BUILDING & USING SITEMAP FOR WEBSITE

BUILDING & USING SITEMAP FOR WEBSITE

SEO today provides businesses having a website with ample opportunities to ensure that their website content – in whatever shape, size and form it is – are indexed in the Search Engines to the best extent possible.

Today’s SEO offer many kinds of tips and tricks for optimizing a Website. One among them is SiteMaps which is referred to as a Map of a Website and involves on one single page, details of the Website’s structure, its sections, links between them, etc. The SiteMap’s USP lies in the fact that it’s an important way of communication with search engines and makes Website navigation easy and smooth.

To extract the best out of a SiteMap, it’s advisable that you have an updated Sitemap on your Website for that will be good for both the site users as well as the search engines.

When talking about the difference between a Robots.txt file and a SiteMap, it should be understood that while in a Robots.txt, search engines are told as to which parts of the Website are to be excluded from indexing, while on the other hand, in a SiteMap the search engines are told as to where you would like them to go.

WHAT IS A SITEMAP & ALL THAT?

A SiteMap (Or Site Map) is described as:

    • A Document in any form used as a planning tool for Web Design; OR
    • A File wherein the Web Pages of your Website are listed and organized in a hierarchical manner.

Either way, they remain accessible to crawlers or users.

IN WHAT WAYS A SITEMAP WILL BENEFIT YOU?

  • Helps build relationships between pages and other content components.
  • Helps showcase the shape of information space in overview and also demonstrate the site’s organization, navigation and labeling system.
  • Provides valuable Metadata connected with the web pages that are listed in the SiteMap. A Metadata Information will tell all about a web page like as to when the web page was last updated, how often they have been changed and how important they are to other URL’s in the Website. For instance, Google can be provided with metadata about specific types of content on the web pages of a Website including video and image content.
  • SiteMap Video entry will specify details like Video running time, category and age appropriateness rating.
  • SiteMap Image entry will specify details like the image subject-matter, type and license.

TYPES OF SITEMAPS

    • HTML SITEMAP Create an HTML SiteMap of all of your higher-level pages and link the SiteMap from the footer of all the Site Pages. This allows the search engines to create a buffer of Site URL’s from any one page on your Website.

 

    • XML SITEMAP XML is known by its full form – Extensible MarkUp Language. Today it’s the preferred choice for data digestion by search engines. With XML, a site administrator will have the ability to tell as well as feed the search engines data on the pages of a Website that they want it to be crawled AND also signify the priority or hierarchy of the site content alongside information on when the web page was last updated.

 

NOTE: When using a SiteMap from a SEO point of view, you cannot go with conventional SiteMap only (though currently, YAHOO and MSN still stick to the standard HTML format). On the other hand, Google SiteMaps uses a special XML format that is way different from standard HTML SiteMaps.

IS SITEMAP REALLY REQUIRED?

The answer is ‘YES’. This is because if your Website’s web pages are properly linked, the search engine’s web crawlers can easily discover most of the Website.

Other factors which make it imperative to have a SiteMap are:

      • WEBSITE IS BIG: Having a sitemap will help the Google web crawlers to not overlook any of the web pages including new or recently updated pages.

 

      • WEBSITE HAS A LARGE ARCHIVE OF CONTENT PAGES: If your website has a large archive of content pages that are isolated or not well-linked to each other, then the site pages will not refer to each other well. On other hand, a sitemap will list all such pages ensuring that Google web crawlers do not overlook any of the pages.

 

      • WEBSITE IS NEW & POSSESSES FEW EXTERNAL LINKS TO IT: Normally GoogleBot and other web crawlers crawl the website by following links from one web-page to another web-page. By having a Sitemap, they will not only discover the Website but also discover the web-pages and the other site-links to them.

 

      • WEBSITE HAS RICH MEDIA CONTENT: If your Website has rich media content or is shown in Google News or uses other sitemap-compatible annotations, then having a Sitemap will compel Google to take additional information from the Sitemap into account for search, where essential.

 

NOTE: It’s important to note that mere having a SiteMap will not guarantee that all the items detailed in the SiteMap will be crawled and indexed. This is because Google processes heavily rely on complex algorithms to schedule crawling. BUT by and large a Sitemap will benefit your website a lot.

