Today we're talking about Sitemaps, how they impact your SEO and online traffic, and what you should be doing with your sitemap to improve the visibility and success of your website and digital marketing efforts.
*What is a Sitemap?*
A sitemap is an XML file that lives on your website and tells Google and other search engine bots what pages are on your website. It is your index of all pages and it assists with ranking your website.
Sitemaps are not for humans, really. They're for bots and search engines. (But if you need to find a URL fast, they're a great way to do so.)
Let's take a look at your Sitemap together. Give it a second, it may take a while to load depending on how many pages and products you have on your website.
*Where do I find my Sitemap?*
Your sitemap is found at WEBSITENAME.com/sitemap.xml
The Punchmark SiteManager platform automatically generates a Sitemap.XML file for your website on a regular interval. Other website platforms may require you to use a third party service to build a sitemap and install it on your website; with Punchmark, it is included.
*How do I understand what is in my Sitemap?*
Here's a breakdown:
Loc - The URL of the page. This tells Google that a page in this website exists at this address. Does the page exist, yes/no.
LastMod - The last time that page was changed IN THE SITEMAP. Most pages do not change that often, but it's a useful metric to see. Does the page exist, yes/no, and last modified.
ChangeFreq - How often the page AS A WHOLE changes. The key thing here is if the entire page is new or majorly updated. Google does not care about price or stock changes at this level. Does the page exist, yes/no, and how often.
Priority - A ranking of importance of the page TO REVISIT. This should be sorted in descending order of how often pages change, so Home Page should be 1.0, category pages should be 0.5-0.9, product pages should be 0.5, and Company Information pages such as Terms & Conditions should be 0.2-0.5. Does the page exist, yes/no, and how often should Google revisit it.
*How often should my Sitemap be updated?*
The general rule of thumb is as needed based on adding new pages or products to your website.
A website that publishes 5-10 blog posts a day should update sitemaps more frequently.
An ecommerce website that largely remains static except for minor differences (price, availability, etc) should be updated less frequently.
For the majority of Punchmark clients and jewelry store websites, the sitemap should be updated monthly or quarterly, or after every major new change, such as Adding a New Brand or Product Category.
*What do I need to do with my Sitemap for best SEO results?*
On a quarterly (minimum) or monthly (best practice) basis...
Copy your Sitemap.XML URL
Open up Google Search Console
Navigate to Index > Sitemaps in the left column.
Type or paste your Sitemap URL into the field.
Click to Resubmit Your Sitemap to Google Search Console
Open up Bing Webmaster Tools
Navigate to Sitemaps.
Click to Resubmit Your Sitemap To Bing Webmaster
And that's it! You'll have submitted an updated version of your sitemap to Google and Bing. The search engines will now send bots to recrawl your website to see what has been updated since the last time they visited. It may take time. You may see fluctuations in rankings and traffic as they reindex your site to be more up to date and appropriate for searchers. This is helping with accuracy of results for visitors and customers.
*One final thing.*
Do a casual review of your sitemap. Use "Control + F" (or Command + F on Macs) to "Find" brands, products, whatever you want to search for. Look for brands you may no longer carry or want to audit.
While there is no limit to the number of pages you can have on your website or in your sitemap, if there is no traffic to a page, Google (and your visitors and customers) would not see much value in the page, and would consider it bloat. Regularly auditing your brands, products, vendors, and their pages is one good best practice habit to get into for digital success.
If you have any questions about your Sitemap or would like Punchmark to manage your Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, and other SEO needs, please don't hesitate to reach out to Marketing & Sales!