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SEO Education: What is a Sitemap?

Posted by in SEO

A sitemap is to a website as a table of contents is to a book.

The main purpose of a sitemap is to let the search engine crawlers easily know about all of a website’s pages. Some pages are often missed by search engine crawlers because they are located quite deeply within a website’s architecture, or because they are not linked from the website’s main navigation. As such, these pages are not found and cached in the SERPs (search engine results pages), so they will not appear when a user enters a relevant search query.

There are 3 major types of sitemaps:

1. Sitemap/Sitewalk

  • Made in HTML.
  • Found at the bottom of the page in the footer section.
  • Acts as a secondary navigation for users to reach important web pages within a website.
  • Notifies the search engine crawlers that these pages are of high relevance.

2. Sitemap Link

  • Also made in HTML.
  • Appears as a link to the sitemap page.
  • The sitemap page itself shows a list of links to all pages within the website.

3. XML Sitemap

  • Made in XML.
  • Is not visually represented on the website, so users never see it.
  • Exists purely for the search engines crawlers.
  • Lists every single page/URL of a site.

It is important to keep the XML Sitemap for the search engines up to date. This way the crawlers will be alerted to any new pages created, and there is a much better chance of these pages being crawled and cached accordingly.

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8 Comments

  1. Raj Reply

    What are your ideas on a website(with Sitemap already created) that has newly created sub-domain, say a blog, can do with the latest move? Should we add the new url route inside the sitemap referring the update or can the Sitemap that is already available recognizes and updates automatically? FYI: the newly created domain and the sitemap are both in the same root folder.

    Thanks in advance!

  2. Joshua Hay Reply

    @Raj If it were me, I would not put the blog on a sub-domain to begin with as you are robbing the main site of the value of increased page count and fresh content. You would want those pages indexed as being either part of the main site or part of the sub-domain site but not both.
    But Ash should know what to do.

  3. Aris Abramian Reply

    @Raj

    An XML Sitemap can only be used for one subdomain. e.g. mywebsite.com.au/sitemap.xml would contain only url’s for mywebsite.com.au

    blog.mywebsite.com.au would need a seperate sitemap to only include pages from blog.mywebsite.com.au.

  4. Shea Korte Reply

    Thanks for this post. I just installed a sitemap on one of my sites the other day in XML form to my Google Webmaster account. I was wondering if it is even more effective having article links all connected to the home page somehow and running the sitemap install again so Google can pick up all the new content? I mean do you really need to run a new sitemap every month or so or not?

  5. Aris Abramian Reply

    @Shea

    Once a month is a good rule of thumb, generally you should be updating your sitemap everytime you add a page to your site.

    Search Engines don’t always enter your site from the homepage. An XML sitemap let’s them begin at a deep level.

  6. Hunter He Reply

    It is also a good idea to notify Google’s webmaster tools that you have an XML sitemap. This will result in a higher crawl rate. With a higher crawl rate, new content on the website will be cached and index much faster than if the website had a low crawl rate.

  7. Andrew Glyntzos Reply

    Sitewalks are also brilliant at explaining to search engines how IMPORTANT certain pages on your site are and hence given more crawl priority. If a search engine, say Google has only 1 minute to crawl as many pages on your site as possible, it will sort them by how often you interlink to certain pages. For e.g. page A has 1000 internal links pointing to it, page b, has only three. Search engines will give more crawl priority to page A!

  8. Anne Hoang Reply

    It’s also useful to submit your XML sitemap to Bing Webmaster tools. Bing also has an area in their Webmaster tools to submit new URLs (newly created pages) or URLs that are not currently in the Bing index.

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