Improve Your SEO With Sitemap Best Practices 2020

19 October 2020

Many SEO experts find it hard to consider whether to create a sitemap or not. Some people think it is not necessary and can do without it. And then there are some who firmly believe that sitemaps are a must for any website.


The short answer to ending this dilemma is that sitemaps are still useful for your website. You might face challenges if you don't have one, but you'll never be penalized for having one. So, to be on the safe side, create a sitemap for your website if you don't have one already. But, before we get into the sitemap best practices for improving SEO, let's first take a closer look at what sitemaps are and why they are essential.

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What Is A Sitemap?

As the name says, A sitemap is a map of your website that helps search engines find, crawl, and index all of the content on your website.. In a more technical sense, this is a file that lists the pages and other files on your website and the relationship between them. Search engines use this sitemap file to crawl your website smarter. It helps them to crawl and index your web pages in a better way.

How Do Sitemaps Help with SEO?

In terms of SEO, sitemaps provide a direct benefit as they help search engines crawl your website and index your pages better. This allows them to better understand your website content and to rank your pages for the most relevant search queries. And the better search engines understand and index your pages, the higher your search rankings will be for relevant search queries. Sitemaps are especially useful for large websites or those with a lot of unrelated pages. In these cases, sitemaps help show the relationships between pages and help search engines better understand your site.

What Sitemap Best Practices Should You Follow?

There are many sitemap best practices recommended by SEO experts. But we've done our research and compiled a list of the most useful. Here are fundamental sitemap best practices you need to follow to improve your SEO.

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Prioritize your web pages

One of the best practices when it comes to sitemaps is to prioritize your web pages. Google's sitemap protocol allows you to rank your web pages and give them a score between 0.1 and 1. Pages that you give a higher score will be crawled more often than those with a low score.

As a rule of thumb, give higher scores to your dynamic pages where you update content more frequently. For example, if you have a blog where you add content regularly, or keep updating your posts, rate them higher. Likewise, pages like "contact us" or "about us" which are more static - and not frequently updated - should get lower scores.

Correctly categorize your content

The fundamental purpose of a sitemap is to help search engines understand the structure and content of your website. For this, it is crucial to categorize your content correctly so that commonalities and hierarchies are clear. Therefore, properly ranking your website content is one of the essential sitemap best practices that you can follow. For most websites, the main content structure is the home page, followed by categories and their subcategories. And it follows the same hierarchical order.

Create a sitemap using the tools and submit it to Google

The sitemap best practice is to use sitemap generator tool to create sitemaps. It is much easier and faster to create sitemaps using tools than to create them manually. If you have a WordPress website, you can use the Yoast plugin and activate XML sitemaps directly from the plugin itself. For other websites, you can use Google XML sitemaps to create XML sitemaps.

Place the sitemap on your home page and root directory

HTML sitemaps are primarily designed to provide easy site navigation for your users. Additionally, placing a sitemap directly on your home page is a good practice that makes it easier for users to navigate your website. Users can browse the sitemap and URL list to find what they're looking for, instead of individually checking different categories and subcategories.

Another benefit of this strategy is that search engines also start crawling your homepage. So if new links are added, those will be easier to find if a sitemap is right there on the home page. Likewise, in the case of XML sitemaps, you need to place them in the root directory to achieve similar results.

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Never include a "Noindex" URL in your website sitemap

Noindex URLs are the ones you don't want search engines to crawl or index. These can be utility pages that you don't want to show in search results but are useful for your website. If you don't want them to be indexed, you don't need to add them to your sitemap, as you'll be wasting your crawl budget. Plus, it gives a mixed message to search engines. If something is in your sitemap, it's supposed to be big enough to get indexed. And the "Noindex" tags just give the opposite message: these URLs don't need to be indexed. This should be avoided.

Take advantage of dynamic sitemaps for large websites

For large websites with many pages and frequently added content, follow the best practices for using dynamic sitemaps. Dynamic sitemaps are those that have a set of rules that allow them to be updated when pages are added or deleted automatically. This means that it will stay up to date, which is another good sitemap practice that you should follow.

Conclusion

Sitemaps are powerful and form the basis of SEO. You should use sitemaps to improve your site's ranking by helping search engines crawl your site smarter. However, there are some sitemap best practices that you need to follow to do this properly. These best practices will help you create sitemaps the right way and make sure they do their job correctly. Take advantage of the sitemap best practices listed here to create, submit, and update your sitemaps the right way.

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