What is an XML Sitemap?

Have you heard big things come in small packages? That’s how you describe an XML sitemap. A small package of XML sitemaps can create wonders for your website as it acts as a complete outline of your website that directs search engines to your important pages. Although an XML sitemap is the technical side of SEO, it’s easy to make one. But what is an XML Sitemap? Do you need them? What is its purpose? Hold on. Let us discuss it all in this article,

What is an XML Sitemap?

An XML (Extensible Markup Language) sitemap is a file that provides information about the pages and other files on your site. In simple words, it is an extensive list of a website’s URLs. Search engines scan this file to crawl your website more efficiently as it indicates which pages are essential for your site. A sitemap can also help speed up content delivery. Although an XML Sitemap does not guarantee to get your pages crawled and indexed by search engines, having one boosts your SEO efforts.

This is how your sitemap looks like.

If you click on the XML file, it shows the URLs and their last modified date, just like this.

Do you need them?

Not necessarily, as your website works fine without one, and search engines can even crawl and index it. Moreover, sitemaps aren’t mainly used as a ranking tool, so creating them won’t make much difference. However, you need a sitemap if your website is large and has an extensive archive of isolated content pages because search engine crawlers might overlook some of your new or recently updated pages.

You may need a sitemap if your site is brand new and has a few external links. Web crawlers crawl the web and interconnect links from one page to another. Thus, search engines might not discover your web pages if no other sites link to them. Suppose your site has much rich media content like video, images, etc., then you need a sitemap so that search engines can take additional information from them.

What is the purpose of an XML Sitemap?

But why should you have an XML Sitemap if it is not necessary? What is the purpose? Now that you have figured out if you need an XML sitemap, let us find their purpose. A sitemap can boost SEO because an XML sitemap makes it easy for crawlers to find pages to index, resulting in search engines determining your site’s rank. That’s how having an XML sitemap can boost your SEO.

In addition, a sitemap is an expeditious way to get indexed by search engines. Using sitemaps, you can instruct the search engines to index all the essential pages on your website. Within no time, crawlers will crawl all over the pages and index them.

How are Sitemaps related to robots.txt?

Earlier, search engines joined to support a system using robots.txt files to check for XML sitemaps, known as Sitemaps Autodiscovery. This means it is not mandatory to submit the sitemap to search engines. Instead, they will find the sitemap location with the help of the robots.txt file. That is when the robots.txt file gained prominence.

Overall, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists all your website’s URLs or web pages to indicate the search engines to crawl over all the defined web pages. However, the robots.txt file signifies the search engines which pages to crawl and exclude from indexing.

In combination, these two essential tools provide a complete and detailed outline of what content you want a search engine to crawl and how the overall structure is organized.

To conclude, just like robots.txt, an XML sitemap is a must-have for your website to boost SEO. It makes sure that search engine bots can discover your web pages and helps them understand the importance of your pages.