How to Create an XML Sitemap: Tips & Best Practices

XML sitemaps are websites that contain a list of the pages on a website. Creating an XML Sitemap will help you to increase your visibility, improves search engine optimization and serves as an easy way for users to find what they’re looking for on your site.

An XML sitemap is a file that contains information about your website. This can be used by search engines to find new content on your site and by webmasters to help improve the ranking of their sites. There are many tools available for creating an XML sitemap, but most of them require some technical knowledge. The “xml sitemap generator” is a simple tool that allows people with absolutely no experience in coding to create an XML sitemap without any hassle.

In my initial weeks at Atlassian, I was looking for a fast victory so that I could establish a better position inside the organization and spread the word about SEO. As a result, I conducted an assessment of our main site and discovered that it lacked an XML sitemap. What a simple victory!

I approached the developers and requested that it be activated in the CMS. They informed me it wasn’t feasible, which surprised me; I was perplexed.

I recalled that a shrieking frog offered an XML sitemap capability, so I scraped the site and submitted the crawl as an XML sitemap after some thought. Google ate it up in a matter of seconds, and we witnessed a significant drop in traffic over the next several days.

The lesson of the tale is that XML sitemaps are critical yet often overlooked.


Here’s a rundown of everything I’ll be talking about in this essay.


What Are Sitemaps in XML and Why Do You Need One?

XML sitemaps are digital maps that assist Google in determining which pages on your site are significant and how often they are updated.

On its help center website, Google states:

A sitemap shows the crawler which files on your site you believe are significant, as well as providing useful information about these files, such as when a page was last updated, how frequently it is changed, and any alternative language versions of a page.

According to Gary Illyes, behind hyperlinks and previously identified URLs, XML sitemaps are the second most significant source of URLs scanned by Googlebot. That is enormous and should not be overlooked!

In 2005, Google began adopting XML sitemaps, and soon after, search engines such as MSN and Yahoo followed suit. They now utilize them for a lot more than simply finding URLs.

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An XML sitemap should be included on every website. They are particularly essential in the following situations:

XML sitemaps, on the other hand, enable you exclude portions of your site from being indexed by search engines, while robots.txt does the reverse. They aid in the discovery of new pages by search engines, even if they are not linked from the main site.

How-to-Create-an-XML-Sitemap-Tips-amp-Best-Practices

Google can swiftly analyze sitemaps in XML format to locate new URLs. The eXtensible Markup Language (XML) was created to store data and is lightweight and transferable across devices.

The simplest approach to see whether your site has a sitemap is to look under “sitemaps” in Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools. Most search engines, such as Google and Bing, examine in your site’s robots.txt file for the “Sitemap: sitemap location>” entry (or entries). You may also directly ping Google, Baidu, Bing, and Yandex with your sitemap.

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Bing Webmaster Tools has XML sitemaps. 1st, a report on sitemaps. 2: Adding additional routes to the sitemap 3: Bing discovered existing sitemaps.

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Google Search Console supports XML sitemaps. 1st, a report on sitemaps. 2: Adding additional routes to the sitemap 3: Google discovered existing sitemaps.

Sitemaps: HTML vs. XML 

HTML and XML sitemaps are the two forms of sitemaps available. What is the distinction?

1. You’ll observe the structure.

HTML is clearly distinct from XML. But there’s more: although HTML sitemaps are visible to site visitors, XML sitemaps are search engine feeds.

You may argue that HTML sitemaps are likewise made for search engines, but they aren’t as useful to people as XML sitemaps.

2. They both accomplish the same goal, but in different ways.

Both aid in the discovery of new URLs, whether they be pages, videos, or photos, by search engines. 

XML sitemaps are bespoke feeds that assist search engines determine which URLs are most important to crawl, how often they change, and which new ones have been added to the site. This is particularly useful for search engine schedulers, since it allows them to better predict when and how frequently a URL should be crawled.

HTML sitemaps also assist search engines in discovering new URLs, but this time via the discovery of links. That is to say, HTML sitemaps can only be used to find URLs if they are crawled and the links are followed. Examining your log files can help you understand this.

3. They each have their own set of advantages.

Changefreq> and lastmod> are meta-attributes in XML sitemaps that show how the status of a URL changes. They can also hold video, picture, and news extensions.

Apart from providing navigational value to visitors, HTML sitemaps are mostly employed to spread PageRank across a website. Because HTML sitemaps are often linked in a site’s footer, they are routinely linked from every page, potentially spreading incoming PageRank to sites with weaker internal connections.

