What is an XML Sitemap and Does my Website Need One?
January 29th 2022 | By Steve Grant
A well-structured website with a clear navigation and well-ordered linking structure is a site that’s easy to crawl for the search engine robots. And a site that’s easy to crawl is one that’s more likely to be better understood by the search engines, so that they can link its relevancy to search queries. But what if your site isn’t well-structured with a clear navigation and well-ordered linking structure? Rather than leave things to chance and risk the search engines missing vital pages, you can use an XML sitemap.
Google has become a very clever thing over the years. It’s got to the point where it has the ability to mimic user behaviour, and it uses this knowledge when it ranks websites. So a website that’s user friendly and provides people with the information they are searching for will usually rank well in the search results.
But Google needs to know what’s on a website, and how it is relevant to search queries. This is where a good linking infrastructure comes in. Not all sites have this, however. Some websites have been around for a while, with content being added here and there over many years, and perhaps no thought being given to how that content links up with the rest of the site’s pages. And this is where an XML sitemap could prove beneficial.
An XML sitemap is useful when a site’s overall and internal linking structure leave a lot to be desired.
As well as directing Google to all the content on a site, XML sitemaps can also boost its crawl-ability. By including the last modified date, you can inform the search engines which pages are new and should be crawled, and which haven’t changed since the last crawl. This is a significant benefit, because it considerably speeds up the process of getting your newly added web pages indexed.
Google wants to know each and every page of a website. They want to see if there is interesting information available that it can use to answer users’ search queries. An XML sitemap acts as a roadmap to the various points of interest on your site.
Does my website need an XML sitemap?
It is considered useful for every website to have an XML sitemap. Even a site that is well-structured will benefit, and having a sitemap certainly does no harm.
It’s a good way to ensure the search engines can find each and every page on your website. But it shouldn’t be used as an excuse for bad website housekeeping. If an XML sitemap is a necessity, it means your website could probably do with an overhaul, or at very least, a good tidy up.
Always remember the importance of user experience. If you don’t provide a pleasant experience for your users, they’ll likely head off to a competitor’s website. And Google won’t be fast to rank it well in the search results either.
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