Making a sitemap (sitemap) is one of the most important parts of optimizing any website. Sitemaps not only show a layout of your website to search engines, they can also provide the following information:
- What is the approximate time of updating the pages.
- When was the last time the page was changed?
- How important the pages are to each other.
Sitemaps are some websites are of particular significance. Websites that:
- Contains a lot of content that is not linked to each other.
- They do not have links from other websites.
- They have thousands upon thousands of pages.
Obviously, sitemaps create a list of web addresses for bots to help them index the most important pages on the site. In this article, we will introduce you to the points that by observing them in building and optimizing the site map, you will show a better performance for search engines.
1. Use tools and plugins to automatically generate a sitemap
Creating a sitemap using tools that can be built or plugins like Google XML Sitemaps in WordPress is very simple. WordPress websites that use Yoast SEO can take advantage of the site mapping feature of this plugin.
You can also manually create the XML sitemap structure by following it. It is not technically mandatory to build a sitemap in XML format. It is enough to just put the site URLs in a text file so that each URL is in a row.
However, if you are interested in publishing more data on a sitemap such as hreflang, it is certainly wise to use the tool. You can learn more about making a sitemap manually by referring to the official Google post in this area.
2. Register a sitemap in Google
You can refer to Google Search Console and through its dashboard directly to introduce the site map to this search engine. Before registering a sitemap, test it first to fix any errors.
Ideally, the number of pages indexed from the sitemap should be the same as the total number of URLs listed. Remember that registering a sitemap in Google Search Console also means introducing the most important and valuable site pages. But this does not fully guarantee that all listed addresses will be indexed.
The benefits of registering a sitemap in Google Search Console include:
- Help Google understand all web pages
- Detect possible errors and fix the indexing problem of some pages
3. Prioritize the importance of pages in the sitemap
When ranking pages, the overall quality of the page is an important indicator.
If the sitemap takes Google bots to thousands of low quality pages, search engines will interpret that your website is not a website that users are waiting to see, even if there are other great pages on your site.
Instead, try to direct the robots to the most important pages of the site in the sitemap. These pages are generally:
- Optimal site pages
- Pages include images and video
- Pages with original content
- Attractive pages for users such as user review pages
4. Understand the problems of not indexing pages
In the new version of Google Search Console, a section called Coverage has been created, which explains the non-indexing of the pages inserted in the site map and the reason for this. So you can solve the problems of the page and create a better site map.
5. Insert only canonical version of URLs
If there are many similar pages on your website, you should only mention the canonical version of them on the sitemap. For example, if your store website has different colors of a product with different URLs, you should tell Google which page is the main page to be indexed.
In such cases, Google bots only index canonical pages and save in the Crawl Budget.
6. Use the Robots meta tag instead of the robots.txt file
If you are not interested in indexing a particular page, you can simply add the robots meta tag with the value noindex, follow.
This prevents the page from being indexed and at the same time the validity of that page is transferred to other pages. This technique helps us to take advantage of the important pages of the site that you are not interested in seeing in the search results.
If you notice that Google bots regularly and significantly visit the unimportant pages of the site, you can prevent them from being monitored in the robots.txt file if detected .
7. Do not insert pages with noindex meta tag in the sitemap
To optimize the Crawl Budget and not waste it, you should avoid inserting pages with robots meta tags with noindex value in the site map.
By inserting such pages in the sitemap, you are simultaneously informing Google that these pages are important but should not be indexed. These two messages are in complete contradiction with each other and their presence together is not a positive sign of the optimality of the site map.
8. Build automated sitemaps on large websites
On large websites, it is better to create sitemaps in such a way that by changing the amount of robots meta tags or deleting pages, sitemaps are automatically changed and updated.
9. Use XML sitemaps and RSS / Atom feeds
RSS / Atom feeds alert search engines when updating the site.
Google recommends using both sitemaps and RSS / ATOM feeds at the same time to help search engines understand site updates as quickly as possible. RSS / ATOM feeds can also be very useful for users.
10. Update page change time
Never try to force search engines to crawl a page of a website when you have made no changes to its content by manipulating the time of the last change. This can be very risky for your website.
11. Not paying attention to priority settings
Some sitemaps have a column called priority that alerts search engines to the priority of pages.
Although this parameter is still supported by Google, there are many doubts about its actual operation. Even Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted last year that Google generally ignores this parameter.
12. Reduce site map file size
The smaller your sitemap file size, the less pressure will be put on the server.
Google and Bing Maxim increased the supported size of reading sitemaps in 2016 from 20 to 50 MB. However, it is better to reduce the size of this file and prioritize inserting the main landing pages of the site.
13. Build multiple sitemaps
If the number of URLs on your website is more than 50,000, you should create a second sitemap. Because site maps are limited to this number.
Although this number is not available for most sites, there are some great websites that need to read multiple sitemaps due to the large number of URLs. For example, large store websites may need to create additional sitemaps due to the large number of products.
Mr. John Müller explains here how to create a sitemap on websites that have more than 50,000 URLs.