How to create a qualitative XML sitemap to optimize your SEO?
- 1 What is a sitemap?
- 2 Why develop a quality XML sitemap?
- 3 Sitemap creation in 5 steps
- 3.1 Plan your XML sitemap project
- 3.2 Determine the number of sitemap files to create
- 3.3 Structure your website
- 3.4 Build your XML sitemap file
- 3.5 Submit your sitemap to search engines
- 3.6 Update your XML sitemap
- 4 Tips for building a qualitative XML sitemap
- 4.1 Organize your XML sitemap by section
- 4.2 Put only important pages in your sitemap
- 4.3 Prioritize the pages you want to index
- 5 Conclusion
Any good marketer generally advises you to create an XML sitemap as part of your site’s natural referencing optimization. In this article, I will answer questions that are often asked by site owners. What is a sitemap? Why do you need to build it? How to create it effectively?
What is a sitemap?
The sitemap helps search engine robots easily discover the different pages of your website. What is it really about?
The English term “sitemap” literally translates to “site plan”. It is a structured presentation of all the URLs of your website or blog. This tool is therefore used to guide search engines and Internet users to your website.
Difference between an XML sitemap and an HTML sitemap
I will first explain to you what an XML sitemap is. This page in XML format is designed to send search engine robots information and metadata about the URLs of a website. It notifies them each time the site is modified.
In contrast, the HTML sitemap is dedicated to users. It is a navigational map allowing visitors to easily explore each web page. It is often placed in the footer of sites.
Why develop a quality XML sitemap?
Before answering the main question “how to create a qualitative XML sitemap?” », I would like to give you the good reasons for drawing up this type of plan.
Optimize your SEO
I strongly recommend that you develop an XML sitemap, in order to optimize your natural referencing or SEO expert. This sitemap facilitates the indexing of your web pages by Google or other search engines.
Thanks to a well-designed XML sitemap, search engine robots quickly understand the structure of your website. They can easily crawl (explore to index) your site. This indexing allows a website to reach the first pages of search results more quickly.
I advise you to entrust the creation of your XML sitemap to a digital communication agency, in order to ensure its quality and efficiency. You can take the number of an SEO agency in Bordeaux or in other cities depending on your geolocation, in order to contact their team and discuss your project and its referencing.
Have a relevant sitemap
The creation of a quality XML sitemap allows monitoring of all the web pages of your site. This site map is particularly essential, if you have a complex tree structure or pages not accessible by direct links.
The XML sitemap allows you to easily detect good orphan pages and immediately reintegrate them into the internal mesh. I note that this tool can also find zombie pages that need to be improved or permanently deleted. These bad pages lower the effectiveness of a site’s natural referencing.
In addition, a sitemap facilitates the migration of your website. Indeed, it is essential to you, when you carry out the search and the list of URLs constituting the platform.
Sitemap creation in 5 steps
I will now detail the process of creating an XML sitemap. This web marketing operation takes place in 5 distinct stages.
Plan your XML sitemap project
Before you start designing your sitemap, I advise you to think about some important points. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What are the objectives of your web platform?
- What is your target?
- What are the needs of your visitors?
By answering these questions, you will know how to effectively structure your website and your XML sitemap. I also invite you to pay attention to the requirements of Google and other search engines. Check that they are respected in order to really boost your SEO and avoid any sanctions.
At this point, you also need to think about what to name your sitemap. Even if this name is free, it is common to use the standard “sitemap.xml” or “sitemap.xml.gz”. However, I recommend that you choose a more complex name, in order to carry out your SEO strategy discreetly.
Determine the number of sitemap files to create
If your website is made up of only a few pages, a single sitemap will be enough to promote its indexing by search engines. If it includes a large number of pages, it is smart to create several sitemaps, which will themselves be combined in a sitemap index file.
Building a sitemap index file allows you to prioritize which pages to index. I specify that a sitemap file can accommodate up to 50,000 URLs and that a sitemap index file can contain up to 50,000 sitemaps, within a limit of 50 MB.
Structure your website
In order to facilitate the development of your XML sitemap file, remember to properly structure your website upstream. I specify that the structure of your site is also essential in SEO. In particular, you must define the depth of your website. A page that is too far from the homepage URL is difficult for a search engine to find. A shallow site is therefore largely efficient in terms of natural referencing.
Pay attention to the top-level, second-level, and so on navigation structure. It depends on several criteria, including your type of business, your industry, your target audience, etc.
If necessary, I advise you to consult the successful landing pages of your competitors, in order to draw inspiration from them. The intervention of a digital communication agency can also be useful, because their experts can tell you the best site structure to adopt.
Build your XML sitemap file
When building your site using a CMS, take advantage of using an automatic sitemap generator plugin. Google XML Sitemaps, Yoast SEO, Jetpack are among the most popular WordPress plugins right now. You can also use a standalone sitemap generator tool.
If you are not using a consumer CMS, it is still possible to design your XML sitemap manually. Just make sure that your sitemap file or sitemap index file is able to update itself automatically.
To write a sitemap file, use UTF-8 encoding and add the exact URLs of your website.
You must also include certain information, including:
- the date of the last modification
- update frequency
- the priority of the page (from 0.0 to 1.0)
To develop and manage a sitemap index file, the ideal is to use a sitemap generation tool. Otherwise, I recommend that you call on an expert in web marketing and communication.
Submit your sitemap to search engines
In order to submit your sitemap to Google, log in to Google Search Console and go to the menu located in the sidebar. Then go to the “Index” section where the “Sitemap” element is located. When you are on the page, copy the URL of your sitemap in the box provided for this purpose.
I can give you another tip. Insert your sitemap in your robots.txt file in the form of “sitemap: https://votre-site.fr/votre-sitemap.xml”. You also have the option of notifying Google about an important update to your sitemap by sending an HTTP GET request.
Depending on your target’s browsing habits, you can also submit your sitemap to other search engines, such as Bing, Yahoo!, Quora, etc. Pay attention to the rules imposed by each search engine.
Update your XML sitemap
Once you’ve designed your XML sitemap, you’ll likely need to add new pages or make changes to it. It will update automatically, if you use a plug-in or a sitemap generation tool.
Otherwise, search engines will fail to examine and crawl new pages added to your sitemap. If you want to try to speed up the indexing of your content, you can resubmit your sitemap, following the publication of the new page.
Tips for building a qualitative XML sitemap
After seeing the steps for creating a sitemap, I invite you to follow national seo services little tips to have a quality sitemap file.
Organize your XML sitemap by section
By structuring your sitemap by section, you can track the indexing of your site with ease. With this in mind, you must create an index to list the different parts and sub-parts of your website. This tip helps you better identify valid and invalid URLs in Google Search Console.
Put only important pages in your sitemap
I remind you that a sitemap’s role is to facilitate the exploration of your pages by search engine robots. This is why it is important to avoid including pages that do not bring any convincing results or have no interest for your SEO strategy. Favor the “money pages” which are among the most important pages, in order to develop your activity.
Prioritize the pages you want to index
Depending on your natural referencing strategy, some pages of your website may be classified as “no-index”. Their URLs should not be included in your XML sitemap. Also, ignore canonical URLs.
In summary, creating an XML sitemap is essential to optimize your SEO strategy. This tool increases the visibility of your web pages on the Web. However, creating a qualitative sitemap is a difficult and time-consuming operation. I recommend that you entrust this project to a digital communication agency, in order to obtain optimal performance from your site while reducing costs.