General SEO

Why Do We Use Sitemaps? Understanding Sitemaps and Their Function

by Tom Buckland October 31, 2018

Why do we use sitemaps in SEO? That is the question.
If you have been wondering what sitemaps are and how they are important for SEO, you are in good company. You might also be wondering how you can use sitemaps to your advantage.
You are about to find out.
Site mapping is probably one of the most misunderstood aspects of developing your SEO footprint.
From the very beginning, I want to be very clear. Sitemaps are important for SEO purposes.
You are about to find out why this is and how you can use sitemaps to increase your SEO results.

First off, what is a sitemap?

In the most simplistic terms possible, Sitemap is a file that is XML or HTML, and it is full of your URLs for each of your individual web pages. Basically, a sitemap is a web page archive for every page you have in your website. Your sitemap file is something you want to be easily found in order for searchers to come across it when they are conducting searches in every search engine.

It’s like this:

When an architect designs a building, both they and the engineers must develop a blueprint to follow in order for the construction workers to build that building both safely and strategically. A sitemap is your website blueprint.
However, instead of building your website, it lays out what the content of your website is. This blueprint though is not specifically for the searcher who wants to see your content. No, that is what meta descriptions and schema is for, and you can find out more about that by contacting us. Though it aids the searcher, this blueprint, more importantly, enables search engines to determine your content in order to place it in rank. Having your website ranked is how searchers can stumble across it.

How do search engines search your sitemap to determine your rank?

They do this through tools such as Googlebot Crawler. What this does is go through your sitemap and pulls out the information you want it to see. It’s like a spider getting into every nook and cranny in your home looking for food. Googlebot Crawler is that spider going through every nook and cranny of the internet searching for relevant information that will pertain to what a searcher is looking for when they type information into a search engine.

Using the sitemap, you allow Googlebot Crawler to see the information you want it to see. Therefore, if the information you let this Google spider see is relevant to the seeker’s search terms, you will have a ranking according to that relevancy.

Search engines don’t only rank a website. These search engines also rank web pages.

You might be starting to get an understanding of why this might be important when it comes to search engine optimization.

If you are thinking that site mapping is just an extra step for you to do and your current SEO strategy is enough, you would be wrong. Since there isn’t any reason to not use a sitemap given that it can only benefit you, you really should.

There are two types of sitemaps: XML and HTML

What’s the difference? Let’s find out.

XML Sitemaps:

These sitemaps are never seen by the searcher. Instead, these sitemaps are uniquely structured to inform only search engines of your content. These sitemaps will let the search engines know things like recent updates, the content of individual pages and what makes each page important.

HTML Sitemaps:

Structured for the individual, this sitemap aids individuals in their searches and leads them to the relevant material you have on your website. It does not lead them to your website as a whole, but rather to the specific part of your website that is important to them.

Why do we use sitemaps?

Every once in a while, there are some URLs you don’t want to be visible, or you just want to leave them out. Site mapping will help you with this. The reason for this is that we don’t want searchers to go there. However, as a result, those URLs are untraceable by search engines.

Though we can still leave these URLs hidden, you still want search engines to find them because they will lead searchers to your website. You can achieve this through an XML sitemap.

How are sitemaps important to SEO?

Since the world of technology is expanding rapidly, so are the ways of search engine optimization. That means that in this day and age, common search engine optimization techniques aren’t enough to help your website rank highly in search engines. Therefore, your website won’t have the visibility online that you want it too.

With more and more industries taking their business online, the competition is fierce. It is an all-out battle as to who will rank the highest and gain more searchers to their websites. For this reason, site mapping and SEO have been coupled together in order to help you gain a better ranking in search engines, which in turn provides you with greater visibility.

Site mapping and Search Engines: A perfectly paired couple

What search engines go through each individual website and check for things like:
• Meta Tags
Schema
Meta Descriptions
• .txt files

The reason for search engines looking for those things is to so that they can find the relevance of your site and provide a rating of importance that is in line with the content used in the search query.

