Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a file format that can be used to create sitemaps that are effortlessly crawled by search engine bots. In this sense, XML sitemaps assist search bots in better understanding the pages on the website and allowing for easier crawling of the site.
How do XML sitemaps work?
XML sitemap files follow a uniform structure, with information on each page being presented in a way that is easy for bots to crawl. An XML sitemap features a head tag and a tag containing the URL of the site. Underneath this will be the tags for the individual pages. An example of a typical sitemap structure is below:
- Full page URL - https://www.xml.com/
- Last date on which it was modified - 2018-07-18
- How frequently it gets modified - daily -
- The importance of the page or its’ priority listing - 0.5
The sitemap sits within the root directory file. To ensure that Google knows where to find it, uploading it to Google Search Console is an essential next step.
Why are they important?
Having an XML sitemap is crucial because it gives search engine bots a clear map detailing the arrangement of a website. This helps search engines access the pages on a website, when they might otherwise be difficult to navigate.
It is also essential for large sites, which can have a great deal of content that is isolated from the rest of the website. This is because a sitemap details important pages that need to be indexed regardless of how they are linked to across the website.
A sitemap is particularly important for both large websites and websites with poor internal linking as it allows for all pages to be accessed by search engine bots and indexed.
How to utilise XML Sitemaps
The first step in putting an XML sitemap onto a domain is to build one. This can be done online using one of the many sitemap builders on the web. The URL of the homepage needs to be inserted and a downloadable file will be generated. Another option for webmasters is to use the popular Screaming Frog tool to generate a sitemap. The SEO software will crawl the website before generating a sitemap file and giving options for which pages should take greatest priority.
Once an XML sitemap has been generated, the next step is to upload it to the root directory file of the website, before submitting it to Google via the Google Search Console. On the crawl section there will be a sitemap tab, with a button for uploading the XML file.