What is an XML Sitemap Index?
The simple definition of a Sitemap is that it’s kind of like a Table of Contents for search engines. It’s written in a computer language called XML. It makes it easier search engines to learn about the site’s structure.
If the Sitemap uses well-formed XML code, the chances are better that the website’s content may be noted for listing consideration. I know…you’re thinking, “What the hell does that mean?” It simply means that having an XML Sitemap improves the chances of your content being discovered and being crawled by the engines. Being “crawled by the engines” is a phrase commonly used by developers. The search engines send out robots, sometimes known as Bots, or Crawlers, or Spiders that reach the first page of your website and go through the content. If there are links to other documents, the bots crawl those links and gather data to bring back to the database. So the XML Sitemap increases the odds of pages and posts being crawled rather than just replying on just links.
An example of what this type of map looks like can be found by clicking the link below:
As you will see from the XML Sitemap link above, it doesn’t look pretty or have any of the niceties that regular webpages and post have. The pluggin that we used generates all of the links for the pages and posts throughout our website. The pretty bland appearance doesn’t matter as this file is really just used by the search engines. How do the engines know this file exists? We let them know. We manually submitted the link to the major search engines. You can click DIY Search Engine Listings to see how simple it is to do.
Do You Need a Sitemap?
If you want it straight from the horse’s mouth, we went to Google to see what they had to say!
You need a Sitemap if:
- Your site is really large.
As a result, it’s more likely Google web crawlers might overlook crawling some of your new or recently updated pages.
- Your site has a large archive of content pages that are isolated or well not linked to each other.
If you site pages do not naturally reference each other, you can list them in a sitemap to ensure that Google does not overlook some of your pages.
- Your site is new and has few external links to it.
Googlebot and other web crawlers crawl the web by following links from one page to another. As a result, Google might not discover your pages if no other sites link to them.
- Your site uses rich media content, is shown in Google News, or uses other sitemaps-compatible annotations.
Google can take additional information from sitemaps into account for search, where appropriate.
So at the end of the day we learned it really comes down to structure and organization. Much like a physical brick and mortar business, the success of pretty much any business, no matter the industry, hugely depends on how organized and structured the establishment is in all that it does. Sitemaps help to make your content easier for search engines to read and are just one of the kabillion steps in creating an optimized website.