What is an XML sitemap?

An XML sitemap is one of the most effective ways to tell search engines which pages to index on your site. It gives search engines an idea of the hierarchy of your site and lets you flag the high quality pages you want added to Google’s index. To create an effective sitemap that search engines like Google can discover easily, you need to follow the best practices listed below.


XML Site Map Best Practices

  • Adhere to all of the  XML Sitemap Requirements listed in the sitemap.org
  • If possible, it’s best to dynamically generate an XML sitemap so you don’t have to keep it manually updated
    • This will help search engines find your new pages more quickly
  • Depending on how often your website changes, its XML sitemap should generally be updated 2 to 4 times a year
    • If you’re constantly creating new pages for your site, update the XML sitemap once a month
  • Search engines use <changefreq> and <lastmod> tags to adjust their crawl frequency 
    • Use priority tags to tell a search engine whether a page is important0.0 is the least important
    • 1.0 is the most important page on the website
    • 0.5 is the default priority
  • XML sitemaps should contain the absolute, canonicalized version of the page
  • All websites should be fully HTTPS, and a sitemap should only contain secured URLs
  • Types of pages to avoid in XML sitemaps:
    • Blocked pages
    • Redirected URLs
    • Faceted pages
    • URLs with parameters:
      • Ampersand (&)
      • Question mark (?)
      • Hash mark (#)
      • Single quote (‘)
      • Double quote (“)
      • Greater than (>)
      • Less than (<)
    • Not found pages
    • Pages with thin content
  • XML sitemaps should have a limit of 50,000 pages and no longer than 50MB
    • If a sitemap exceeds this limit, a sitemap index file is required, which will show all sitemap files
  • You can also create multiple sitemaps to make your site easier for Google to crawl and index. You might want to create:
    • Main website XML sitemap
    • Sitemaps for each subdomain 
    • Blog sitemap
    • Image sitemap*
    • Video sitemap *
  • All RSS/Atom feeds should contain the latest additions or any recently updated URLs
  • In Google Search Console, you can test and then add or update your XML sitemap

*These are not necessary but nice to have.

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