An XML sitemap, also known as an XML sitemaps protocol, is a standardized listing of all URLs available on a web page in a machine-readable XML format. It is used to help search engines like Google recognize the structure of a web page, identify all the pages it contains more efficiently, and facilitate the indexing process.
How an XML Sitemap Works
An XML sitemap is basically a file stored on the website's server that contains information about the URL structure and various attributes. These attributes can include, for example, information about the last modification date, the priority of the page within the website, and the frequency of changes to the page.
The XML sitemap is regularly visited by search engine crawlers, called bots, to retrieve the content of the website more effectively and quickly. Without an XML sitemap, not all pages of a website may be found and indexed by search engines, which may cause them to perform worse in search results.
Creation of an XML sitemap
The creation of an XML sitemap can be done manually, with the help of various online tools or through content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress. When using a CMS, plugins are often used to generate the sitemap. These plugins ensure that the XML sitemap is automatically created, updated and adapted when changes are made to the website.
Inclusion in the .htaccess file
To make it easier for search engines to access the XML sitemap, it is recommended to include it in the .htaccess file of the website. This file is located in the root directory, and is used to control connection requests to the web server. Including the sitemap in the .htaccess file ensures that search engines can automatically find and read the XML sitemap each time the website directory is visited.
Importance of XML sitemap for SEO
The use of an XML sitemap is especially important in the field of search engine optimization (SEO). It can help to improve the indexing of the website, to let search engines recognize new and updated content faster and to increase the visibility in the organic search results.
Although an XML sitemap does not directly influence the rankings of a website, it still plays a crucial role in ensuring that all relevant pages are found, indexed, and included in search results, which can increase the website's reach and visibility in the long run.