Select Page

SEO directors or managers must ensure that the websites they are responsible for are easily discoverable and indexed by search engines. This is the job in a nutshell, but more specifically it maximizes visibility and organic traffic. XML sitemaps play a crucial role in this process by providing search engine crawlers with a comprehensive map of their site’s structure. Below are guidelines to assist managers when guiding developers in creating effective XML sitemaps.

SEO Guidelines for XML Sitemaps

  1. Include All Publicly Accessible Pages: The XML sitemap should include URLs for all pages of the website, including main content pages, category pages, location pages, job listings, blog posts, and any other publicly accessible content.
  2. Prioritize High-Value Pages: Arrange URLs in the sitemap according to their importance. High-value pages such as job listing or other cornerstone content should be given priority to ensure they are crawled frequently.
  3. Update Frequency: Specify the update frequency for each URL based on how often its content is expected to change. This helps search engines understand when to revisit specific pages for updates.
  4. Last Modification Date: Include the last modification date for each URL to indicate to search engines when the content was last updated. This information helps search engines prioritize crawling of recently updated content.
  5. Use Canonical URLs: Ensure that the XML sitemap includes canonical URLs to prevent duplicate content issues. Canonical tags help search engines identify the preferred version of a page when multiple URLs point to the same or very similar content.
  6. Image and Video Sitemaps: If a website contains images or videos, create separate XML sitemaps for these media types. This allows search engines to index multimedia content more effectively, improving its visibility in search results.
  7. Limit URLs per Sitemap: Keep the number of URLs per XML sitemap within recommended limits (e.g., 50,000 URLs or 50MB file size). Split large sitemaps into smaller ones to ensure efficient crawling by search engine bots.
  8. Regular Updates: Periodically review and update the XML sitemap to reflect any changes to the site’s structure or content. This includes adding new pages, removing obsolete ones, and updating URLs for content that has been moved. If you can not automate the process to happen in real time, the sitemap has to be updated every quarter at minimum. 1 time per month would be even better.
  9. XML Sitemap Indexing: Many websites have (or should have) multiple XML sitemaps. Thus we need to create a sitemap index file to list all individual sitemaps, especially when adhering to #7. This helps streamline the indexing process for search engines, especially for larger websites with extensive content.
  10. Ensure Valid XML Format: Validate the XML sitemap to ensure it conforms to the XML standard and does not contain any errors. Use online XML validation tools to check the sitemap for syntax errors or other issues that may affect its functionality. Hint: Google: “XML Sitemap Validator” and choose one.

By adhering to these guidelines, SEOs can guide developers in the creation of XML sitemaps that effectively communicate their website’s structure to search engines. Having a valid and complete XML sitemap will lead to to improved crawling, indexing, and ultimately, better search visibility and organic traffic.