The web is always changing in one way or another; Languages evolve and mature, design trends come and go, SEO “best practices” become “bad practices”. It’s easy to get caught up in what’s new and exciting, but one tried-and-true tool to improve your online presence that’s been around for over 15 years is the Sitemap. Sitemaps are XML files – usually automatically generated by a third-party website or built-in tool with your CMS – that simply list all page URLs and allows you to include information specifically to aid search engines like Google and Bing crawl, or scan, your website.
A Little Sitemap History
Back in 2005 when sitemaps were created by Google, they were an essential part of ensuring all pages you wanted to show up on a search did show up. You could specify information like how often a page gets updated as well as a page’s “priority”. This type of information let search engines know how often they should be re-scanning a specific page for content changes, or how important a specific page was compared to the rest of your website.
For example, perhaps you owned a tree removal business that offered a multitude of services including gutter cleaning, but your bread-and-butter was tree removal. You’d likely want to promote the page on your site that details everything about your tree removal services above gutter cleaning. Including this type of information for Google and other search engines helped them out by removing elements of guesswork and ensuring more relevant search results. Search engines would usually incentivize people to adopt these “best practices” by boosting your online presence above those who didn’t. Yahoo and MSN quickly adopted support for Sitemaps by 2007, making them a universal tool to enhance search engines’ effectiveness.
Why You Should Still Have a Sitemap
Search engines have changed drastically since then, but the sitemap is still an important part of your SEO strategy. While search engines have become far more intelligent and new ways of prioritizing pages have been created, all major search engines still support XML sitemaps as a way to quickly identify what pages are worth the time and energy to crawl and which pages contain important content to index. It’s easy to forget about simple details like XML sitemaps when you’re keeping up with all of the new, sophisticated methods search engines develop to improve search results and the user experience, but sitemaps are still relevant.
Get Started on Creating Your Sitemap
Fortunately, it is easier than ever to produce properly formatted XML sitemaps to improve your search ranking. Of course, a simple Google search will return a swath of valid options. Here at Sharp Innovations, we’ll often utilize https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/. Simply plug in your website address and start the scan. It will go through your entire website and gather a list of all pages, including optional information, such as when the page was last modified and page priorities. If your website is built on a CMS like WordPress, there are plugins like Yoast SEO that will do this for you automatically on a recurring basis to ensure an always healthy and up-to-date sitemap.
This is just one of the many boxes Sharp Innovations checks as part of any of our Digital Marketing programs. Is your sitemap up to date? Let us make sure!