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Website Sitemaps – what they are and why you need them

Last updated on April 29th, 2019 by Robert Abela. Filed under WordPress Admin Tips

A Sitemap is an index of all your pages on your website or blog. Typically a single XML file, the Sitemap includes a list of the URLs of all pages on your website. Irrelevant if you are using WordPress or not, a Sitemap is a must have for every website or blog, especially if you want your website to be crawled properly by search engines and rank well in search engine search results. There are many different types of Sitemaps, each of which having its own use. In this article we will give you an overview of what sitemap are, why they are used and why it is important to have them.

XML sitemap for search engines

Google, Yahoo and Microsoft search engines always look for a sitemap.xml or sitemap.xml.gz (compressed version of the sitemap XML file) when crawling your website. Unless advised otherwise, sitemaps should always be in the root of a website, e.g. https://www.wpwhitesecurity.com/sitemap_index.xml. Sitemaps are a way of telling search engines such as Google about all the pages on your website that the search engine spiders might have not discovered via other means. Below is a typical URL entry in an XML Sitemap:

<url>
<loc>https://www.wpwhitesecurity.com/blog/<loc>
<lastmod>2012-05-01</lastmod>
<changefreq>daily</changefreq>
<priority>0.8</priority>
</url>

As seen in the above example, for each URL listed in a website Sitemap, there are additional attributes you can add apart from the actual URL. The optional attributes are:

  • <lastmod>; the date of the last modification of this file or page. The format of the date should be in W3C Datetime format, which is yyyy-mm-dd.
  • <changefreq>; how frequently this file or page is likely to change. The options for such attributes are always, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, never.
  • <priority>; how important this URL is in relative to other URL’s on the same website. Valid value ranges from 0.0 to 1.0. If not specified, the default assigned value is always of 0.5.

For more information about the Sitemap protocol and how to build a Sitemap file and its specifications, you can refer to http://www.sitemaps.org, a website which is supported by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

Other types of Sitemaps

There are several other types of Sitemaps you can create to present search engines and also your users with more information and ease of use of your website. Apart from an XML Sitemap, many webmasters also create a static HTML file with a link for each page in their website or blog. Typically this helps visitors find pages which are typically very difficult to reach via normal browsing.

Google also supports several other types of Sitemaps which are listed below.

Image sitemap

This sitemap includes an index of all the images on your website. You can read more about this type of sitemap and what are the advantages of having an image sitemap here.

Video sitemap

This sitemap includes an index of all your videos published on your website or blog. You can read more about this type of sitemap and what are the advantages of having a video sitemap here.

News sitemap

This sitemap includes an index of all news published on your website or blog. This sitemap allows you to control and specify which content should be submitted to Google News. Read more about News sitemap here.

Mobile sitemap

This sitemap includes an index of all URLs that server actual mobile web content. Read more about the Mobile sitemap standard here.

Creating your own Sitemap

 Depending on what type of Content Management System (CMS software) you are using, you can download plugins or modules that can automatically generate a sitemap for you. It is suggested to always generate a sitemap automatically to avoid having syntax errors, and also to avoid forgetting to add URLs.

Creating a Sitemap for your WordPress Site

If you are hosting a WordPress blog or website you can create the sitemap manually or by installing the Google XML Sitemaps plugin or Yoast SEO.

Submitting your XML sitemap to Search Engines

Once you have your website Sitemap, ideally you should submit your Sitemap file directly to search engines so they “get to know” about your website as soon as possible. You can submit your website Sitemap to:

WordPress Hosting, Firewall and Backup

This Website is:

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