An XML Sitemap Can Boost Site Visibility In Search Results
One of the most common website elements I see missing is an XML sitemap. This post is going to explain what it is, why it's important, and how you can add one to your site if you are one of the guilty ones!
What Is An XML Sitemap?
It's a list of the URLs on your site that has specific information for the search engine crawlers. Your visitors never see this sitemap. An XML sitemap helps you prioritize which pages you want crawled in priority order. You can usually find it by adding this to the end of any site's homepage: /sitemap.xml. If it's been created, it'll show up.
One entry looks a lot like this: (don't be scared; I'll explain it!)
Let's break this down:
<loc>https://invenioseo.com/what-is-domain-authority/</loc> -You can see an individual page in my sitemap - https://invenioseo.com/what-is-domain-authority/.
<lastmod>2019-07-18</lastmod> - It was last modified on 7/18/2019, which is the day I published this blog post.
<changefreq>daily</changefreq> - I tell the search engine crawlers this URL changes daily, but I can edit my sitemap to make it weekly, monthly or never.
<priority>0.5</priority> - The priority for this page is 0.5. Priorities go from 0.0 to 1.0, so this is about a medium priority. Again, I can change this to make it higher or lower.
That's how you read each XML sitemap entry!
Why Do I Want One Anyways?
Because you want to try to exert some control about which pages the crawlers analyze, and how often. If you change a page a lot, you'll want to make sure you tell the crawlers to come daily and make this a very high priority - 0.8 or higher.
For pages that never change, you can free up some crawl budget and tell the search engines just to come back monthly and make this priority around 0.3 or 0.4.
Before I forget, here's some information about what crawl budget is!
What Else Can An XML Sitemap Tell Me?
All kinds of good stuff!
If you have 404 pages in it, remove those pages permanently (error code 410) and get them out of your sitemap.
If you've just redirected your entire site, (301) go in and eyeball it once you've put all those redirects in place to make sure nobody was forgotten, or no URLs ended up as 404s.
How Can I Make An XML Sitemap?
Many web content management systems automatically make one for you, but if your isn't one of those lucky ones, never fear, you can make one for free at these sites and get your friendly neighborhood web developer to upload it for you!
An XML sitemap is a great diagnostic tool to manage URL crawling. I urge you to create and upload one if you don't already have it - you'll be glad you did!
Want to learn more about crawl budget, sitemaps, links, and on page SEO? Take an SEO training course with Invenio and start doing your own SEO!
Until we meet again, stay safely between the ditches!
All the very best to you,