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What are XML sitemaps?

A guide to mapping a website with XML Sitemaps

By , 1st July 2013 in Internet

How using the XML Sitemap protocol can help search engines index your site and provide regular updates and relevant content to visitors.
 

The XML Sitemap is a file placed in the root of your website which consists of XML tags. These tags tell search engines about the pages on your website. The sitemap.xml should list all the pages you wish a search engine to list in their index.

Sample XML Sitemap Contents

The following example shows a Sitemap that contains just one URL and uses all optional tags.

  1. <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
  2. <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
  3. <url>
  4. <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>
  5. <lastmod>2001-01-01</lastmod>
  6. <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
  7. <priority>0.8</priority>
  8. </url>
  9. </urlset>

This breaks down as follows:

  • The urlset is the header which defines the namespace and schema for the sitemap. Don't change this.
  • Each page on your website should have a corresponding section.
  • loc is the full URL to the page
  • lastmod is the date the page was last updated, in the yyyy-mm-dd format.
  • changefreq gives the search engines an indication of how often the page is updated. Valid values are always, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and never.
  • priority> is a relative value assigned to how important you think that page is compared with the other pages on your site. Valid values range from 0.0 (not important) to 1.0 (the most important page on your site).

Sitemap Generation Tools

There are lots of tools for generating XML sitemaps depending on the platform you use.

WordPress Plugins for XML Sitemaps

There are several WordPress plugins which you can install to automatically create XML sitemaps for your posts and pages.

Yoast SEO

Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin
Yoast SEO WordPress Plugin

WordPress out of the box is already technically quite a good platform for SEO. This was true when Joost wrote his original WordPress SEO article in 2008 (updated every few months) and it’s still true today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve it further! This plugin is written from the ground up by Joost de Valk and his team at Yoast to improve your site’s SEO on all needed aspects. While this Yoast SEO plugin goes the extra mile to take care of all the technical optimisation, more on that below, it first and foremost helps you write better content. Yoast SEO forces you to choose a focus keyword when you’re writing your articles and then makes sure you use that focus keyword everywhere.

XML Sitemap Generator

Google Sitemap Generator
This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines to better index your blog.

This plugin will generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your blog. With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally, it notifies all major search engines about the new content every time you create a post.

Online Sitemap Generators

XML Sitemaps Generator allows you to create your Google sitemap online. It will crawl your site and provide a downloadable XML Sitemap for you to upload to your site.

Screaming Frog XML Sitemap Generator Many SEO agencies and consultants will be familiar with Screaming Frog’s spider tool, which allows you to crawl up to 500 URLs of an existing website and capture key data for SEO and identify any errors. After crawling a website, Screaming Frog offers an option to create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google.

Further Reading
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