 

GUIDELINES FOR BUILDING & SUBMITTING A SITEMAP

To build a successful SiteMap, you need to go by the following guidelines:

        • Select all those web pages on your Website that you would want to be crawled by Google. Then determine the canonical version of each web page.
        • Decide which SiteMap format you would want to use. You can either create your own SiteMap manually or make your choice from a range of third-party readymade tools that will help create a SiteMap for you.
        • Once done, test the selected SiteMap with the help of Search Console SiteMaps Testing Tools.
        • Ensure the availability of your SiteMap to Google by adding it to your Robots.txt file. Then submit it to Search Console.

 

FORMATS OF SITEMAP

There are a range of SiteMap formats that Google supports, all of which limit a single SiteMap to 10 MB (uncompressed) and 50,000 URL’s.

In case you have a larger file or more URL’s, then you

        • Need to break your list into multiple SiteMaps.
        • Can optionally create a SiteMap index (which means a file that point to a list of SiteMaps). Then submit the SiteMap index to Google. You can also submit more than one SiteMap index to Google.

 

TIPS ON WHAT SITEMAP FORMAT WOULD BE GOOD FOR YOU

For the best SiteMap format, you need to go by the following guidelines:

        • Always use URL’s that are consistent and fully-qualified. If done, then Google will crawl over your URL’s in the same way as it is listed. For instance, if your Website http://www.emblix.com, then don’t specify a URL as http://emblix.com/ (without the ‘www’) OR ./mypage.html (a relative URL).
        • Refrain from including session ID’s from URL’s in your SiteMap for reducing duplicate crawling of those URL’s.
        • Make clear the translated versions of a URL to Google for crawling and indexing by listing the canonical URL’s for each language in your SiteMap file, with the help of hreflang annotations.
        • SiteMap files must always be UTF-8 encoded and URL’s escaped appropriately.
        • If Google requests your SiteMap frequently, then break-up large SiteMaps into smaller ones. This will help your server from getting overloaded. KNOW THE RULE – A SiteMap must not contain more than 50,000 URL’s and must not exceed 10 MB uncompressed.
        • Always make sure that you use a SiteMap Index file to list all of your SiteMaps and submit the file (it should be single) to Google. Refrain from submitting individual SiteMaps.
        • Make use of recommended canonicalization methods for telling Google if your Website is accessible to both www as well as non-www versions of your domain. Know that you need to submit a SiteMap only for your preferred domain.
SITEMAP NAME

The name of your SiteMap can contain only ASCII characters AND not upper ASCII characters or certain control codes or special characters like ‘*’ and ‘{}’.
In case, your SiteMap URL contains the following characters, you will find yourself receiving an error when you try to add it

CHARACTER CODE ESCAPE CODE
Ampersand & &amp
Single Quote &apos
Double Quote &quot
Greater Than > &gt
Lesser Than < &lt

NOTE: If you have submitted your SiteMap and received an error that Google is unable to find some of your URL’s, THEN make sure that your URL’s follows the RFC-3986 standard for URL’s, the RFC-3987 standard for URL’s and the XML standard.

EXAMPLE

        • Here is a URL that uses a non-ASCII character (ü), and also a character that requires entity escaping (&): http://www.emblix.com/ümlat.html&q=name
        • Here is that’s same URL, ISO-8859-1 encoded (for hosting on a server that used that encoding) and URL escaped: http://www.emblix.com/%FCmlat.html&q=name
        • Here is that same URL, UTF-8 encoded (for hosting on a server that uses that encoding) and URL escaped:http://www.emblix.com/%C3%BCmlat.html&q=name
        • Here is that same URL, entity escaped: http://www.emblix.com/%C3%BCmlat.html&q=name
HOW TO CREATE A SITEMAP?

Here is how you need to build a SiteMap for varied content types:

HOW TO BUILD A STANDARD XML SITEMAP?

Mentioned below a standard XML SiteMap’s URL entry’s anatomy:
http://www.example.com/mypage
2013-10-10
monthly
1

Note that the areas I above where you can provide information on URL’s desired for crawling and also additional URL information.

Now suppose you don’t possess the functionality to generate a SiteMap with your CMS (Content Management Systems) then you need to create an XML SiteMap from the beginning all over again. For that you have tools to help you do the same.

XML GENERATORS

There are many kinds of XML SiteMap Generators, including:

          • Some are free but have a crawl cap on Site URL’s.
          • Some are paid SiteMap Generators, one of them is SiteMap Writer Pro, a popular SiteMap Generator.
          • Some of them are tools. Among them it’s advisable to choose one that will allow you to review the crawl of the URL’s and later remove duplicated URL’s, Dynamic Parameters, Excluded URL’s, etc.

