Sitemap is the list of a website's URLs. It is Extensible Markup Language (XML) format to map out the website structure and contents it includes. The list provides the information to the search engines about the architecture of a website. It tells search engines to identify URLs of web pages within the site and contents under each section.
At the beginning, the concept of sitemap was to guide the users about the contents and information within the website. In 2005, Google published Sitemap 0.84 protocol designed to use XML format. Google's XML format was not for the user, but for the search engines instead. Later on, the protocol got shared recognition by Yahoo and Microsoft. This means the good news for webmaster, as they do not have to create different types of sitemaps for different search engines.
It's become a topic for discussion whether sitemap affects a website's ranking on SERPs or not. Some are in the favor of the idea, whereas others are not. So, here's the deal - sitemap doesn't directly affect SEO ranking of a website. However, it allows search engines to make more accurate ranking in searches. The sole purpose of search engine optimization is to rank a website high on search engine result pages (SERPs) and sitemap contributes to that. Hence, it can be said that sitemap is a tool for search engine optimization.
With time, websites are becoming more and more complex. A single website contains hundreds of pages. The complexity confuses the crawlers and there's the chance of skipping important information that is crucial for the website. That is why google developed sitemap to find data faster and more efficiently. It's a simple and easy way of telling search engines to only look into the valuable contents and not others.
A number of reasons can be listed for why sitemap is important for search engine optimization.
- Guides search engines to an organized crawling and indexing.
- Tells search engines what to crawl and what not to crawl.
- Tells search engines what kind of information is on website and how it looks.
- Summarizes how frequently website is updated.
- Records last time any changes were made on the pages.
- Important content, such as blog, landing pages are no more skipped by the crawlers.
- Fast way to get indexed by google and other search engines.
- The contents are indexed better and in more organized way for large sites.
- Improves ranking on SERPs quickly.
- Instant indexation for dynamically generated pages.
- Helps overcome the limitation of internal links and not having external links.
Sitemap Development Process
- Create XML sitemap
- Add XML sitemap to website
- Submit XML sitemap to Google
Good thing is you don't have to have coding skills to create sitemap for a website. You can do it with some few clicks. You don't need to own or have login access to the website to create sitemap.
Create XML Sitemap
There are number of sitemap generators on the internet. They provide the complete package of creating and updating website sitemap with effective features. The process might be different regarding different service providers but there are certain things you have to include while creating a sitemap, wherever you are creating it. Some of them are, no-index page, canonicalised, paginated URLs and PDFs.
Add XML Sitemap to Website
The next step is to upload the XML sitemap to the website via FTP. If you do not know how to do this, consult your developer. He will guide you through the process for any website or CMS.
Submit XML Sitemap to Google
There's no point of creating a sitemap until it is submitted to google. Google doesn't follow the sitemap until it is submitted. So, it is crucial in this whole process.
First, go to google search console and find sitemap under crawl menu. Follow the steps and add the created sitemap. Finally, submit it so that google starts crawling your website according to the sitemap.