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Sitemap

A sitemap can make it easier for search engines to find their way around your website - and can therefore also help your SEO. But what is a sitemap, why is it important and how do you create it in practice? Read on to find out.

Adam Ketelsen
Last updated: May 16, 2023

What is a sitemap?

In short, a sitemap is a list of URLs and content on your website. The purpose of a sitemap is to make it easier to find your way around the website - for machines (bots) as well as humans (users). That's why they are also important for your search engine optimisation.

Just as bots and users navigate websites differently, and just as there are different types of content, there are different types of sitemaps. The different types include:

  • XML Sitemaps
  • HTML sitemaps
  • Image and video sitemaps.

XML sitemap - what is it?

From a SEO perspective, an XML sitemap is the most important of the different sitemap types. The XML sitemap helps search engines to navigate and index the content of your website.

In this way, they ensure that search engines can find all the content on your website. That's why an XML sitemap can also be important for your SEO - especially if you have a large website with many URLs.

What does an XML sitemap look like?

An XML sitemap looks something like this (simplified example with only one URL):
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9">
  <url>
    <loc>https://www.hjemmeside.dk/underside</loc>
    <lastmod>2022-12-02</lastmod>
  </url>
</urlset>

The XML sitemap is not directly visible to users, but can usually be accessed by entering one of the following URLs in the address field of your browser:

  • https://hjemmeside.dk/sitemap
  • https://hjemmeside.dk/sitemap.xml
  • https://hjemmeside.dk/sitemap_index.xml

How do I create an XML sitemap?

In practice, you create your XML sitemap by specifying it in your website's robots.txt file or by submitting it to Google Search Console, Google's webmaster tool. If you use WordPress like many others, you can access the robots.txt file in Yoast SEO under Tools > File Editor.

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In the Danish context, it is often sufficient to submit your sitemap in Google Search Console, as Google, with a market share of 93%, sits heavily on the Danish market. In other words, Google is where you will find the majority of your Danish target audience, so you can concentrate on thinking Google-first in your SEO strategy.

In Danish SEO circles, one can more or less talk about Google optimisation rather than search engine optimisation, since Bing's and other search engines' market share is so small that it hardly pays to search engine optimise against them. Try comparing the results of a Google and a Bing search. Most SEO people do not include Bing in their equation, and therefore Bing's results will in many cases be different from Google's.

Here I am submitting webamp.dk's sitemap to Google.

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HTML sitemap - what is it?

An HTML sitemap is essentially a clickable list of subpages on your website. In many ways, an HTML sitemap serves the same function as an XML sitemap, but it's designed to make it easier for users to navigate your website.

The HTML site folder will be visible and readable on its own unique URL for your users - just as any other URL would be. The link to the HTML sitemap is typically placed in the footer of the website.

Is an HTML sitemap necessary?

The HTML sitemap is now a somewhat redundant entity - both in terms of user experience (UX) and SEO.

In terms of user experience, most modern websites have a menu structure that makes it easy for users to find their way around, and many websites have internal search functions. Therefore, the HTML sitemap rarely serves a real function in terms of UX.

Compared to SEO , the HTML sitemap is even more redundant, provided you have an XML sitemap installed on your website - however, the SEM encyclopediaSearch Engine Journal hasa different view.

In addition, it is also a somewhat outdated practice to use the HTML site map in your SEO strategy. A handful of years ago - before various Google algorithm updates made life miserable for black hatSEO practitioners - HTML sitemaps were widely used to manipulate keyword rankings on specific URLs, because SEO people used them to manipulate the internal link profile of websites.

Image and video sitemaps - what are they?

Image and video sitemaps are somewhat overlooked, as they are not relevant for many websites. However, if images and/or videos are the primary focus of your website, you may want to consider creating an image and/or video sitemap on your website. This way, you'll give Google easier access to visual content rather than specific URLs.

Here's a simple example of a video sitemap from Google Developers.

<url>
  <!-- URL of the host page -->
  <loc>https://example.com/mypage</loc>
  <!-- Information about video 1, like the title and URL for the video's media file -->
  <video:video>
    <video:title>Grilling steaks for summer</video:title>
    <video:content_loc>
      http://streamserver.example.com/video123.mp4</video:content_loc>
  </video:video>
  <!-- As many additional <video> entries as you need -->
  <video></video>
</url>

Frequently asked questions about sitemaps

What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a list of subpages on your website that helps search engines and users find their way around the site.

Is a sitemap necessary?

An XML sitemap helps search engines find and understand your content better, and is therefore advantageous over SEO - especially on large websites with many subpages.

Do all pages on a website have to be included in the site folder?

All pages to be indexed by and found on Google must be included in the site folder. Typically you will exclude thank you pages and in some cases author and category archives.

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