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Introduction To XML Sitemaps: Understanding The Foundation


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For search engine crawlers who come to your website to scan and index pages, a sitemap is a useful marketing tool.

In essence, a sitemap is a literal map of your site. A sitemap makes it easy for search engines and users alike to find pages. It can be created in various formats with the most popular and recommended of these being XML.

There are a lot of reasons why online marketers and SEO experts make it a point to create and submit an XML sitemap to relevant search engines, such as Google. It ensures that every page on your website is crawled and indexed, helping you rank better overall in search engine results pages, or SERPS.

In simpler terms, having an XML sitemap means more exposure, more clicks, more traffic, and more conversions for any business.

Marketers at All The Way Up Media work extensively on having an up-to-date, accurate XML sitemap for clients.

Introduction To XML Sitemaps: Understanding The Foundation

What Is An XML Sitemap?

An XML sitemap plays a key role in SEO and website management. It’s an organizational tool that has many purposes.

  • A web designer can get an accurate sense of the size and depth of their website.
  • Search engine crawlers receive a guide on which they know what pages to seek out and how to interpret them based on instructions given in the sitemap. They ensure no page is missed.
  • Users can use a sitemap to find a specific page.

Do I Need An XML Sitemap?

No website is required to have an XML sitemap. However, without one, a search engine may not find every page on your site.

If your site is new, an XML sitemap is necessary from an SEO standpoint because it will ensure your pages are seen and ranked, and faster than they would be without a sitemap. A new website has few external links pointing to it, likely has pages that are still being formed, and those pages aren’t linked together as well as they would on a more experienced site.

If your site has a few hundred pages or more, a sitemap is also helpful. Especially if those pages are routinely having more added or if the content is regularly being updated, it’s an excellent idea to have one.

do you need an xml sitemap
Do I need an xml sitemap?

Why Every Online Marketer Needs An XML Sitemap: Beyond SEO Basics

XML sitemaps improve web visibility in SERPs, promote more efficient content discovery, and offer a strategic advantage when it comes to competitive analysis.

SEO & XML Sitemaps For Visibility

To maximize potential traffic, your website needs to be visible on SERPs for relevant queries. XML sitemaps make it so that all of your content is indexed correctly. When a user is searching for relevant content, products, or services like yours, you can count on your pages to come up in the results.

More Efficient Content Discovery

Especially for new and/or updated pages, search engine crawlers may struggle to find them and index them well. An XML sitemap is an excellent guide as it establishes what pages there are and their hierarchy. A crawler can see how they are divided up by URL category and which pages are more relevant than others.

XML Sitemaps For Competitor Analysis

Just like you have XML sitemaps, so do your competitors. By typing in a website URL followed by /sitemap.xml, you can analyze a competitor’s site’s pages and see how their sitemap is built. Research the competition in a big way.

Leveraging XML Sitemaps For Content Marketing: A Tactical Approach

There are lots of ways an SEO expert can utilize XML sitemaps to push your content marketing for search engines to see.

How You Organize Content

Organize content to highlight priority areas for search engines. Set up your content into different URL sections or categories. Create a URL structure and hierarchy. Plan your content in advance, complete with where internal links will be placed. Use the priority attribute to indicate the relative importance of pages within your website.

Track Content Performance

Receive a full list of your web pages and integrate your XML sitemap to services such as Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools to access insights on how your website is being indexed, where there are errors or unindexed pages, and see that reflected in your analytics. This ensures you’re tracking every piece of content and the results may in fact help you identify where there are gaps in your content strategy.

Segment Sitemaps

Segmenting your sitemaps into different content types can allow for better analysis. For a content-heavy website where you may have two, three, or more types of content, such as on an eCommerce site, segmenting your XML sitemaps is a smart choice.

sitemap segmentation
Sitemap segmentation

Automating XML Sitemap Updates: Tools And Techniques For Marketers

There are many ways to automate XML sitemap updates to ensure they are updated and re-submitted to search engines with regularity.

Tools And Plugins

There are tools and plugins that automatically generate and update XML sitemaps after content changes. Many SEO plugins – such as Yoast, All-in-One SEO, Jetpack, and others – all offer this service. This makes it easy for anyone to automate XML sitemap updates without having sort of specialized or technical knowledge.

Integrate Your Sitemap Within CMS

When using a content management system, or CMS, you can integrate XML sitemap generation in it. If you’re regularly updating your site, automate dynamic sitemaps within your CMS. This will pull real-time information, update automatically, and can be made to generate based on content type, categories, or attributes.

Analyzing Sitemap Insights For Marketing Optimization

You can better drive SEO KPIs when you combine your marketing optimization analytics with your XML sitemap knowledge.

Refine Your SEO & Content Marketing

XML sitemaps can be made to only include SEO-relevant pages, ensuring the most relevant pages are included in the search engine crawler’s scan limits.

Exclude all 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, archive pages, redirects, missing pages, service error pages, pages blocked by robots.txt, pages with noindex, and utility pages.

When you do this, your website gets a better grade from search engines and you’ll appear as a stronger site.

Launch Comprehensive Performance Reviews

XML sitemaps can be paired with analytics for comprehensive performance reviews, tracking individual pages as they rise and fall in search engine ranks. A business receives a far better understanding of how pages rank on a website with a sitemap registered at a given search engine.

Interpret Error Reports To Improve Site Health

After you submit your sitemap to Google Search Console, with every scan, it will return to you error reports showing what is not being indexed and why. This allows you to retool and re-scan, and improve site health thereby improving your search engine rank.

Best Practices For Submitting Your XML Sitemap To Search Engines

xml sitemaps
XML Sitemaps

How To Submit Your XML Sitemap

Submitting your XML sitemap to search engines can be done in multiple ways.

To automate the process, Google Search Console can be linked with a plugin, tool, or software in your CMS or on your website. To do it manually, simply sign in to your Google Search Console account and submit the XML sitemap link that way. From a technical standpoint, as long as one knows how to navigate through a search engine’s webmaster tools, it’s fairly straightforward from there.

How Often To Re-Submit Your XML Sitemap

You can have multiple sitemaps for a given website. Re-submit your XML sitemap when you have a significant number of new URLs or have changed the content of old URLs.

Besides that, keep in mind that Google maintains a routine crawling schedule. They will re-scan your site regularly. Larger sites with many pages may be scanned once per day or more often than that. More average-sized or smaller websites are likely to get a scan every few weeks.

After you submit your XML sitemap, unless you’ve done major changes to it, leave it be. It will rescan automatically.

Resolve Search Engine Sitemap Errors

Always resolve any errors that are flagged by search engines. When you don’t, it leaves your site appearing less strong in the eyes of a search engine like Google and can actually hurt your SEO strategies.

Monitor your XML sitemap submissions and ensure the automated submissions and/or re-scans are happening. From there, dig into your error reports and take the time to fix every error in time for the next scan.

XML Sitemap Is Key To Your SEO Package From All The Way Up Media

All The Way Up Media utilizes sitemaps to optimize search engine ranking and website performance. Reduce errors, ensure your pages new and updated are being ranked correctly, and strengthen your content marketing efforts.

Search engine crawlers can be guided by your XML sitemap which gives you more control over how your website is presented to platforms like Google. The fact that we can automate a lot of the ongoing work relating to XML sitemaps is also particularly advantageous as it means you don’t have to continually be re-submitting your sitemap with every new blog post or page update.

Following best practices for XML sitemaps, we ensure your marketing, SEO, and content are continually being optimized. The result is improved site health and a better user experience.

Learn more about how XML sitemaps can be used for your SEO strategy with the experts at All The Way Up Media.

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