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Take care of the navigation of your website. What is a sitemap and why do you need one?

6 minutes of reading
Take care of the navigation of your website. What is a sitemap and why do you need one?
Category SEO

Your website’s navigation plays an important role in the success of your business, especially if you want to get noticed in search engines. In order to rank highly on search engines, you need to make sure that your site appears to be as legitimate and trustworthy as possible by following the best SEO practices. One way to achieve this is by creating an effective sitemap and making sure it appears in Google’s webmaster tools area (and Bing’s, too!). Let’s take a look at what exactly a sitemap is and how you can use it to optimize your website’s navigation for SEO.


How does website navigation affect user experience?

Your website’s navigation is important for two reasons: user experience and search engine. A well-organized website will help your visitors find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. Plus, a sitemap can help search engines index your pages more efficiently.

It is worth bearing in mind that user experience is, in a way, a ranking factor when assessing the quality of a website. Users are more likely to come back to a site if it’s easy to navigate and provides them with what they want. You should also know that Google takes this into account in its algorithms by using crawling metrics like page load time and crawl rate (among others).

What is sitemap.xml and why should you use it?

Sitemap.xml is a file that tells search engines about the pages on your website. It helps them understand your site’s structure and find new content. A sitemap.xml is a document which includes all of the links to every page within your site directory and assigns it a unique URL name. Search engines will crawl through this file and identify all of the pages in your site, as well as when they were last updated. They can then add these pages to their index, so they are included in their results page when someone searches for something related to your business or product.

Do all websites have a sitemap?

No, it is not obligatory. However, your website will have a better chance of ranking in search engines if you do have one. And if you don’t have one, creating one should be your first step in the optimization process!

Types of maps

The first division

A sitemap is a file that tells search engines about the pages on your website. There are three types of sitemaps: XML, HTML, and ROR.

  • XML map is used to update information in the Google Webmaster Tools. This one is the most popular because it offers more features than other types. This version is designed for indexing robots, this is where you will find a list of all technical information about the site.
  • HTML map is an index which you upload to your website. This is a version made for website users; informs you where, what can be found, e.g. table of contents.
  • An ROR map can be created by some content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, or Tumblr.

The second division

Another division concerns static and dynamic maps. Static sitemaps are a great way to organize your website’s content and help search engines index your pages. These are typically used for small websites with fewer than 500 pages.However, dynamic sitemaps offer more flexibility and can be updated more frequently to reflect changes on your website. Dynamic sitemaps, on the other hand, are designed for larger websites with frequently updated content. If you’re not sure which type of map is right for your website, ask your web developer or consult an SEO expert.

The third division

Maps can also be divided according to their purpose. A graphic map is a visual representation of your website and its content. A video map is a virtual walkthrough of your website, done through video footage. The term sitemap refers to the table of contents or index page on a website which allows users to find all pages within the site that are linked together. Sitemaps are one of the most important tools for improving user experience with any site because they provide an overview of the site’s layout and content in an easy-to-use format.

Creating a sitemap by manual coding

If you have knowledge of PHP / SQL, you can generate a sitemap yourself. The XML file should contain a list of landing pages, which are all the ones you care about in the indexing process. Start with the <urlset> tag and add addresses by tagging them with <url> and <loc>. Finally, enter the <urlset> or </urlset> request. Then add the XML file to the root folder via FTP file upload.

The sitemap cannot be larger than 50 MB and contain more than 50,000 addresses. If this happens, in the case of very complex pages, create several separate maps.

Tip: sitemap elements

Mandatory tags:

  • <urlset> (tag referring to the protocol),
  • <url> (tag referring to the url),
  • <loc> (address location tag).

Optional tags:

  • <lastmod> (tag informing about the last modification of the file),
  • <changefreq> (a tag that sends information to robots when they should index the page),
  • <priority> (tag determining the validity of the address in relation to others on the list).

Creating a sitemap by generator

A sitemap is a file that tells search engines about the pages on your website. You can create a sitemap by using a sitemap generator. There are many free and paid sitemap generators available online, like Screaming Frog. Once you have created your sitemap, you need to submit it to Google Search Console. You can do this by going to the Sitemaps section and adding your sitemap’s URL.

WordPress plugins for sitemaps

WordPress does not generate sitemaps. Yoast SEO is a popular plugin that includes a sitemap feature. Another option is the Google XML Sitemaps plugin, which will automatically generate a sitemap for your site and submit it to Google.

Implementing a map

You can submit your sitemap to Google in a few different ways. The easiest way is to use the Google Search Console. You can also submit your sitemap through an XML file or by using a robots.txt file. Simply add and verify your website with GSC, then go to the ‘Sitemaps’ section and add your sitemap URL.

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In conclusion

A sitemap is an essential tool for any website owner looking to improve their site’s SEO. By creating a sitemap and submitting it to search engines, you are effectively telling them what pages are on your site and how often they are updated. This allows search engines to index your pages more accurately, which can lead to higher rankings in the SERPs. Additionally, sitemap optimization can help improve the usability of your site by making it easier for users to find the content they are looking for. Any more doubts?

Aleksandra Pietrzak
Curator at the National Museum in Poznań, graduate of Art History at the Jagiellonian University and Contemporary Art at the Pedagogical University of Krakow, curator of exhibitions and author of scientific and popular texts. A lover of contemporary art, literature and travel.
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