When you visit a new country and want to see its places of interest, you use a local map or a navigation app to find the shortest routes to them. In turn, if you want your site to appear in search results (53% of website traffic comes from organic search results), ensure it’s regularly and correctly indexed by search engines like Google or Bing. For this, you need to optimize your website according to search engines’ rules. One of the ways to do that is to add a well-structured XML sitemap to your website.
In what follows, you’ll learn what a sitemap is and why an XML sitemap is essential for your website. You’ll also find out crucial rules for building an XML sitemap and learn how to set it directly in the Boxmode website builder.
What Is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file with information about the website’s pages, including their URLs. In simple terms, it maps out the site structure and informs about content on the pages. Your sitemap should include all pages and files that you want to appear in SERPs (search engine results pages).
There are two types of sitemaps: HTML (hypertext markup language) and XML (extensible markup language).
An HTML sitemap, a file in an HTML format, is created for visitors to help them navigate a website. A site creator makes an XML sitemap, a file in an XML format, for search engine bots (a.k.a. web crawlers, spiders, or robots) to provide them with a guideline on how to crawl (investigate) your website in a better way.
You can specify the last update of the pages and the update frequency, connection between the pages, and alternative language versions of each of them in this file. You can also create separate sitemaps with information about your website’s specific content types, such as video, image, and blog articles.
What Does an XML Sitemap Look Like?
An XML sitemap looks like a table of contents with tags and page URLs and navigates web crawlers for finding important information and properly indexing your website. Here’s the standard sitemap structure:
Let’s see what each line means:
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″ standalone=”yes”?>
An XML declaration is a processing instruction that determines a file as XML. Here search engines can read the version of XML using character encoding.
URL set is a repository for URLs and files in the sitemap. It also provides crawlers with information about the used protocol standard (the rules for creating a sitemap correctly). The common sitemap standard is 0.9, which most search engines support.
<loc> is a parent tag for each URL on the website. It means you must add an original URL to this tag. It can also include such properties:
<xtml:link rel=”alternative” hreflang=”x-default” https://yogamind.boxmode.io” />
<xtml:link rel=”alternative” hreflang=”en” href=”https://yogamind.boxmode.io” />
- <rel=”alternative”> tag (the alternative language versions);
- <lastmod> tag (the date and time of the URL’s last modification);
- <priority> tag (the priority of the URL relative to other URLs on the website);
- <changefreq> tag (the update frequency).
With these tags’ help, your website gets indexed more quickly, and search engines constantly get up-to-date information about it.
Why Is an XML Sitemap so Important for Your Website?
Search engines discover websites using web crawlers. When they open your website, they quickly gather data about it for further indexing. That’s where an XML sitemap comes in. By providing crawlers with a simple guideline, you can increase crawling’s speed and quality.
The main benefits of using an XML sitemap are:
- Search engines efficiently collect and analyze your pages’ content and properly index them;
- Search engines instantly index dynamically generated pages;
- You can avoid the limitations of a website with weak internal linking.
Ground Rules for Building an XML Sitemap
Make sure you follow these rules when creating an XML sitemap for your website:
- Locate your sitemap at site.com/sitemap.xml, with site.com as your website’s URL;
- Accurately structure a list with specific tags and website links;
- Avoid any conflict with the robots.txt file. For example, if some pages are closed from indexing in the robots.txt file, you must exclude them from the sitemap;
- Add only significant pages, excluding 404 and test ones, to the sitemap.
Note: A sitemap can contain 50,000 URLs and be no more than 50MB in size. If your sitemap exceeds these limits, you must split it into several smaller sitemaps. In this way, you will avoid server overload.
How to Create an XML Sitemap with Boxmode?
The Boxmode website builder allows you to create automated XML sitemaps for your projects that you can customize and update anytime. Open the dashboard -> Projects’ Settings and find a sitemap.xml file in the SEO section. Click the “Edit” button to configure the sitemap’s parameters and thus improve the SEO rankings of your website.
Benefit from the SEO in Your Website
According to BrightEdge research, 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine. This means that optimizing your website is an effective way of being ranked high in SERPs. In turn, a sitemap is one of the SEO tools for indexing your website in search engines correctly. By creating a detailed sitemap, you can enhance your online presence and increase traffic to your website.