Are XML Sitemaps Useful for SEO?

XML Sitemaps – A More Significant Impact on Your SEO Than You Realise

Your website is an essential ingredient to success in the modern world. However, it does you no good if your customers or clients cannot find you. Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is the key to good online visibility in organic search. However, there is more to ranking well in the SERPs than just good keyword density on your pages. Your site’s architecture and navigability also have an impact. And, while you might think that XML sitemaps are completely outdated, they’re actually important for good SEO.

What’s an XML Site Map?

XML sitemaps are essentially maps of your website that are designed with search engine spiders and other bots in mind, rather than people. Many websites use multiple types of sitemap to improve navigability as well as to improve user experience. For instance, HTML sitemaps and visual sitemaps are both designed to make it easier for human beings to find the various pages on your website and decide where they want to go. XML sitemaps, on the other hand, make it easier for search engines to crawl your pages and to index your site.

XML Maps and Your Site Rank

The point of an XML sitemap is to tell search engines, including Google, what pages on your site they should crawl and index. It can also provide additional meta information for search engines, helping to provide higher quality search results for human searchers. Basically, it comes down to this – these maps act like signposts, allowing you to direct search engines to the pages that you want most to rank and the content that you really want to promote in the SERPs. Of course, that doesn’t guarantee that Google will rank you above your competitors, but it is worth a shot.

XML Sitemaps and Content Originality

Chances are good that you’re at least somewhat aware of the Google Panda update that rolled out back in 2011. It focused on content quality and originality, and penalised sites that had duplicate content. Today, curated content still exists, and still causes problems related to duplication. XML sitemaps provide you with the means to prove to Google that your website was the original publisher of any content, ensuring that anyone attempting to use your website content is penalised.

Hiding Content

There are plenty of instances when you don’t want Google to index a particular page and link to it in the SERPs. For instance, if you have content behind a paywall, you certainly don’t want Google linking directly to it, as that would play havoc with your profitability. XML sitemaps not only allow you to direct search engines to the content that you want to show online, but they also allow you to block search engines from indexing specific pages. This is called a no-index option, and it can be an important tool for sites that have content behind a pay wall, or that have content that might not be as high quality as it should be to rank well in search engine results.

How to Ensure Better Rankings with XML Sitemaps

So, how do you ensure that you’re able to enjoy the SEO-boosting benefits of XML sitemaps? Chances are good that your CMS can create one for you with just the click of a button, but you need to make sure that you’re using the right strategy here. The most important thing is to ensure that the sitemap doesn’t include any errors, as these will affect your ranking and visibility. You also need to ensure that you’re creating the sitemap to Google’s standards, which can be found here.

If your CMS does not offer automatic site map creation, you can code it yourself, but that can be a long, arduous process that is fraught with problems. Sitemap generators may be a better idea, as these automate the process and ensure that you don’t have to do the coding yourself.

In Conclusion

When it’s all said and done, XML sitemaps are unsung heroes of the battle for better search engine optimisation. These tools provide you with the ability to attract and direct search engine spiders, block them from indexing content you don’t want directly available to the public, improve meta information, and bump up your rank in the SERPs. However, they can be challenging to create, particularly if you’re doing so yourself. You also need to submit your sitemap to Google for the search giant to crawl the website.

Celia Deverell

Celia Deverell