What is a sitemap XML file? Do I need a sitemap? How to create a sitemap?

What is a sitemap? Do I need a sitemap? How to create a sitemap?

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This tutorial is all about sitemaps. When Google and other search engines were not as good at crawling the web, what really helped them was when site owners created a sitemap XML file, and posted those files at the root directory of their websites. This would give the search engines a really good idea of what exact pages they needed to crawl on that site. This benefited website owners because Google and other search engines would be more likely to crawl and then rank all the pages of a website without missing any.

Whether this is still the case is questionable for most small and medium sized websites because by now, they are all extremely good at crawling websites. Nevertheless, I like to always keep my sitemap xml file up to date. It is easy to do. There are plenty of WordPress plugins that will automatically generate the XML sitemap files for your website, so you don’t have to worry about it.

Here is a story about a sitemap case study for 2015 on a five website.
I work as an SEO consultant for a few companies. I won’t mention the company by name, but I will tell you about a fascinating (as fascinating as it can be when it comes to XML sitemap files) story. The company’s website got redesigned, and they went off WordPress, and designed the site according to whatever usability they thought was good for their users. That was fine, but they didn’t take one factor into account. The way they re-engineered their website made it a little bit more difficult for Google to crawl their website. Even though they always had a sitemap, the change in the ease of crawling impacted their search rankings.

To be precise, the issue wasn’t so much the crawling itself, but the structure of the website. Some pages ended up being 20 or 30 pages deep before Google got to them while crawling. To be clear, that doesn’t mean it was the 20th or 30th page, it means that to access that particular page from the home page, a user or a search engine had to click through about 30 pages just to get to that page. That signaled to Google and other search engines that this was a very unimportant page on that site, and the search engines began to crawl those pages less frequently and rank them lower.

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