Back to Basics: Sitemaps – an SEO Must

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It can be easy to get so focused on SEO strategies and techniques that we miss the obvious, and essential, factors that can help our websites rank well. Sitemaps help search engines crawl and index your site and discover content that might otherwise go unnoticed. What do you need to know about these critical SEO tools?

Google bots typically crawl your site more often if you update your sitemap. Google’s JohnMu says, “If we find new content there every time we crawl, we may choose to crawl more frequently.” This doesn’t necessarily mean your site will rank better as a result, but if you’re adding new content and keeping your sitemap up-to-date, it does tend to reflect well on you as far as the search engine is concerned.

But let’s back up: what exactly is a sitemap? It is an XML file that contains a list of URLs for a site. Additionally, it lists metadata for each URL, such as how often it changes and when it was last update. Here is an example for a single URL, from Sitemap.org:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>

<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">

   <url>

      <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc>

      <lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod>
 
      <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
 
      <priority>0.8</priority>

   </url>

</urlset>

 

Elements that you must include:

  • Opening with <urlset> and closing with </urlset>.
  • A <url> entry for each URL as a parent tag.
  • A <loc> entry for each <url> parent tag.
  • The namespace (protocol standard) within the <urlset> tag

Other tags, such as <priority>, <lastmod>, and <changefreq> are optional and serve to give the search engine more information. For more information, mark http://www.sitemaps.org/ as a favorite and brush up on protocols. You can also use any of a number of generators to create your XML sitemap.

If you don’t a sitemap, or an updated version, get on it now!

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