OnlineIdea | SiteMaps - what are they and how do you generate one?
Marketing performance monitoring
SiteMaps - what are they and how do you generate one?

A web search engine, like a stray traveller, needs a map to find its way in an unknown place. In this case, of course, it is the website to be indexed. A site map is one tool that does not require a great deal of work to implement, yet is capable of delivering many benefits.

Google is constantly scanning the Internet, scouring links for information that may be useful to users. The content of each sub-page can be used to create a single result, so it is worth ensuring that the search engine can properly identify the content of our site.

What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a small file, written in markup language, containing a collection of all URLs of subpages, sections and other resources belonging to a particular website. It serves to make navigation easier for both users and search engine robots. It usually comes in one of two formats:

  • XML (Extensible Markup Language) - a map invisible to users, created to improve indexing by search engines. It allows you to control what you want to appear in the results. It can contain metadata about each individual link, with details to facilitate efficient updating in the event of modifications.
  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language) - a user-generated map, which is a list of sub-pages that makes it easier to see the layout of the site and navigate through the various sections. A link to it is placed in the footer.

Far more important from the point of view of optimisation for visibility in the organic results is the XML sitemap. Its structure is limited to a few basic tags, such as <loc> (location of a subpage), <lastmod> (date of last modification) or <priority> (determination of priority in the structure). There are several types, corresponding to specific elements:

  • index of pages - a classic sitemap, containing a list of URLs of subpages,
  • image files index - a list of all images placed on the website,
  • video materials index - a list of all the films placed on the website,
  • news index - prepared for news aggregators, downloading information from various sources (e.g. Google News),
  • cumulative index - sometimes it is necessary to have several sitemaps due to their limitations (e.g. as regards size or number of addresses), so such a cumulative list contains links to files with other sitemaps concerning a given site.

Why implement a sitemap?

There are a number of SEO benefits to implementing a sitemap, including primarily:

  • tidying up the list of URLs,
  • possibility of prioritizing selected pages,
  • informing the search engine of changes made to content,
  • determining how often a site is edited.

Sitemap is particularly useful when a site:

  • has just appeared on the web,
  • contains extensive content,
  • is subject to regular updates,
  • does not have extensive internal linking,
  • contains a lot of media files.

How do I generate a sitemap?

Preparing a sitemap can be compared to creating a structured diagram, showing a hierarchy of pages with their links. There are several methods of generating them, and the most popular are:

  • the use of modules built into the CMS - popular content management systems, such as WordPress, for example, offer the possibility to install plug-ins that will generate the sitemap and then also update it automatically,
  • use of external tools (generators) - there are a number of free solutions that enable the creation of a sitemap. These can be computer programs (e.g. Screaming Frog) or web applications (e.g. However, it should be remembered that the free versions have certain limitations, mostly as regards the number of subpages.
  • manual preparation of the file - by far the most time-consuming approach, but one that allows you to customise all elements of the map as you wish.

Drawing up a sitemap is very helpful in terms of SEO. It facilitates content indexing by search engines, which consequently influences link positioning in Google results. Thanks to the free solutions currently available on the market, generating sitemaps has become less time-consuming and is therefore worth bearing in mind when creating a website.

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