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Written by Tijn Aarden, 11 July 2024

What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a file that lists all the pages on your website. You can think of this as a kind of table of contents for your website. This file helps search engines better understand and index the structure of your website. There are different types of sitemaps, each with its own function and benefits. But what exactly is a sitemap and how can it contribute to your website’s SEO? We are happy to explain it to you!

What is a sitemap

What is a sitemap and what types are there?

A sitemap is an important part of a good SEO strategy. There are two main categories: XML sitemap and HTML sitemap. An XML sitemap is primarily intended for search engines and helps to find and index all the URLs on your website, which is convenient. An HTML sitemap, on the other hand, is geared more toward your website’s visitors and helps them navigate the site more easily. Both types of sitemaps have their own benefits and contribute to better visibility and usability of your website.

XML sitemap

An XML sitemap is a file thus developed primarily for search engines. It contains a list of all your Web site’s URLs, including important metadata such as the date the page was last updated. This helps search engines crawl and index your website more efficiently. A properly configured XML sitemap helps improve your SEO performance, especially for websites with many pages. It is important to submit your XML sitemap to Google Search Console to ensure that Google is aware of all the pages on your site.

HTML sitemap

An HTML sitemap is intended for human visitors and lists all the pages on your website in an easy-to-navigate format. This is especially useful for larger websites with lots of content, as it helps users find what they are looking for quickly. An HTML sitemap improves the user experience, but it also contributes to a better internal link structure. And that, in turn, is beneficial for SEO. Make sure your HTML sitemap is easily accessible, such as through a link in the footer of your website.

Does every website need this page?

Not every website necessarily needs an HTML sitemap. An XML sitemap, on the other hand, is important. Google and other search engines use this to retrieve all of the website. It helps search engines better understand and index your website. In addition, a sitemap enhances navigation for users, which improves the user experience.

Examples when needed

There are several situations in which a sitemap is important for your Web site. Below, we discuss some of the most common scenarios in which a sitemap makes a great contribution to your SEO strategy.

Website with many pages

For websites with a large number of pages, a sitemap is indispensable. It helps search engines find and index all pages. An XML sitemap gives search engines an overview of your website’s structure and ensures that all pages are found and indexed.

No optimized link structure

If your website does not have an optimized URL structure, a sitemap helps to improve navigation. Search engines use the sitemap to understand the hierarchy of your website and to see which pages are most important. This is especially useful for older websites or websites that are frequently updated.

No external links

Websites without external links may struggle to be found by search engines. A sitemap plays an important role in this by ensuring that all pages are indexed. This is especially important for new websites or websites with a specific niche that are less likely to receive organic links. Report your domain to me Google Search Console. This is where you can add your sitemap.

What does an XML sitemap look like?

An XML sitemap is a simple text file that contains your website’s URLs, along with additional information such as the last modification date and priority of each URL. The file is built according to a specific structure that search engines can easily read and interpret. An example of an XML sitemap looks like this:

<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">

   <url>

      <loc>https://www.jouwwebsite.nl/voorbeeld-pagina</loc>

      <lastmod>2024-07-10</lastmod>

      <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>

      <priority>0.8</priority>

   </url>

   <!-- Meer URL's hier -->

</urlset>

This structure helps search engines navigate through your website quickly and efficiently and index all important pages.

Check with your own website

Find out where your sitemap is yourself? You can find this out by typing sitemap_index.xml after your website’s URL, for example:

https://www.2manydots.nl/sitemap_index.xml.

When you type this in, your sitemap will show. Below is an image of our sitemap. As you can see, our sitemap consists of several sitemaps. When you open one of the sitemaps, you will see a list of all the pages that fall into that category.

If you don’t have a sitemap, or if you want to check if your current sitemap is up-to-date, you can use tools such as Rank Math or the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress or Screaming Frog. These tools help generate and add a new sitemap to your website.

Important for SEO

A well-configured sitemap is critical for SEO. It helps search engines find and index all the pages of your website. In addition, a sitemap helps to identify and resolve any problems with the indexing of your website. Don’t forget to submit your sitemap to Google Search Console and other search engines to make sure they are aware of all the pages on your site.

Always place your sitemap in your Robots.txt

It is important to include your sitemap in your website’s robots.txt file. This file tells search engines which pages they can and cannot crawl. By including your sitemap in it, you ensure that search engines can easily find and use it. An example of what this looks like is as follows:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /private/

Sitemap: https://www.jouwwebsite.nl/sitemap_index.xml

You can easily check this by typing /robots.txt after your URL, such as:

https://www.2manydots.nl/robots.txt.

Do you have questions about SEO? Get in touch!

Want to create your own sitemap, or learn more about how to optimize your website for search engines? Then contact us! Our team is ready to help you with all your questions about sitemaps and SEO. Click here to contact us and find out how we can help you increase your online visibility.