Recently, the two heaviest hitters in the search engine world – Google and Bing – jointly announced that they would increase the file size limit for sitemaps from 10MB to 50MB. A sitemap file contains all the URLs that belong to a particular site, and the maximum number of URLs a sitemap file may contain remains capped at 50,000. While the jump from 10MB to 50MB may seem insignificant at first glance, it is actually a big change for the search engine world.
A sitemap helps search engines read, label, and index the content of your website’s pages, resulting in much better search result rankings. For example, imagine two websites that sell similar products, earn equivalent annual profits, and employ roughly the same amount of people. These two companies may share many keywords, but the site with the better-indexed sitemap is going to rank much better in search results. Now that the maximum file size for sitemaps has been increased on the two biggest search engines in the world, websites don’t have to worry as much about extra-long URLs, attributes listing extra-long URLs, or URLs in multiple languages.
Sitemaps’ Impact on SEO
Sitemaps are invaluable files for search engine optimization (SEO). Essentially, a sitemap is a map of a website that shows how the website is structured, the links that comprise the whole, and how they interact. They are important for both users and search engines, and due to their nature, two main types of sitemaps exist – one for human visitors to navigate websites and another designed for search engines’ bots to crawl through for SEO purposes.
Sitemaps are useful for search engines because they can immediately inform the engine of changes to your site, such as a redesigned URL, new pages, and other edits. Sitemaps also help drive traffic to your website, rather than simply hoping for organic hits to appear through external links. A well-indexed sitemap will help search engines quickly assess your site and improve your search result rankings.
A Sitemap Should Be Your First Web Design Step
To establish your sitemap, you’ll first need to create one and upload it to your site, but you also need to notify Google of the addition. This means creating a Google Sitemaps account or adding to yours if you already have one. Generating a sitemap is a relatively simple process, so even small business owners or startup companies can have one. Invest the time and energy into creating a sitemap as soon as your site is functional. This will result in much better SEO results in your company’s early days.
Sitemaps are crucial for SEO and designing yours before you build your website will be an invaluable first step. SEO penalizes duplicate content, so when you carefully plan your sitemap, you run a much lower risk of creating duplicate pages or URLs. Sitemaps are just an outline of the content that will be on your website’s pages, so even the least tech-savvy business leaders can understand and capitalize on them.
When you create a sitemap, you provide your web design team with a jumping-off point for the rest of your site. It will save you an enormous amount of time, energy, frustration, and money in the long run. Many companies have rushed to push a website to launch without a proper sitemap, only to find they must later cobble one together and sort out the discrepancies. With a sitemap, the risk of duplicate content is much lower, and you can easily link information from one page to others when necessary without taking a hit to your SEO.
Sitemaps Can Boost Your Conversion Rate
Every customer-focused business has a customer journey – the customer moves from point A to point B. Point A is the initial exposure to a brand and point B is completing a purchase or committing to some other action, such as opting in to an email newsletter. In an ideal world, there are as few steps as possible between A and B, and a sitemap can help.
Rather than navigating multiple pages, you can tailor your website around encouraging your ideal customer journey in the construction phase: You plan how a visitor to your site is going to navigate your pages and craft a concise and valuable customer journey. This is just one example, but now that Google and Bing have increased the maximum file size for sitemaps, SEO experts and web designers have much more room to work with when it comes to developing robust, efficient, SEO-ready sitemaps.
Without a well-planned sitemap, you run a big risk of creating extraneous pages, duplicate content, or just making things far more complex than necessary. This uses up valuable time and resources and will consistently create headaches for you and your team down the road. Avoid this eventuality by crafting a detailed sitemap in the planning phases of your website design process.