NOTE: Choose an XML SiteMap Generator that targets only those web pages on the Website that you would like the Search Engine to index and value.

HOW TO UPLOAD & SUBMIT A SITEMAP?

Once the standard XML SiteMap is built, the next step is to upload it your Website. For that you need to follow the following guidelines:

  • The SiteMap file should reside directly off the root with a relevant page naming convention like as/sitemap.xml.
  • Once done, go to Google WebMaster Tools & there submit the SiteMap.

 

 

  • Once done with Google’s WebMaster Tools, execute the same procedure with Bing WebMaster Tools as shown in below image:

It’s true that search engines like Google and Bing will find the SiteMap on your Website. However it’s advisable to feed the search engines the right information thereby providing them with the ability to report on any type of indexing issues.

HOW TO FIND SITEMAP ERRORS

Once you have given your URL’s to the search engines like Google and Bing in the preferred XML markup, you need to ask a few questions like:

  • How are they indexing the content?
  • Are they facing any issues while doing the same?

To know them, you need to provide the above questions directly to WebMaster Tools Account. This will help you find the answers as well as review the type of content that might be withheld from search engines by accident or ignorance.

When we talk of which Search Engine does a better job of finding SiteMap errors and reviewing them, then Google beats Bing by a fair margin. Also, compared to Google, Bing provides for much smaller amount of data for review.

The above image shows as to how you have submitted an XML SiteMap and received an error message that the URL’s in the SiteMap are also featured in the Robots.txt file. POINT is when this error message appears, you need to take note of the same for it’s a serious error.

Two things stand out in this error:

    • The XML SiteMap could not even be read.
    • Information on what important URL’s have been accidently withheld from the crawls in the Robots.Txt file, can be gleaned.

In such a situation, it’s not proper to tell a Search Engine to both crawl and not crawl the same page at the same time.

SITEMAP MONITORING

It’s extremely important for any type of SEO initiative. Using it, you can extract the following benefits:

    • How many URL’s in your XML SiteMap you have provided?
    • How many URL’s among them are currently indexed in Google?
    • Aside from the standard information provided normally, you can also provide Google and Bing, information on your Website’s image, video, news and mobile content, the same of which all will be accepted.
    • These XML SiteMaps can be created, placed on the Website and later submitted in the same way as the standard XML SiteMap is done.
HOW DIFFERENT XML SITEMAPS CAN BE USED?
IMAGE XML SITEMAPS

All you need to do is to provide the following data on the Site Images and the page locations of the images.

1)

http://www.example.com/mypage
2013-10-10
monthly
1

http://www.emblix.com/images/myfirstimage.gif

2)

http://www.emblix.com/images/mysecondimage.gif

 

VIDEO XML SITEMAPS

All you need to do is to instruct the Search Engines, Google and Bing, on the page locations of your Videos and Video Embeds as well as information on their titles, descriptions, access levels, etc.

http://www.emblix.com/mypage
2013-05-06
monthly
0.5

https://youtube.com/watch?v=W10j21236%3Den_US

http://www.site.com/videoplayer.swf?video=123

http://img.youtube.com/vi/W1021236=1/default.jpg

My Video Name
My Video Description

2
498
2013-05-06
yes
10
2016-05-06
no

MOBILE XML SITEMAPS

In case you have mobile pages in a directory on your Website, then allow the Search Engines to know more about your URL’s that cater to your mobile users.


http://www.emblix.com/mobile/oneofmymobilepages
2013-10-10​
monthly0.8

NEWS XML SITEMAPS

They provide information about news pieces, their location on the Website, News Type, Language and Access Information.

To extract the best out of them, implement the following:
http://www.emblix.com/news/mynewsarticle


http://www.emblix.com/news/mynewsarticle


My News Site
en

Subscription
PressRelease, Blo
2013-10-10
Title of News Piece​

CONCLUSION

You have seen as to how a SiteMap can help your Website and how they benefit the Search Engines as well. Further, if you link to your SiteMap page from your Home Page, all of the pages in your SiteMap will be on the third level from your Home Page, which will encourage Google to index your entire Website.

Remember that though efforts must be made to ensure great content, it’s equally important to ensure full indexation of the entire Website through a SiteMap for this way you can extract the maximum value out of your Website.

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