What are sitemaps?
In a world where the internet is more accessible than ever and people are creating more and more websites it is crucial to have a XML sitemap for it will make your website more search engine friendly by providing the web crawlers or spiders an actual map to your website.
This map will contain a list of all your websites URLs using a specific format and will provide for each URL additional metadata, of course this map is written in a markup language that the crawlers can read and understand.
This language is called Extensible Markup Language (XML), this is similar to HTML which is use to create webpages. Unlike HTML sitemaps which are primarily designed for users, XML sitemaps are specifically crafted for search engines.
So, we will conclude that a XML sitemap is a formatted file that contains the list of all URLs for a website along with some metadata that is specifically designed for web crawlers, by doing so, the search engines will be able to crawl your website and index all of it's indexable pages
What benefits you get by having a sitemap?
- Improved Crawling - Search engines like Google, Bing, and others can crawl your website more efficiently, ensuring that all your content gets indexed.
- Enhanced Visibility - By making your site's structure clear, you increase the chances of search engines ranking your content higher in search results.
- Notifications - After updating your sitemap by adding some new URLs, you can resubmit your sitemap to most of the search engines, by doing this the search engines will get notified and will rescan your sitemap usually faster than your next scheduled scan.
Are there limitations to XML sitemaps?
In short, Yes. There are file size and URL list length limitations but they are easily overcomed. According to https://www.sitemaps.org/ you are not allowed to have:
- URL lists larger than 50000 URLs
- File size larger than 50MB (52,428,800 bytes)
In order to meet the two conditions above you can create a sitemap index file witch is very similar to a sitemap, the difference being that this file points to other sitemap files. So, you can create multiple sitemap files that all meet requirements above and with a sitemap index file that points to them you can direct crawlers to all your sitemaps.
If you are a website owner it is necessary to have a sitemap if your goal is get visible on the internet so that you gain more users. You also need to make sure that your xml sitemap is valid by creating the sitemap using the https://www.sitemaps.org/ protocol. There some online tools that will validated your sitemap, by checking if your sitemap is following the protocols, this is necessary for the web crawlers to read and understand the sitemap.