In natural referencing, the Sitemap is part of an essential base of optimisations. What exactly is an SEO sitemap? Why is it essential if your site is to be indexed by search engines, especially Google?
Sitemap, standard web protocol since 2006
To exist on the web, every site needs to be listed in search engines such as Google, Qwant or Bing. These engines use crawlers, also known as spiders or bots, to browse the internet, identify pages and documents on the web and follow links between sites.
The tedious task of collecting the data that is essential for indexing the web requires ever greater resources.
In 2006, it became important for search engines to become more efficient and index more quickly the millions of pages being created every minute, while controlling the resources allocated to indexing. The three leaders at the time – Microsoft Live Search (the future Bing), Yahoo! and Google – agreed to adopt a standard, the Sitemap protocol.
What is a Sitemap file?
A Sitemap is a file in XML format whose purpose is to list the different URLs of a single site. Each URL is associated with a certain amount of metadata:
- Date created or updated;
- The frequency with which content is modified;
- The relative importance of the URL compared to other URLs on the site.
In addition to listing all the pages of a showcase site or an e-shop, an SEO Sitemap in XML format can also contain images, videos and many other files such as PDFs. In this case, it may be a good idea to create a dedicated sitemap.xml to facilitate indexing by search engines.
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How important is an SEO site map?
The purpose of a Sitemap is undoubtedly to facilitate the indexing of all the pages on a website. The webmaster or SEO agency must submit the Sitemap to the search engines via Bing Webmaster Tools and Google Search Console.
The SEO sitemap submitted in this way provides them with important information, such as how often spiders visit a particular page.
For example: a Sitemap indicates that page 1 is modified daily, whereas page 2 is only modified once a year. As Google only allocates limited resources and time to its bot to crawl the site in question, the bot will logically visit page 2 infrequently.
On the other hand, indicating that page 1 is modified daily does not mean that the crawler actually visits it every day.
Furthermore, the ability to submit all the URLs for a site should not be confused with the indexing of these same URLs by search engines. Submitting an XML file does make the search engines’ work easier. However, this in no way guarantees that all the pages or images in your sitemap will be indexed. It should be noted that many errors when generating an SEO Sitemap can block or slow down the indexing of a site. Obsolete versions of the XML standard used, inaccessible pages due to the robots.txt file or too many URLs listed are among the most common errors.
Today, the SEO Sitemap is a basic SEO tool. Submitting it to the search engines has little impact on your ranking. On the other hand, not fulfilling this basic criterion or poorly constructing your sitemap can do you a lot of harm.