What is this?
An XML sitemap is a file containing your website’s URLs(pages) and can be crawl by Google and let it know what pages your site has. Unlike a normal HTML sitemap which could be seen by normal visitors, an XML sitemap is intended to be seen just by Google bots.
What can I do with it?
1. Listing pages URLs – You can specify any URLs on your site in such an XML file, especially useful for those pages that need many deep clicks to reach from your home page.
2. Specifying dates and change freqency – You can also specify the last modified date and the change frequency of each of the URLs in the sitemap.That’s useful if you update your site or publish blog posts often and this will let Google know and crawl and (re)index your updated page or new page faster than its normal schedule.
3. Page priority – With each of the URLs you’ve mentioned in the XML sitemap, you can also mark a priority number for this URLs. The range is from 0 to 1. The higher the more important, telling Google that this page should be crawl more often than the other pages. However, this is not a must when you’re using an XML sitemap.
4. International targetting – Last but definitely not least, an XML sitemap can help you set up international targeting, which is a must for websites that are trying to rank over multiple countries or/and languages. There are many ways to set it up and for me, setting up via XML sitemap is the easiest way. If you still don’t know what International targeting is or want to know about all the ways to set it up, please read my another blog “How to set up international targeting?”
<xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” href=”http://yangli.com.au/” />
<xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”zh-Hans” href=”http://yangli.com.au/zh-hans/” />
<xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”zh-Hant” href=”http://yangli.com.au/zh-hant/” />
1. Don’t put useless pages in there! – Pages that you don’t want Google to index or user to look at shouldn’t be placed into your XML sitemap. “Useless” pages are: duplicated pages (pages having exactly the same content as another one), staging or testing pages (for internal usage only), empty pages (no textual content, images, video or anything besides header and footer), pages can only be seen for logged in visitors, shopping cart page, checkout page, login page (unless you’re a very “membership”-faced site), 404 and 301 pages, pages from other domains (I know this sounds stupid).
2. “change frequency” is a must for some sites – If you’re a site updates daily such as a news site or a sport live stream site, then setting up each page’s “change frequency” could very helpful to let Google know you update your sit very often and Googlers would have the very fresh information when they do a search.
3. Be aware of warnings in Search Console – Google will tell you what’s wrong with your sitemap and your pages when they’re crawling your site providing warnings in search console as shown below. This could be very helpful to find out what’s wrong with your pages.
4. Be aware of indexed/submitted number of pages – Look at the above image again, there’s an obvious gap between the number of indexed pages and the number of submitted pages. This is totally fine if you’ve just submitted your brand new XML sitemap few week ago and you have hundreds and thousands of pages like this one. But if it’s been a long while and the numbers are still very different, that means some of your pages are useless from Google point of view and you should take actions on them.
I’m glad you read this through and hopeful you learn something after this. If you are still confused about how to create or manage an XML sitemap for your site, or you’re interested in my SEO services, feel free to contact me now.