XML Sitemap: The Highly Practical Content Roadmap

What is a site map, and why do you need one?

So you just redesigned your website, and it looks great. Nice! But, for your shiny new web presence to be truly effective there’s one more thing to do. You must create a sitemap and submit it to the major search engines.

What is a sitemap?

According to Google, a sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to crawl your site more intelligently.”

Nerd jargon aside, this means that your sitemap provides search engines with a roadmap to your website.

If you want to get a little crazy and look at the XML source code of your sitemap, you would find something like this:

<url>
  <loc>http://www.yoursiteurl.com </loc>
  <lastmod>2007-05-18</lastmod>
  <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
  <priority>1.00</priority>
</url>

Each page on your site will have this information associated with it, which is interpreted by search engines to give them the best possible idea of how things are connected and how often they are updated.

One important thing to take note of is the <changefreq> tag.

Changefreq keeps track of how often a page gets updated—its change frequency—and is important because it dictates how often search engine bots are likely to re-crawl your content.

In other words, the more often you update your website, the more often search engines will come back to look for new stuff.

An immediate SEO advantage

When you keep an up-to-date sitemap with Google, it provides some distinct benefits. Since search engines aren’t humans and don’t have the depth of reason and logic that we do, it’s immensely helpful to them when you can show them exactly how everything on your site is related. Sitemaps become especially useful if your site has a large number of pages, or if the pages connect in an illogical or unusual manner.

#Sitemaps are a highly practical roadmap to your content and can provide immediate #SEO benefits. Click To Tweet

Some of the immediate benefits of a sitemap include:

It establishes you as the original publisher of your content. Say someone reads your article and decides to curate it on their site. That’s great, but if Google doesn’t re-crawl your site before the other site you could wind up looking like the copycat:

sitemap original content example

sitemap curated content example

It minimizes the time that it takes for search engines to re-crawl your website. Simply put, the more often you update your site, the more often it will be crawled and indexed by search engines. The graphs below depict a study conducted by Moz. In this experiment, twelve blog posts were on the chopping blog, six of which were submitted to Google and Yahoo via a sitemap and six of which were not. Take a look at the time it took each search engine to crawl and index these posts:

Search engine crawl time without sitemap
Without a sitemap submitted, it took nearly two days for new blog posts to be found on Google and Yahoo.
Search engine crawl time with sitemap
With a sitemap submitted, new posts were indexed by Google in under a half an hour and by Yahoo in about 5 hours.

This data clearly indicates that submitting a sitemap when you update your site will significantly decrease the amount of time it takes for search engines to come back and check for new content. From an SEO standpoint, having Google reindex your content more frequently is the best thing since, well… Google.

In Conclusion

Generating an XML sitemap and submitting it to Google and the other major search engines is one of the easiest and most beneficial boosts you can give your website. It takes minimal time to set up and provides substantial long-term benefits.

Has submitting a sitemap had a significant impact on your website performance and business? Tell us about it in the comments!

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