Things You Need to Know When Creating a Sitemap

You’ve probably thought about building a sitemap for your website. It’s a well-known strategy that helps with SEO. Google even provides an exhaustive resource on how to make one. Unfortunately for most people, it’s easier said than done.

Making a sitemap can get a little too technical and discourage you from making one. Now we don’t want you missing out on the opportunity to maximize your SEO efforts. So we’ll run you through the basics and teach you everything there is to know about creating a sitemap.

Fact #1: There’s more than one type of sitemap

A sitemap is an umbrella term that is often used in place of an XML sitemap. However, XMLs are just one kind. There are actually different types of sitemaps, including:

  • RSS Feed. Often used by blogs and websites with frequently updated content.
  • mRSS Feed. Ideal for vlogs and websites that specialize in video content.
  • Google News Sitemap. Only works for news sites.
  • Alternative language XML Sitemap. Used for websites available in different languages.

Additionally, you can add mobile, image, or video extensions to a standard XML sitemap. Before building one, you should decide which type is best suited for your website.

Fact #2: Static sitemap generators are not reliable

At this point, you might be tempted to do away with technicalities and use a static sitemap generator. Most of them are free and incredibly easy to use.

However, static sitemap generators are only recommended if you have a new website that needs to be indexed as soon as possible. By the time your website grows, new URLs won’t be added to your existing sitemap. Another problem with these generators is they crawl everything – including pages you don’t want indexed.

Fact #3: Not all pages belong to a sitemap

Here are examples of pages you shouldn’t include in your sitemap:

  • Redirect, client, and server pages
  • Duplicates, canonicalized, and paginated pages
  • Pages with parameters
  • Noindex pages
  • Pages that are not permitted by robots.txt

Basically, if you don’t want a page to show up on search results, don’t place it on your sitemap.

Fact #4: A sitemap has limits

There are limits on what you can do with a sitemap. For instance, the uncompressed file can’t have more than 50 MB memory and 50,000 URLs. If you need more space, there is a workaround. You can create separate files (i.e. sitemap1.xml, sitemap2.xml) and place them under a sitemap index.

However, a sitemap index also has its limits. It can’t have more than 50,000 sitemaps per index, and you can only upload 500 sitemap indexes to Google Search Console.

Fact #5: A sitemap should be private

Many site owners wrongly set their sitemap to be public. They either link it to robots.txt or link to it from the homepage. However, sitemaps have to be private. Otherwise, people (including competitors) will have easy access to your website’s important data.

Fact #6: You may not need a sitemap at all!

The truth is, not all websites need one. Here are examples of websites that could get away without a sitemap:

  • Company site
  • Presentation websites
  • Portfolio
  • Small shop site
  • Product comparisons
  • SaaS apps

Below are the only three scenarios where sitemaps are necessary:

  • A large website with many pages
  • A new website that needs to be indexed
  • A website that frequently updates its content (i.e. news sites)