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A sitemap is a list of web addresses, the so-called URLs, that are available on a website. A sitemap can either contain all URLs of the website or only a section of the website. By using a sitemap, users and search engines can jump to any level of a website with just one click. Because search engines rely on links to discover an address, XML sitemaps continue to be important for search engine optimization.
Especially in the early days of the web, sitemaps brought a big advantage in search engine optimization, because at that time the crawling capacities of search engines were not as high as today. For this reason, the search engines did not always search/crawl all URLs of a website at that time and therefore content was not indexed under certain circumstances.
Ideally, a sitemap not only lists the URLs, but also shows the hierarchy between the individual addresses. A basic distinction can be made between HTML and XML sitemaps.
Sitemaps can be saved in different file formats. The most common form is the HTML sitemap, which owes its name to the file format. HTML sitemaps are usually linked on the website and are intended to help users reach different URLs with just one click. On our website, the HTML sitemap is located at this address.
An XML sitemap is different in structure from an HTML sitemap. XML sitemaps are the preferred file format for processing a sitemap by search engines. The specifications of www.sitemaps.org/de/ are decisive for the correct processing of crawler sitemaps.
In addition to the URL (<loc> for location), further information about a URL can be transmitted in the sitemap, for example the last modification date (<lastmod>), the modification frequency of the page content of the URL (<changefreq>) or the priority (<priority>).
Here is an example of the structure of an XML sitemap:
<?xml version="1.0″ encoding="UTF-8″?>
XML Sitemaps can not only ensure the indexing of web documents, but can also be used to transmit images and videos. There are special requirements for the content of a sitemap for these file types. Further optional fields are also possible, for example for the transmission of image captions. All further information on this topic can be found here or in our Technical SEO book.
An English guide for video sitemaps can be found at this URL.
If you have a well thought-out information structure on your site, a sitemap is not a must. However, it doesn't hurt to use such a sitemap, because it accelerates the (re-)indexing of pages significantly. Many of the current content management systems (CMS) and shop systems already include a function for creating a sitemap. If you can create a sitemap without much effort, it is recommended to create one and submit it to search engines via the Webmaster Tools.
In order to make a sitemap known to all search engine robots, a link to the sitemap should be placed in robots.txt. The structure is as follows:
Sitemap: Location of the file
An alternative method is the linking of the sitemap on the web or its registration in the webmaster tools of the search engines. Due to the dominance of Google in German-speaking countries, the Google Webmaster Tools (today Google Search Console. Discover our Search Console reference book) are the most important representative. There you can submit and test your sitemap under "Crawling" -> "Sitemaps". Afterwards you will see an evaluation like this one.
The Sitemap (also called Site-Map or Sitemap) describes the listing of all subpages as well as documents of a web page. The sitemap reflects the page structure of a web page and helps search engines to recognize the most important subpages of a web presence.
The sitemap (XML sitemap) of a website is created as follows:
You can usually find the sitemap of your domain by entering "/sitemap.xml" in the address bar of your browser after your domain name, e.g. "domain.xy/sitemap.xml". Your sitemap should also be found in the Robots.txt file and in the Google Search Console.
An HTML sitemap is, in contrast to an XML sitemap, a sitemap that has been saved in HTML format. The HTML sitemap is a normal subpage of the website and helps users and search engines to reach all other subpages with one click.