The Plain English Guide to XML Sitemaps

By lkolowich@hubspot.com (Lindsay Kolowich)

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You wouldn’t design a new kitchen without creating a blueprint first, would you? So, why would you design a website without creating a sitemap?

If you want to launch a website that Google (and your potential customers) can discover, you’ll need a sitemap. Here’s how to create one.

What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a file of code that lives on your web server and lists all of the relevant URLs your website is carrying. Your sitemap helps search engine web crawlers understand how your website is built so they can evaluate and rank it more easily.

People create sitemaps when they first design their website, add pages to it, and/or redesign it. It’s kind of like a floor plan for the site, which comes in handy whenever the site gets changed. Along with boosting search engine optimization (SEO), sitemaps can also help define a site’s navigation scheme so you avoid internal linking issues.

Visual Sitemaps

You might be thinking to yourself, “But I thought sitemaps were more visual, like a web.” That’s a visual sitemap, as opposed to an XML sitemap — the latter is what we’ve been talking about so far.

Visual sitemaps, on the other hand, are abstract sketches of your website’s structure, like the one below of Google’s website. They’re useful for the internal planning process, but it’s the XML sitemaps that are relevant to SEO best practices.

Image Credit: Wikimedia

XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps are designed specifically for search engines like Google, which need to be able to find webpages anchored within a website no matter how old or deeply nested they might be in that website’s domain.

Here’s an example of what an XML sitemap file might look like:

9 lines of sample XML sitemap code

Image Credit: Sitemaps.org

For this reason, an XML sitemap is a crucial component of a blog, where article pages are constantly bumped further back into the website’s archive as new content is published.

There are four major types of XML sitemaps you can create, each dedicated to a different type of media you might publish to your website:

  • Image Sitemaps structure a website’s image content so that it ranks well in Google Images results.
  • Video Sitemaps classify video content so that it ranks well in Google Videos results, as well as rich snippets in organic results.
  • News Sitemaps describe your website’s news content so it’s more easily indexed in search results like Google News.
  • Mobile Sitemaps optimize website content for mobile phones that don’t use native web browsers, which automatically produce web content in mobile form.

So, how do you structure your website’s XML sitemap? Let’s dive right in.

How to Create a Sitemap

1. Engage Your Marketing, Tech, IT, and Legal Teams

Typically, the teams involved in structuring a website’s sitemap are the marketing team, a technical team (whether that’s a team of …read more

Read more here:: hubspot

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