What is XML Sitemap

Did you know, sometimes google’s bots not able to crawl your website properly due to unoptimized website structure. And a result, not able to index the post on your website.

Suppose, You publish a new post (article) on your website, and its not in the search engine, then how much traffic you lose from that post.

create XML sitemap
XML sitemap

An XML Sitemap is a good way to tell search engines that your website is available for indexing or you update a new post on your website.

The primary purpose of using an XML sitemap for a website is to help search engine’s bots to crawl website efficiently and increase the visibility of content (like a post, images, video, and pdf, etc).

You can tell Google, “Look, this is my site, and here are the pages I want you to index.” Within minutes, Google will respond to your submission, crawl your site, and index your content.

Today’s article is about to address the following things,

  1. What is XML Sitemap?
  2. Create XML sitemap
  3. Check And Test XML sitemap Online
  4. Limitations For XML Sitemaps

So, lets we start,

What is XML Sitemap?

Let we first understand an XML and Sitemap Term;

  • XML” stands for “Extensible Markup Language,” means a way of displaying information on websites and
  • Sitemap”  means how the website is structured and what the website includes.

Search engines use crawlers (called bots) to index and organize information on the web. These Bots can read all kinds of information. But an XML sitemap makes it easy for the bots to see what’s on your website and index it very quickly.

Technically,

An XML Sitemap is a TEXT file that is full of a list of website URLs. 

Have a look,

text file and synatx of XML sitemap
the text file

As I told you, it’s a text-based file which contains all the URL of your website.

Note: Yellow color highlighting the URL of the webpage.

The best example to understand “What Is XML sitemap” is House:

Suppose your website is a house and have a lot of rooms like a page. When crawler come to your website like a Guest come to the home. Your guest doesn’t familiar with the hosue structure, if you provide him map or guide like an XML sitemap we provide to Google, then Guest can easily see your all the room with ant dificulties.

So, now we have an idea of what is the XML sitemap.

Now, Let’s move next!

How To Create XML Sitemap File For Website

It does not matter, you are using a custom design website or using WordPress (or Drupal or Joomla) base design website. An XML Sitemap works perfectly for both. Because all search engine works on the standard XML sitemap protocol.

There is a lot of methods to create an XML sitemap for the website. Few of them are

  • Create XML Site Manually For Website
  • Create SIte With XML Sitemap Generator Tool
  • Create XML sitemap With Plugin (For WordPress)

So, Let’s we starting making sitemap file

Before starting anything, let we create one XML sitemap Manually to understand its syntax and function of the meta tag which allows you to provide additional information about the content of each page.

Step 1: Save a text file (notepad) with extension .xml ( for exmaple, sitemap.xml).

Step 2: Now, we need to tell search engine, how XML sitemap file in encoded.

Paste the following code into the text file.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
 <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
 </urlset>

Step 3: Now, We have to add the URL, in the TEXT file by warping it in the URL tag.

Enter the following code in the text file just below the urlset tag.

<url>
    <loc>http://www.website.com/</loc>
    <lastmod>2012-12-12</lastmod>
    <changefreq>daily</changefreq>
    <priority>1</priority>
</url>

Description of all the tags

  • <urlset> Indicates the beginning and end of a set of URLs to be crawled.
  • <loc> is used to link to the page.
  • <lastmod> presents the date the page was last modified.
  • <Changefreq>, the average change frequency of the page (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly…). Use ‘never’ for archived URLs.
  • <Priority>. Priority values range from 0.0 to 1.0 (1.0 being the most important). The default priority of a page is 0.5.

Note:

  1. Priority has no direct effect on your actual search engine ranking. We typically set the home page at 1.0, important category pages at 0.8, and low priority pages such as Terms of service at 0.2.
  2. The loc tag is required, the changefreq, lastmod, and priority tags are optional.
  3. Use the same URL tag to add more links in the XML sitemap.