XML Sitemaps of Various Types

XML sitemaps may be supplied in RSS, mRSS, Atom 1.0, or text format, but their “type” relates to their content or “media type”:

You may generate sitemaps that include just one unique media type or incorporate them into your ordinary XML sitemap, as I’ll explain further below.

Minimum XML Sitemap Requirements

You must adhere to the standards in order for your XML sitemaps to function properly. An XML sitemap should include the following information:

  • Only include canonical URLs having a status code of 200.

  • Each sitemap may have up to 200K URLs and each index sitemap can have up to 50K sitemaps.

  • Be included in the robots.txt file.

  • BUTF-8 has been encoded.

  • Be compressed using the.gz extension.

  • Be no more than 50 megabytes in size or include 50,000 URLs (whatever you hit first).

But there’s a lot more you can and should do with XML sitemaps to get the most out of them. By putting only key sites in XML sitemaps and updating them often, you can tell Google which URLs are significant.

When a new URL is generated or an old page changes, most CMSs provide a feature that automatically updates sitemaps. The regularity with which the sitemap and the lastmod tag of pages are updated might be an indication of freshness to Google. Whether or not this is relevant to its rating is dependent on the page and context.

Consider an XML sitemap to be a city map for visitors, with the city being your website and the tourist being Google; you want to make sure that just the most significant buildings are included, not every address. That is why irrelevant sections, such as your privacy policy or about us page, should not be included. While these sites should be indexed, they do not need frequent crawling and are unimportant in terms of SEO.

Tips for Creating an XML Sitemap for Large Websites

Beyond achieving the minimum standards, there’s more you can do to improve your sitemap game.

Large sites, such as news publishers, should utilize index sitemaps, which include (up to 50,000) standard sitemaps and are no more than 50 MB in size. They’re similar to the XML sitemap mothership, which transports a slew of smaller sitemaps. They’re required for large sites that can’t fit inside a single sitemap. In any case, you shouldn’t attempt to cram everything onto a single sitemap.

These sitemaps may be organized by page type or subject to get the most out of them. In reality, you’d make separate XML sitemaps for each subfolder or page template to figure out what’s wrong with your site’s technical and indexing issues.

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For certain uses, there exist customized XML sitemaps. Image or video sitemaps are very useful for sites that rely significantly on rich media (think Pinterest or YouTube). News sitemaps should be available to publishers.

Image sitemaps improve the chances of your site being discovered in Google image search. You don’t need a separate picture sitemap; image extensions may be included in your standard sitemap.

The following is an example of picture extensions (based on XML specifications):

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?> <urlset xmlns=” xmlns:image=”http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1″ http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″ xmlns:image=”http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1″ xmlns:image=”http://www.google.com/schemas/site “> > url> url> url> url> url> url> url> url http://example.com/sample.html /loc> /loc> /loc> /loc> /loc> /loc> /loc> /loc> /loc> /loc> http://example.com/image.jpg /image:image> /image:loc> image:loc> image:image> image:image> image:image> image:image> image:image> image:image> image:image http://example.com/photo.jpg </image:loc> </image:image> </url> </urlset>

Video sitemaps work on the same premise as conventional sitemaps: either construct a separate one or add extensions to your existing one:

url> url> url> url> url> url> url> url https://example.com/mypage /video> /loc> /loc> /loc> /loc> /loc> … details about video 1… /video> /url>

However, be cautious when adding meta-data to video sitemaps or extensions.

“If the content on the video landing page is regarded more valuable than the information in the sitemap, Google may use it instead of the text you submit in your sitemap,” Google says. They’re referring to the language that was supplied through the description. You can offer Google a thumbnail, video duration, rating, family-friendliness, and more in addition to a description ( full list of video XML sitemap meta-data). This makes a lot of sense for sites that utilize a lot of video. It is mostly optional for everyone else.

In the case of news sitemaps, you should always have a distinct news XML sitemap. In this scenario, Google does not promote (or provide) extensions. News sitemaps assist Google in discovering and ranking new articles, which is particularly difficult in the publishing business due to the volume of information produced. Despite Google’s assertion that publishers using news sitemaps are not preferred, it does aid in the quicker ranking of hot news in Google News.

Sitemaps for breaking news have unique requirements:

  • Include only items that are less than two days old.

  • At any one moment, don’t add more than 1000 new items to an existing sitemap.

  • For article changes, update existing sitemaps.

