What Is a Sitemap and How Do Sitemaps Work? 

This article aims to explain what a sitemap is and its functions.

We will also discuss how to create a sitemap for your site.

Table of Contents

What Is a Sitemap?

An XML Sitemap is a document used to notify search engines where videos, pages, and other forms of content reside on your website.

This can help demonstrate to search engines the significance of certain pages as well as files on any given website.

With a sitemap in place, search engines will be better equipped to index your website faster, helping people quickly locate it online.

Sitemaps can help to promote effective SEO practices.

Now that we better understand what a sitemap is let’s examine its functionality.

How Do Sitemaps Work?

Sitemaps offer the URLs and details about each URL on a website, providing both an index of its pages as well as more information for every link within.

Metadata typically includes information regarding an URL’s last update, frequency of updates, and priority, among other websites.

Search engine crawlers detect pages linked to other sites from within and outside, known as internal and backlinks. Furthermore, search engine crawlers can locate URLs within a sitemap and gain information through its metadata about those URLs.

However, using a sitemap doesn’t ensure that search engines will find pages.

SiteMap Format

Your XML Sitemap file should be encoded using UTF-8 encoding for optimal results.

Here is an example of a sitemap with one URL:

https://www.example.com/2017-10-06 weekly 0.9

Tag Definition

The current protocol being employed is XML Tag Definition.

URL entries use parent tags as their base tag; everything that falls underneath this parent tag becomes its child.

The address of a webpage includes HTTP and then a forward slash (/) when required from your website server.

The minimum Length for Text Filters should not Exceed 2,048 Characters.

Date and time stamp of last update, using W3C Datetime format: YYYY-MM-DD.

Frequency of Page Updates. Suitable options include continuous or hourly or weekly or daily, and monthly/annual updates, as well as never updates.

Since these values don’t correspond with any particular order, pages could be crawled less often than specified by you.

“Always” should be selected when working with files that are updated every time they’re accessed, while “Never” would be better for archived URLs.

Priority of URL in relation to other URLs on your website

Valid values vary from 0.0 to 1.0; the most frequent setting will typically be 0.5. It informs crawlers which pages you consider more essential and can even tell them which are more critical in general.

Prioritization does not alter a page’s rank on search engine results pages (SERPs), making this tag an effective way of making sure your priority pages appear in search results indexes.

Once you understand what a sitemap is and its uses, we will discuss when and why to utilize a site map.

When To Use a Sitemap

Sitemaps can be extremely effective at increasing the speed of crawling:

  • Websites with many pages or newer ones with only a few links should notify search engines as soon as any updates become available to inform them about them as quickly as possible.
  • Your website might not be discoverable by search engine crawlers due to requirements requiring users to sign in and fill out forms, videos, and images, with files larger than 50MB being limited for sitemap. On top of all that, Google News doesn’t always pick it up, either!

But, depending on your website’s content and structure, a sitemap may not be necessary.

  • Small websites don’t typically need sitemaps, but as your site begins to grow and its internal links increase significantly, a sitemap becomes essential in helping Google locate all relevant pages via links from the homepage.
  • Your media files or news websites don’t fit within search engine result pages (SERPs).

How To Create a Great Sitemap

CMSs like WordPress offer sitemaps as either an inherent feature or via plugins like YoastSEO.

Therefore, this means you won’t need to create your own sitemap as they have already done it in their own unique fashion.

Building a sitemap is straightforward.

Manual solutions may be possible; however, this process could take significantly more time than needed.

Implement tools like the XML Sitemaps Generator, which creates website maps compatible with Google, Bing, and other search engines.

After creating your sitemap, it must be submitted to this type of search engine, such as Google and Bing, via Webmaster Tools.

Use these steps to create your sitemap:

  1. Select the pages and their canonical versions that interest you to explore, avoiding URLs that require accounts or password protection in robots.txt files.
  2. Determine whether multiple sitemaps are necessary. It may be necessary to generate another sitemap if your existing one contains over 50k URLs, so use an XML tag-compliant format when creating another one.
  3. If you have multiple sitemaps, create the Sitemap Index file and place all links for them here. It is also important to encode data within an XML Sitemap document as well as URLs using entities escape and use their values throughout.

Entity escaping and URL Encoding

Here are a few examples of data values as well as their equivalent escapes for entities:

  • Ampersand (and) – &
  • Single Quotation (‘) – ‘
  • Double Quote (“) – “

All URLs that refer to sitemaps should use URL escaping for clarity with servers hosting them and to ensure comprehension by them. This encoding ensures they can be read correctly by visitors browsing your sitemap.

Due to Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) specifications, all URLs must comply with its syntax requirements.

Special characters you may use only when creating URLs are:

  • Numbers and letters
  • Unreserved characters – _____.
  • Reserved characters! *’ () (), @ =, $$$, and the like should never be used (reserved characters are shown with *’ in front).

Below is a list of reserved characters you should avoid using, as well as the encoded values which can be used as alternatives:

  • Spaces – percent20
  • ” – %22
  • < – %3C
  • > – %3E
  • # – %23
  • % -%25
  • | – %7C

To make things simpler, consider using a URL encoder.

How to Submit Your Sitemap on Google

  1. Log into the account you created on Google Search Console.
  2. Enter “Sitemap” in the Search field, and then click on “Sitemap.”
  3. Enter the URL for your sitemap’s index file (or files).
  4. Select “Submit”.

How to Submit Your Sitemap on Bing

  1. Log into your Bing Webmaster Tools account.
  2. Follow these steps: 1. Search “Sitemap,” then “Submit Sitemap,”
  3. Enter the URL for your sitemap’s index file (if necessary).
  4. Submit and click Submit to send.

Where To Find Your Sitemap

Chances are, you might already be using a website map without even realizing it!

Making sure you create a sitemap before beginning will save time and effort for you and save lots of frustration in the process.

If your website uses WordPress, type in: yoursitename.wordpress.com/sitemap.xml with “your site name” as the replacement text.

For custom domain websites, type in yourdomainname.com/sitemap.xml with “your domain name” being replaced with the desired domain name.

Custom domain names serve as your web address, making the domain an essential part of your brand.

An example of a custom domain would be yoursitename.com instead of yoursitename.wordpress.com.

If you still can’t locate your sitemap, try substituting “/sitemap.xml” with one of these alternatives:

  • /sitemap-index.xml
  • /sitemap.php
  • /sitemap.txt
  • /sitemap.xml.gz
  • /sitemap/
  • /sitemap/sitemap.xml
  • /sitemapindex.xml
  • /sitemap/index.xml
  • /sitemap1.xml /RSS/
  • /rss.xml /atom.xml

Conclusion: Sitemaps Are Good For SEO

We have discussed what a sitemap is and its function.

Assist search engines in discovering all pages on your website. Search results could feature them.

Website stats are especially helpful if your website is large or new, with only a few links.

If your website undergoes frequent updates, sitemaps could also help inform search engines of any new information quickly.

Sitemaps can also help websites that don’t easily receive indexing by crawlers of search engines to remain visible to potential visitors.

Life 4 Leads can assist with SEO or sitemap creation – just let us know how we can assist! Our staff would love to chat!

Join our newsletter and gain more insight into marketing from us!



Do You Need Assistance With Social Media?