Tips:  If your sitemap is too big, you can split it into multiple sitemaps,

Add the link to another Sitemap file into the main sitemap file with some extra tag. For example:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<sitemapindex xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
   <sitemap>
      <loc>http://www.website.com/sitemap1.xml</loc>
   </sitemap>
   <sitemap>
      <loc>http://www.website.com/sitemap2.xml</loc>
   </sitemap>
</sitemapindex>

So, In this way, we can create an XML sitemap manually.

But your job does not end it here. You have to upload the XML sitemap file to the root directory of the website. If you are not familiar with the hosting environment then contact your website developer to help todo this for you.

Now, let us move to create a sitemap by using XML Sitemap Genagteor tool

Create Sitemap With XML Sitemap Generator Tool

To create an XML sitemap, I personally recommended use “Screamingfrog“. The Screaming Frog is a powerful desktop software that helps you with a whole range of SEO activities and well know for technical SEO.

Note: This tool, provides free crawling for up to 500 pages. To crawl websites larger than 500 pages, you will need to purchase a Screaming Frog license.

So, let’s create an XML sitemap by using a screaming frog.

  • Download the software and install it on your system.
  • Now open and enter the URL of your website in the box and hit the start button.
enter URL in screaming frog
enter URL in screaming frog

Screaming frog starts crawling your website and gives you the technical audit report of your website.

After 100% completion.

  • Click on the Sitemap and then select “Create XML Sitemap
click on sitemap in screaming frog
click on sitemap in screaming frog

Hitechwork has 800+ pages. So, it only takes about a one and half minutes.

Note: Create a different XML sitemap for the image too. Not include an image in page (article) Sitemap

  • After, clicking on “Create XML Sitemap” you will see some option to select,
create XML sitemap in screaming frog
create an XML sitemap in screaming frog

Leave this option as it is or selects according to your website structure and hit the next button.

If you want to understand the meaning of these two terms then have a look at these two articles.

  1. Noindex Nofollow meta tag and
  2. Canonical URL Tag

The tabs “Last Modified,” “Priority,” and “Change Frequency” deal with the date and time that website pages were modified and the <priority> settings. As we did in the “Create XML sitemap manually” section.

After doing the setting click on Next and save the  XML sitemap file on your computer.

Note:  Filename should be Sitemap with .xml extension. (for example sitemap.xml )

Congratulations! You’ve created an XML sitemap by using the XML sitemap generator tool.

Create XML Sitemap Using Plugin

If you are using WordPress, then you can create an XML sitemap in just a single click. To do this you can use Yoast Plugin. Yoast

is one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress and can handle a lot of technical things on your website.

Open your WordPress Dashboard and click on Plugin>>ADD_New and install the Yoast SEO plugin.  After installing this plugin you will see a new option called SEO on your WordPress side Navigation bar.

  • Click on SEO >> XML_Sitemap.
yoast XML sitemap open
yoast XML sitemap

Note: If you not able to see XML sitemap option then click on SEO>>Dashbaord>>Feature and enable the “Advanced settings pages” option. Click on enable XML sitemap functionality and save the setting.

  • After that click on the “XML sitemap”  link and you will see something link this.
xml sitemap file in browser
XML sitemap file

This is your XML sitemap which is automatically created by Yoast plugin.

Now, lets we do some basic setting,

User Sitemap Tab

If your WordPress site has multiple authors, and you want their author archive URLs to be indexed, you can enable this tab.

  • I’m using a single author website so I disabled it.
user sitemap in yoast
user sitemap in Yoast

Now, click “save changes.”

Post-Types Tab

In this section, you’ll decide which types of posts, page, and Media you want to add in the XML sitemap

past type sitemap setting in yoast
past type sitemap setting in Yoast

Add the page to Sitemap according to your website environment.

Again, click “save changes.”

Excluded posts

If you want to exclude any post off of sitemap then you can do it under Exclude Tab.