XML and SEO:

If you have created an XML sitemap, it will let you, as the website owner, provide specific information about the pages within your website that you want search engines to find. Moreover, using this type of sitemap allows you to place priority on your website content as well as provide more information that can be used in the search such as: What content was recently added.

You have the power to customize the hierarchy that the search engine will use. You do this by understanding the importance of things like keyword placement and searches. With this understanding, you can create content that has the appropriate keywords placed throughout it. Find out more about keywords and how to place them by contacting us. Once you have created content that provides quality keyword placement, you will see your website ranking increase.

HTML and SEO:

If you have created an HTML sitemap, you will place it on the homepage of your website. Doing this will ensure that it will have all your website pages included. Through this sitemap, you can let your visitors know and have access to all the information your website contains, both as a whole and throughout individual pages. All this information will be placed on the homepage for the world to see.

As a result of having this information on your homepage, searchers will comb through your website to find the information that the search engines said was there. As searchers go through your website, each page they click on will be indexed by the search engine. Through this indexing, your place in search engines will grow and lead you to higher ranking per page.

How to create sitemaps:

Creating Sitemaps

Provided are two different ways to create sitemaps based on the platform you use to create your website.

1. WordPress sitemaps

Using WordPress for your website gives you access to many different plugins that you can use to benefit your website. One of those plugins is the Google XML Sitemaps plugin. Using this plugin, you can generate your own XML sitemap with ease. You won’t have to do anything at all except activate it. Once this is done, you will be able to find your sitemap by going to the URL provided.

What your URL will commonly look like:

http://abc-url/sitemap.xml

2. Other sitemaps that are not WordPress

When you aren’t using WordPress for your website, you can generate a sitemap using Google’s other sitemap tools. These tools are free and fairly easy to use. You can get your sitemap done easily. You will then have the option to download it or have it delivered to you via your email address. Through the website provided, you simply need to enter your URL into the space provided and click start. Googles sitemap generator will then do all the work for you.

What do you do once you have created a sitemap?

The rest is easy; you simply need to embed it into your website wherever you choose to put it. Some put it in the footer for easier searching, and others put it directly into homepage content or throughout the individual’s website. That option is left to you.

However, once you have embedded your sitemap into your website, you want to verify it. You can do this by using Google’s Webmaster Tools. Then you will have the opportunity to verify that your sitemap can be found within search engines.

Please note: When you are using the WordPress Plugin, you do NOT have to embed your sitemap. The sitemap will already be up and running as this plugin does all the work for you.

Make your sitemap visible:

One of the most effective ways to make your sitemap visible is by using Google Search Console. Through Google Search Console, you can submit your sitemap to Google directly.

The sitemap formats accepted by Google:

• XML
• HTML
• RSS, mRSS and Atom 1.0
• Text
• Various Google Sites

Take note of the fact that Google does not accept the <priority> attribute used in some sitemaps.

Summary:

map your website

Site mapping is an essential part of creating your website visibility. Through the use of sitemaps, you can allow search engines to find the content of your website that you want them to find.

Sitemaps give you full control over the content you want search engines to find. You have the option to prioritize content, place a hierarchy on relevant content and provide you with a ranking based on this content. You also have the opportunity to hide things you don’t want searchers to find.

Sitemaps are an important aspect of SEO. Since these maps help search engines determine your ranking, you want to generate and implement a sitemap into your website if you haven’t already done so. Using the tools provided above, you will be able to generate a sitemap with ease.

Furthermore, you want to submit your sitemaps (either each individual page sitemap or your website sitemap, depending on which format you use) to Google through the Google Search Console. Doing so will allow the Googlebot Crawler to search out your relevant information and make it more visible.

Want to learn more?

There is so much more information on site mapping that you can use to benefit you and your SEO results. If you want to find out more about site mapping, search engine optimization or anything else related to improving your website efficiency, you can contact us. We are more than willing to help you gain the website you want and help you increase your visibility. Feel free to fill out the form below to get a quote from us. There is no obligation.

 

About Tom

Hi, I'm Tom, Founder & Director of HQ SEO. I live and breathe SEO. I hope you enjoy my findings. Interested in SEO?
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