The sitemap is – from an SEO point of view – one of the key documents located on the server hosting the website. Such a file, usually called sitemap.xml or sitemap_index.xml, is placed by default in the root directory of the domain. The extension of the document is actually XML.
Sitemap serves as an important element of website navigation, where the user can find links to individual sections of the website and the information presented on it. The role that the map plays during the site indexation process is also not insignificant. As it turns out, these unique documents help search engine robots to reach all subpages within the portal, thanks to which, after some time, they become visible in search results.
Specifically for indexing robots, Google has launched the functionality to report the sitemap directly in the tool created by the giant – Google Search Console.
Why sitemap is important for SEO
Improves page indexation
Sitemap makes it easier for search engine robots to index pages, which is crucial for SEO. A sitemap informs search engines of all the relevant pages on a site, as well as how often they are updated, allowing robots to find and index new content more quickly.
Facilitates site exploration
Sitemap helps users and search engine robots to navigate the site, which has a positive impact on the usability of the site and the time spent by users. For large sites with multiple pages and a complex structure, the sitemap makes it easier to find key content.
Supports the detection of site problems
A sitemap can help detect site problems such as link errors, pages that are not indexed or not optimised for SEO. This allows site owners to quickly identify and fix problems, resulting in better SEO.
Types of sitemap
The most common type of sitemap is the XML Sitemap. This is the format preferred by search engines, which allows pages to be easily submitted for indexation and facilitates communication with search engine robots.
HTML Sitemaps are site maps in HTML format, mainly intended for users. They help to navigate the site and make it easier to get to particular content. Although they are not as effective for SEO as XML sitemaps, they have a positive impact on the user experience.
How to create and optimise a sitemap
Tools for generating sitemaps
The creation of sitemaps can be achieved using various tools such as:
- Online sitemap generation tools such as XML-Sitemaps.com or Screaming Frog SEO Spider;
- Plug-ins for content management systems such as WordPress (e.g. Yoast SEO, Google XML Sitemaps);
- Stand-alone scripts that can be found online or written in-house.
How to build a sitemap
To create a sitemap, follow the steps below:
- Choose the right sitemap generation tool for your site.
- Add all the important pages that should be indexed by search engines, along with their priorities and frequency of updates.
- Check the sitemap for erroneous links, duplicates or other problems.
- Save the sitemap in XML format and place it in your site’s root directory (e.g.
- Submit the sitemap to search engines such as Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools to speed up the indexing process.
Optimise your sitemap
To optimise your sitemap, it is worth paying attention to the following aspects:
- Update the sitemap regularly to include new and modified pages and remove non-existent ones.
- Prioritise the pages on the sitemap so that search engines know which are the most important. Don’t overdo it though, as excessive use of high priorities can be ignored by search engines.
- Ensure your site is properly structured – avoid nesting deeper than 3-4 levels as this can make indexing difficult.
- Avoid adding irrelevant pages such as login pages, shopping carts or temporary pages to the sitemap as this can affect the quality of indexation.
- Check the sitemap using webmaster tools (e.g. Google Search Console) to monitor problems and optimise its performance.