Why Sitemaps Are The Unsung Hero Of SEO

Why Sitemaps Are The Unsung Hero Of SEO

by | Oct 8, 2018

Sitemaps are easy to overlook in the quest to improve a website’s SEO performance. They’re used almost exclusively by search engines, and many web developers give little thought to how a sitemap will impact indexing and ranking potential.

Even worse, many web developers will completely neglect to submit a site’s sitemap URL to Google and other search engines when a new site goes live or significant updates to content have been made.
 

What Is A Sitemap?

Put simply, a sitemap is like the index of a book, but for your website. It’s a hyperlinked list of all the pages, posts, categories, images, and other media your website includes. The reason they’re so valuable for SEO is that sitemaps are how search engines discover what pages/posts are on your website, and when new pages/posts have been added.

Sitemaps can be manually created, but most web development platforms (like WordPress) offer a variety of tools and plugins for automatically generating dynamic sitemaps that are automatically updated whenever new content is added to your site.

One of the most popular free SEO plugins, Yoast SEO, does an amazing job of creating XML sitemaps automatically after the plugin is activated. Here’s what it looks like:

As you can see above, the sitemap lists the URL of each blog post on our website (page URLs are listed in their own sitemap) along with the number of images included in each post, and the date the post was published.
 

How Sitemaps Help SEO

Continuing with the book analogy, imagine you wanted to find a particular chapter in a book, but without an index you’re forced to flip through the pages until you find the chapter you’re looking for. It may not sound like a big deal for one book, but consider having to do that for a billion books. Every day.

Without a sitemap, this is basically what happens when search engine bots land on a website. Crawling a website manually and following the links on each page is time consuming for search crawlers. If there’s nothing there to tell them what’s on the site, they’re much less likely to index everything. This means important content could be overlooked, and therefore may not show up in search results.
 

Submitting Your Sitemaps

While search engines will eventually stumble upon your site’s sitemap, the faster way to get your content indexed is to manually submit it to each search engine. Both Google and Bing offer their own portals for submitting and reviewing sitemap data. Google has Search Console, while Bing offers Webmaster Tools.

You’ll need to create a free account for each service in order to submit a sitemap, but these services offer a variety of helpful SEO tools and information that every web developer should be taking advantage of anyway.

To learn more about improving your SEO, please contact us to discuss your project and how we can help.

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