location of the sitemap.
    • < lastmod > : It reflects the file’s most recent modification date.
    • < changefreq > : Denotes the frequency with which the pages change.
    • < priority > : It indicates the importance of a URL in comparison to other URLs.

Note:

  • The changefreq does not specify how frequently the search bots crawl the sites.
  • According to John Muller, a Google Analyst, Google does not use the priority tag to prioritize your content. Rather, it determines the page priority based on relevance, authority, usefulness and so on.

Format for grouping multiple Sitemaps

The sitemap index file stores numerous sitemaps in a single file.

As previously stated, SEO plugins and generic XML sitemaps have a restriction set for the number of URLs per page.

As a result, when it has reached its limit, you can build another sitemap and index it alongside the other sitemaps in the sitemap index file, allowing the process to continue uninterrupted.

The image below demonstrates the format.

multiple XML Sitemaps
Grouping Multiple Sitemaps

Where,

  • < siteindex > : It encloses information of several Sitemaps within its opening and closing tags.
  • < loc > : Specifies the location of a certain sitemap.
  • < lastmod > : It indicates the last time it was changed.

Looking at this format may make you feel uncomfortable to even touch it, or it may entice you to adopt it and go through the trouble of generating a complete XML file for your website.

Whatever it maybe, the fact is that it’s not all that difficult to make one, and speaking of this format, no, you don’t have to write all of these programs by yourself.

There are plugins and sitemap generators that can build and update the sitemap for you automatically.

Now, comes the last installment of this topic, you will learn how to construct a sitemap utilizing SEO plugins.

Today we will be utilizing the Yoast SEO plugin to create your sitemaps, which will be further uploaded to Google Search Console.

First and foremost, if you do not already have the Yoast plugin, you must install and activate it.

  • You will discover it by searching for “Yoast SEO” in the Add New Plugin Section.
Yoast for XML
  • Click “Install Now” and press “Activate”.
  • In the sidebar, look for Yoast SEO. Hover over it and click on ” General”.
Yoast SEO for XML
Yoast SEO
  • Navigate to the “Features” tab at the top of the page.
Feature tab for XML SItemap
Yoast Feature tab
  • On the feature tab, you’ll find XML Sitemap. Click on the ” ? ” and then click “See XML sitemap” to see the sitemap of your site”.
How to see

What to do if you want to enable or disable a URL from the XML Sitemap?

Sitemaps are made up of URLs that you wish to feature in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Therefore, you can easily enable or disable the content type for your XML Sitemap.

For this,

  • In the sidebar, look for Yoast SEO. Hover over it and click on ” Search Appearance “.
  • Under the “Content Types” tab you can change the “Show in Search results” to yes/no to determine what you want to feature and what you don’t.
content type

This steps will directly disable the URLs from your sitemap.

How to submit this XML Sitemap to Google Search Console?

  • Open Google Search Console URL webmasters tools.
  • Open it and click on “Submit Sitemap”.
  • Go back to the tab where you opened the sitemap.xml file.
  • Select those URLs, copy and paste them individually in the Search Console.
  • Click on Submit.
Google XML Sitemap
Google Search Console

It may take a few moments to demonstrate that the procedure was successful, so you can just leave it there and get back to work.

If not successful it will notify you with an error message instead of stating “success”.

How to submit this XML Sitemap to Bing Console?

The procedure is quite similar to that of Google Search Console.

  • Open Bing Webmaster tool.
  • Look for Sitemap in the sidebar.
  • Open it and click on “Submit Sitemap”.
Bing XML SItemap
Bing

Directly Copy the URL of Sitemap.xml i.e. “https://example.com/sitemap_index.xml” or “https://example.com/sitemap.xml” and submit it to Bing webmaster.

After submitting the Sitemap, it will take some time to determine whether it was successful.

If not, you’ll notice an error message immediately next to the provided URL.

Final Thoughts on XML Sitemap

A sitemap serves as a guide for information and other data about your websites.

Dealing with XML sitemaps might be difficult if you are a newbie or if your website is growing, and you need to add categories to your sitemap.

However, because it is one of the most effective SEO tactics, you should never leave it out of your site.

Last but not the least, remember that an XML sitemap is developed so that Google can discover your pages instead of ranking them.

I hope I was able to provide you with a solid understanding of XML Sitemaps.

Please let me know in the comment’s area if you had any difficulties when incorporating a sitemap into your website and how did you resolve it.

Have a great day!!.

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