By Amy Andrews
Ever wonder what a sitemap is, how to update it, or if it really helps your website SEO? In this article, I will explain what to include in your website sitemap so that it will help your SEO. A sitemap is a list of your website pages that lets search engines know what type of content resides on your website.
What Should I Include in My Sitemap and Why?
You should list all of your website pages that you would like to be indexed by search engines. Be sure not to include any pages that are listed in your robots.txt file that are set to noindex. This is confusing to search engines because setting a page as noindex tells the search engine to ignore and not list that page in any search results.
Make sure all of the pages included in your sitemap have good content and are worth indexing. Download our The Easy-to-Use SEO Worksheet for more tips!
Types of Sitemaps
There are two types of sitemaps: XML and HTML. Both are actually really simple to do. (You can also embed a sitemap into your website manually.)
XML sitemaps tell search engines which pages to index. There are some XML sitemap tools that are really helpful for generating your sitemap. There are XML sitemap generators that will help you save time when creating a sitemap.
Creating a sitemap is as easy as entering your url into xml-sitemaps.com. If your website is on the smaller side, you can generate one for free. According to Moz, you can save time by having a dynamic XML sitemap instead of trying to manually add urls and manage all your pages individually.
HTML sitemaps help people navigate your website. Here is an example of an HTML sitemap on w3.org. You can see that it is there to help your website users to find a page on your website. It is similar to your navigation, but everything is listed in one place.
Another useful tool is Google Search Console. Using Google Search Console, you can track your website crawl errors, create a sitemap for your website, and submit a sitemap to Google. Google Search Console also lets you know if any of your important HTML tags are missing, such as header tags. Header tags are one of the most SEO-friendly HTML tags that let search engines know the most important headers in your website or blog posts.
Does a Website Sitemap Affect Crawling?
Yes, your website sitemap does affect crawling. Your website sitemap will cause crawl errors if it is incorrect. You should monitor and fix crawl errors that show up in Google Search Console on a weekly basis. The more crawl errors you have, the more your website will be flagged for incomplete content and broken links. Having too many broken links and missing pages will cause Google to stop indexing your website.
When and How Should You Update Your Sitemap?
If your website is small and you set up your sitemap manually, you should update it anytime you add a page to your website. If you’re using a dynamic XML sitemap, you are all set, but again, make sure you check and correct your crawl errors in your Google Search Console on a weekly basis.