What are XML Sitemaps?

XML Sitemap is an XML file that lists all the URLs of a website that you upload to Search Console to send URLs to Google and monitor their indexing—as it’s easy as that. Each URL will be followed by parameters that inform search engines how to communicate with each page. 

Apart from the list of URLs, you will see some other elements that might be important to your SEO strategy:

Priority:  This is going to tell Google what pages are more important when you crawl a web. This would not necessarily be taken into account to be truthful, but it is necessary to do so in order to present a more organized platform. Most of the time, search engines can just scan the robots.txt and pass ahead with the crawl. This value varies from 0.0 to 1, with 1 being the most significant page: the home page. This does not have any impact on rankings. 

Changefreq: This informs search engines how many times this page is meant to change, because the Google bot can visit the page more frequently than others (following the indicated frequency). 

Lastmod:  Logically, this is when the page was last updated. But Google won’t pay too much attention to this unless it’s for a streaming publication or something where the breaking news will have a larger impact.

These parameters are optional, but note that you still have to use the urlset to encapsulate the file, the url tag to access the information block of the URL, and the loc to type in the actual URL. 

Now you know that the XML Sitemap doesn’t have anything to do with the one on the footer that lists any connections, right? This one is called the HTML Sitemap.

What’s The URL limit On An XML Sitemap?

An XML file will weigh just 10 megabytes, with a maximum of 50,000 URLs per XML Sitemap. If you’re dealing with very large websites, you’re going to have to break them into a few directories, which can also be separated into groups to make the websites more manageable. It’s nice to isolate them, because this restriction of the URL is simply a good reason to arrange your collection of pages. 

But why is it so nice to divide pages into sets? You can quickly spot indexability problems on the Google Search Console due to segmented XML Sitemaps. If you see a group lose indexed pages, you would be able to see the problem more quickly in a narrower segment than when you see a global decline and you can’t even see which pages it effects from looking at the entire picture.

Similarly, if you examine websites by segment, it is easier to spot patterns so that you can recognize the technique or technology that impacts that community and extend it to other pages.

When Do You Need An XML Index Sitemap?

So, based on what we described above, when you have a big website that needs several sitemaps and there are more than 50,000 URLs, you’ll also need to upload a sitemap index.

Every site must have at least one XML Sitemap. From the smallest to the largest, particularly the latter. It helps keep track of how many pages a website has, and you can equate this amount of URLs to those that are currently indexed!

There are other types of sitemaps where you can index images or videos.

Which Pages Should Be In Your XML Sitemap?

We keep hearing that you need to list all your URLs in the XML file, but this means that those pages are really important to your plan. Before you list any URLs, you’ll want to run the Screaming frog audit to find the pages that return the 200 HTTP answer code (meaning, they are OK).

Avoid listing pages that return 404 Not Found pages or Redirects 301 or 302, because that will confuse search engines and, you know, nobody wants to do that.

How To Make Google Find An XML Sitemap?

If you have built a file or a file, you can upload the XML Sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools to start indexing monitoring and to see some big decrease or rise in indexed pages (hopefully this is the second one) 

Note that the first thing a search engine does when it comes to locating a website on the Internet is to scan the robots.txt file, so if you want to make sure that your sitemap is quickly identified, you can add a sitemap URL there as well.

Generate XML Sitemaps

There’s a lot of detail in this post, and it all sounds pretty daunting, we know that. That’s why plugins like Yoast SEO & Rankmath has built a simple XML Sitemaps generator on the cloud that produces it automatically, and it’s ready to be uploaded in just a few clicks! Yeah, and don’t think about the 50,000 URL limitation—once this amount of pages is hit, it’ll jump to another XML file and you’ll have the whole website listed correctly in a blink of an eye!
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