Site maps, both HTML and XML site maps are really important when it comes to SEO. Both have really important parts to play in helping Google understand and find all of your content. What are these two site maps and how do they work and what are the implications on your website’s SEO? Well, I’m going to go through all of that and more coming up, after this.
Hey there guys, Darren Taylor of thebigmarketer.co.uk here, and my job is to teach you all about search engine marketing. If that is up your street, you should consider subscribing to my channel. Today, we are looking at site maps, both the HTML site maps and XML site maps. Let’s go through and understand the differences between the two and the implications they have.
An HTML site map is essentially a page containing a list of all the current pages on your website, including a link to those pages. Quite often, when you go to a website and you look for a link in the footer, you’ll often see a link called site map. Within that link, that’s where you’ll find this page. Now, an HTML site map is essentially just a list of URLs, it’s just a list of pages and links to pages across your websites.
Now, the purpose of creating this is, that when people crawls your websites, it makes it a lot easier to find your content, especially if your HTML site map is updated dynamically. Whenever you create a new page or a new blog post, when that list updates automatically, when Google crawls your site map HTML page, it will go ahead and find all of your new content. It becomes quite an important place to put your files.
Again, it’s different to an XML site map, which we’ll go on to later on in the video but if you can, create an HTML site map as the first port of call. It’s the easiest thing to do. A lot of CMS products like WordPress and Drupal allow you to do this quite easily. If you’re not too sure, as I always say, if you’re not technically minded, speak to your web designer, or speak to a freelancer or consultant, who can update this for you. It’s quite an easy thing to do, an easy way to make sure Google can find all your pages when it comes to SEO.
Now, we move on to the more complex type of site map. This is known as an XML site map. Now, what is an XML site map? An XML site map is essentially a file built in XML that directs Google to find all the relevant pages of your website. It’s basically like an instruction manual for Google to say, here are my pages, these are the pages I want you to find, these are the pages I don’t want you to find, here’s where you can find them, here’s how often they are updated and essentially a blue-print for Google to find your content.
Sometimes you can create pages across your website that don’t have anything linking to them, in particular, but you still want Google to be able to find them and index them. Well, that’s where you can define those pages within your XML site map and make sure Google can find them, so they don’t just have to rely on links to crawl your website and find all your content. Your main navigation and your links are the first port of call but your site map could also instruct Google to index content that can’t be found with the first attempt at crawling.
On screen now, you’ll see an example of an XML site map, and it’s essentially an XML file. In this instance, the one you can see on screen now is one I generated automatically, using my WordPress CMS plug-in, Yoast which is a great plug-in if you use WordPress but if you don’t use a content management system, you may have to generate a site map. I’ve left a link in the descriptions below that will automatically generate a site map for your website. All you need to do once you’ve done that, is upload it to your website domain and then you can direct Google to find that site map, using the Google search console.
In fact, I’ve created an entire course based on using the Google search console, and part of that includes optimizing your site map within there as well. It can get quite technical. It’s very difficult to go through and do these things sometimes when it comes to SEO but it’s still important. You go ahead and start moving in the direction to do things in the right way. Creating and generating a site map and uploading it to your website, is the first thing to do.
Your site map should include a list of all the pages you want Google to find, and if you don’t want Google to find the page by not putting it in your site map, it doesn’t mean Google won’t index it. If Google can find it, they will probably index it, and in that instance, you need to tell Google separately not to index specific content. The site map will help Google find pages but it’s not so good at disincluding pages and not including them in their crawl.
Finally, I did touch on this just now in the video but we’re going to define how to tell Google where your site map is. The first thing you need to do is define your site map in your robots.txt file. I’ve made a video previously about your robots.txt file and I’ve linked that up in the description below and it should define in this file, where your site map is, so when Google crawls your robots.txt file, it knows where your site map is located, but there’s a more important way to tell Google where it is as well.
Again, I touched on this in this video as well, and that is to create an account with the Google search console and upload your site map locations there as well because the search console acts as a bridge between your website and what Google understands of your website. By linking your XML site map to the Google search console, Google will always know what the state of play is with your website, in terms of what pages it needs to find and index.
It’s really important to create that account on the Google search console and upload your XML site map to the Google search console. Again, I’ve made an entire course about the Google search console and included in there is a way to show you how to upload your XML site map and manage your account there as well. That is HTML and XML site maps in a nutshell.
Of course, to generate your site map again, as I explained in this video, it completely depends on the platform your website is built in. If in doubt, speak to your web designer because this is a key, technical SEO area, you need to make sure you get right. If you need help, definitely go ahead and ask for it. In fact, go ahead and ask me in the comments if you need help with your XML site map.
Thank you for watching this video. If you liked it, please leave a like below. As I said before, in the comments, if you’re having trouble with your site maps, let me know and I’ll be more than happy to help. More important than that, don’t forget to subscribe. Check out the other content on my channel and I’ll see you guys on my next video.
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