Just enter the page ID in the box.

exclude the post form sitemap in yoast plugin
exclude the post form sitemap in Yoast plugin

Note: Please keep in mind, if you keep a post off of the sitemap, people can still find it, access it, and view it and Google can also index it. User rel nofollow tag to stop indexing of that page.

If you’ve added any posts to the exclusion list, click “save changes.”

Taxonomies.

These settings totally depending on you and your website environment.

add catogery and tag in the XML sitemap
category and tag in the XML sitemap

If you are not sure what to do, then read “Difference between WordPress category and Tag” and understand the importance of category and tag then make your decision,

Don’t forget to save the setting, If you did any change.

How To Check And Test XML Sitemap

I hope you successfully, Create an XML sitemap file for the website, So, now it’s a time to check and test XML Sitemap if working fine or not.

After creating a sitemap, upload it to the root folder of your website and type the following string in the browser to check the XML SItemap file is accessible by bots are not.

Yourwebsitename.com/sitemap.xml and you will see something like this if you created an XML sitemap manually.

sitemap created with screaming frog
sitemap created with screaming frog

OR, if you are using third-party plugin like Yoast SEO then you will see something like this,

check XML sitemap in browser
check XML sitemap

Note: Yoast generate Multisitemap file, that why you are seeming this sitemap_index.xml in the URL

To Test the XML sitemap file, you can use the Google webmaster tool. But, First, you have to verify the site with Google search engine

  • After that click on Crael>>Sitemap.
  • Enter the URL of sitemap file and hit the Test button.
test xml sitemap file in webmaster tool
test xml sitemap file
  • Now, click on View Report and you will see this page.
test report of sitemap in google webmaster tool
test report of sitemap

If you find any error in the Test Report then check your XML sitemap file and fix it, Then again Test it in the webmaster tool and make sure you do not have any error

Note: One error in sitemap file is acceptable but not more than one.

Are There Any Limitations For XML Sitemaps?

XML Sitemaps have a couple of limitations to keep in mind:

  • The maximum URL limit in the sitemap is 50.000 URLs.
  • Their file size is limited to 50MB when uncompressed.

Note: If your XML Sitemap exceeds these limits you need to split them across multiple XML Sitemaps.

What I do Next?

FAQ’s

What is an XML sitemap SEO?
In simple words, an XML sitemap is a list of your website’s URLs. It works as a roadmap to tell search engines what content is available and how to reach it.
What is the difference between the XML sitemap and HTML sitemap?
The difference is that XML sitemaps are written for all search engines and HTML sitemaps are written for humans. An XML sitemap is specially composed for search engine spiders. An HTML sitemap allows lost human users to find a page on your site that they are looking for.
Why is an XML sitemap important?
A genuine XML sitemap acts as a roadmap of your website that leads Google to all your important pages. XML sitemaps can be helpful for SEO, as they acknowledge Google to quickly find your essential website pages, even if your internal linking isn’t perfect. This post explains what they are and how they help you rank better.
Is XML sitemap important for SEO?
XML Sitemaps are valuable for SEO because they make it more comfortable for Google to find your site’s pages—this is important because Google ranks web PAGES, not just websites. There is no downside of having an XML Sitemap and having one can raise your SEO, so we highly recommend them.

Conclusion

If you are running a small business website (live a static website), then you no need to use an XML sitemap, with the few external backlink google can index all your webpage. But provide more information about your website to google means increase the visibility of your website in the eye of search engines.

If you’ve never created an XML sitemap for your website, my advice is simple: Get one made today.

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If you have any suggestion or problems about XML sitemap file please feel free to comment below.

Fawad Yousuf
Follow me
Feb 14, 2016
2 thoughts on “What is XML Sitemap & How to Create, Check and Test it”
  1. Harvinder, you have helped me a lot! I have just been able to submit my sitemap to google with your great instruction. Will do so with Bing and Yandex. Many thanks indeed and I will visit your blogs quite often to get knowledge.

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