XML sitemaps may also be used to create and signal certain meta-tags for Google. One example is hreflang, which may be added to a sitemap as an extension (complete guidelines):

url> url> url> url> url> url> url> url http://www.example.com/english/page.html </loc> xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”http://www.example.com/deutsch/page.html”/> xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”http://www.example.com/deutsch/page.html”/> xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de-ch” href=”http://www.example.com/schweiz-deutsch/page.html”/> xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de-ch” href=”http://www.example.com/schweiz-deutsch/page.html”/> xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”http://www.example.com/english/page.html”/> xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”http://www.example.com/english/page.html”/> </url>

According to John Mueller, Google ignores the priority property in XML sitemaps but pays heed to lastmod. Google evaluates the importance of your pages on its own, most likely based on their popularity and authority. Lastmod, on the other hand, is a tag that shows when the URL was last modified, which is very useful to Google.

For websearch, we just care about the URL and the latest update date.

What’s up, John? 17 August 2017 (@JohnMu)

According to John Mueller, XML sitemaps aren’t required for AMP URLs.

Best and Worst Practices for XML Sitemaps

At Atlassian, we used a third-party XML sitemap provider to replace our CMS’s missing XLM sitemap feature, and it worked well.

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Despite the fact that the format is text-based rather than XML, it works.

The New York Times uses robots.txt to reference its sitemaps and to differentiate formats such as videos and news. It also goes one step further by providing sitemaps for certain categories like food and elections.

As a publisher, it is important to create specialized XML sitemaps for current events since you need to know how quickly Google takes up the information and whether everything can be indexed without issues.

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Walmart has a similar categorical division that makes sense for ecommerce sites. For themes and categories, it offers Master XML sitemaps.

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The subject split enables Walmart to see how Google indexes various aspects of the site, such as fashion or entertainment, as seen in the picture below.

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It’s a good idea to create separate XML sitemaps for each subject, category, or both if your site is divided into them. Having the same URLs in various sitemaps has no known drawbacks.

Webinomy Tip: You may use the Webinomy Site Inspect tool to audit any website and look for six particular XML sitemap errors. The program will first check for the presence of a sitemap.xml file, then search for formatting mistakes, erroneous pages in the sitemap, and other issues that may be affecting the clarity of your sitemap.

Most content management systems provide built-in functionality for automatically creating an XML sitemap. However, some don’t, necessitating the use of a third-party program.

You may also be interested in reading: 10 Best Sitemap Generator Tools…

These are the XML sitemap generators that I recommend.

Name

Price

Limit

Features

Try it out for free.

Slickplan

$8.99/month

n/a

  • Builder that you can drag and drop
  • Inclusion of a custom page type
  • Text file import
  • Cloning
  • Editing in bulk
  • Exceptionally adaptable
  • Permissions granted to users
  • Individualized branding

30 days

Dynomapper

$40/month

200K URLs crawled every hour

  • In Google Analytics, keep an eye on URLs in sitemaps.
  • Exceptionally adaptable
  • Inclusion of a custom page type
  • Management of the work flow
  • Tags for URLs
  • Filtering of sitemaps
  • Permissions granted to users
  • Individualized branding

14 days

Writemaps

$14.99/month

n/a

  • Customizable
  • Individualized groups
  • Builder that you can drag and drop

3 free sitemaps

Screaming Frog

500 URLs are available for free.

£149.00/year

n/a

  • Although not designed for XML sitemaps, this is a suitable workaround for technological limitations.

n/a

Powermapper

$49/month

15K pages

  • Although not designed for XML sitemaps, it may export a feed to an XML format.

30 days

XML Sitemaps

1K pages for $4.99

1.5 million pages for $189.99

1,5 million words

  • Sitemaps for images and videos
  • Notifications by email
  • App for mobile devices
  • Checks for broken links.

Free for the first 500 pages

Plugins for WordPress

Get a 7-day trial for free.

Begin to improve your web exposure.

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When creating a website, it is important to create an XML sitemap. This will help search engines understand the content of your site and enable them to index your site more efficiently. With this in mind, we have created a free sitemap generator that you can use to quickly create an XML sitemap for your website.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I create an XML sitemap?

A: You can create an XML sitemap using a tool like the one available from Google.

What should be in your XML sitemap?

A: Your XML sitemap should contain your main pages, any subpages that you want to point users to in addition to the index. It is also a good idea for it to contain pages with unique content such as blog posts and press releases. Additionally, if you have certain types of resources like images or videos they need be included so that search engines can find them.

What is the best tool to create sitemap?

A: We recommend using a sitemap tool, such as Google Sitemaps or XMLHttpRequest.

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