Although HTML Sitemap was popular to show inner pages of a website in the past, trend has changed nowadays. Extended Markup Language (XML) has become the encoding standard for mapping pages of a website that merely makes search engines able to learn about the web pages. An XML Sitemap is a file that informs search engines about the pages of a website. It lists all the URLs and let webmasters include important information about the pages like last update time, update frequency and mark the URLs that are more important to crawl than rest of the others. Having a sitemap is highly recommended for any website in terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) as it maps all the inner pages and guides the crawlers and bots to crawl through the whole domain. In this post, I will show some importance of XML sitemaps in WordPress.
In WordPress websites, there are various XML Sitemap generator plugins with various added features that generates XML Sitemap within a single click. Screenshot below shows how XML Sitemap is generated using a WordPress plugin called XML sitemaps plugin. :
Interesting facts about Sitemap
- Even if all the page URLs are submitted to the Google Console, all pages might not get indexed. A sitemap generally informs the robot about the pages to crawl, but crawled pages need not get indexed ever.
- Although XML Sitemap is important with respect to SEO, both the XML and HTML Sitemap do not either affect search results neither penalize the website.
- A false view about sitemap is that submitting website or sitemap to Google Console (Google Webmaster Tools) guarantees that website gets indexed and visible to Google. But this is not true as Google itself says sitemap might help to know about the site structure but does not guarantee indexing or visibility increment. It says to submit sitemap for those pages which were otherwise hard to be discoverable.
- Submission of sitemap does not guarantee increment in page ranking.
- Some experts advise if your sitemap is clean coded, has great internal and inbound linking, you need not submit sitemap to search engines. Although no sitemap submitted, a search engine visits your website depending upon the on-site and off-site links, indexes and ranks those pages.
Importance of XML Sitemaps in WordPress
Using an XML Sitemap is beneficial in many ways. Below list describes some important features that makes it great choice regarding SEO.
- Basically an XML Sitemap enlists all the URLs of a website and enhances indexing and visibility of pages to the search engines.
- XML Sitemap immediately informs any update done in pages to the search engines. This is particularly important for dynamic large websites where a lot of pages get updated frequently and manual update to search engines is not possible.
- Pages can be given a priority and most important pages are crawled with highest priority. Priority is important in the sense the bot crawls the pages having highest priority at first, assuring the most important pages get crawled faster.
- XML Sitemap also classifies pages as per their contents to categories and helps better indexing of them.
- If your site has contents in AJAX or Flash that are not easily discoverable to bots, XML Sitemap listing will be of great help to index them in search engines.
- If your site contains large number of archive contents with poor links between them, XML Sitemap plays an important role to inter-link them and facilitate better crawling.
- Integrating XML Sitemap with robots.txt file, more pages gets crawled and resource used to index these pages are minimized.
How Google Bot crawls your website?
Google crawls any websites using complex algorithms. Crawling is the initial process by which Googlebot finds new pages to be added to the search index. The program that does the task of crawling or fetching these pages are called bot, robot or spider. At this stage, the website owners can choose which pages to allow crawl using XML Sitemap. If the website pages are linked properly, Google crawlers discover most of the pages by following the link from one page to other. It sort the web pages based upon the page contents and other factors. New pages, updates to old sites, and dead links are noted and Google index is updated accordingly.
XML Vs HTML Sitemap :: WHICH IS BETTER?
There are some differences in XML and HTML Sitemap. Below table list some of the major differences between them:
|1. It is generally intended for Search Engines Bots.||1. It is suitable for human readers.|
|2. An XML file contains meta data associated with the URLs such as last modified date, priority, change frequency etc.||2. HTML Sitemap only lists the URLs of pages that are helpful for website visitors to reach concerned pages.|
|3. Search Engines do not accept sitemap in XML format.||3. Search Engines do not accept sitemap in HTML format.|
|4. XML Sitemap includes additional information (metadata) which makes the Search Engine Spiders to crawl the website in intelligent manner, resulting in less traffic to the web server which in turn reduces bandwidth and costs.||
4. No such provision exists.
Although there seem more advantages of submitting XML Sitemap to the search engines, a HTML Sitemap is equally beneficial as this page gets crawled by search engines and inner pages gets crawled through the links on the page. So, conclusively, both the XML and HTML Sitemap should be included in a website.
Dhiraj Bikram Khadka
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