Unveiling the Power of Sitemaps in Modern SEO Strategies

From Experts
Unveiling the Power of Sitemaps in Modern SEO Strategies

“Create and submit a sitemap” — you might have encountered this advice on search engine optimization (SEO) guides or webmaster forums if you’ve been searching how to improve your SEO rankings. If used properly, a sitemap may boost website optimization. Having a sitemap is not required but will benefit SEO.

In SEO, sitemaps communicate directly with search engines, guiding them through the contents of a website. In this post, we’ll tackle what a sitemap is, who it is intended for, and its power in shaping modern SEO strategies.

What is a sitemap?

A sitemap is a file that lists the pages, images, videos, and other information on your website. It is like a “directory” of every point on your website, including where they are, how they connect, and why they matter.

Search engines such as Google will crawl a sitemap to find and identify all information related to a search query.

According to the Google Developers Sitemaps section, you can use the sitemap to provide information about specific types of content on your pages. This includes:

  • A sitemap video entry can specify the video running time, rating, and age-appropriateness rating.
  • A sitemap image entry can provide the location of the images included on a page.
  • A sitemap news entry can show the article title and publication date.

The sitemap will list the elements in a logical hierarchical order, where it will put the most relevant pages at the top, and the least relevant pages at the bottom.

Two types of sitemaps


XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. It provides the website’s pages, videos, and other important files. This is the preferred format of search engines.

The XML informs search engines when the page was last updated and if the content is available in other languages.


HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, on the other hand, is designed more for users rather than search engines. It is a component of your website and appears as a sidebar or navigation bar. Google recommends that users establish a consistent and clear hierarchy on the HTML sitemap to help with indexation.

To put it simply, an HTML sitemap is like a guide that users can use to navigate your site and find what they need.

Search Engine Journal highlighted and summarized the difference between XML and HTML:


  • It is intended for search engines and bots.
  • No hierarchy
  • Used for indexing
  • It can be submitted via Google Webmaster Tools


  • It is intended for users
  • There is a hierarchy observed
  • No need to submit in Google Webmaster Tools

Do you need sitemaps?

Search engines will discover most of your site if the pages are linked properly. Even so, a sitemap can improve the crawling of more complicated sites or specialized files.

Google adds that a sitemap helps search engines discover URLs on your site, but does not guarantee that all elements will be crawled and indexed. However, having a sitemap will still benefit your site.

You might need a sitemap if:

You own a large site. You will need a sitemap if your site has enormous pages. This may make Google miss newly-updated content when it is crawling.

Your website is new. If you have a new website, it may not have tons of external links on the Internet to help Google discover it. Even if you’ve maintained your website for some time now, and you still don’t have external links, it is recommended to have a sitemap.

Your site features rich media content. A site publishing lots of news content (which could easily change) with videos or images will benefit from a sitemap. The sitemap will be instrumental in helping search engines understand what’s news and regular content.

You won’t need a sitemap if:

Your site is small. Google defines “small” as 500 pages or fewer on your site. The pages you think would appear in search results are included in the total.

Your site is linked internally. If your page is linked internally and can easily be navigated, Googlebot can find all the important pages on your sites by following the link starting from the home page.

Your site isn’t content-heavy. A sitemap isn’t needed if you don’t have any news pages or video and image files that you want to show in search results.

Why sitemaps matter for SEO

Why should you care about sitemaps? And how does it improve SEO visibility for your business?

Sitemap enhances the ranking in search engine results, boosting SEO efforts. When your website ranks high, it will become visible to more users, increasing website traffic.

It’s a win-win for both the website creator and the user. Users’ search query is matched with the appropriate information they need as soon as they type in the search bar. This is made possible by the search engine’s spiders that crawl and index your website.

How sitemaps benefit SEO

Here’s how sitemaps can complement your SEO strategies:

Sitemaps make it easier for search engines to discover your URLs

It may take some time for search engines to discover your new site. You can ramp up the process by submitting a sitemap to search engines. Your sitemap should only contain the URLs of content you want in search results. When the crawler finds a URL in your sitemap, it knows you want it in search results.

Sitemaps search engines identify orphaned content

Orphaned content are website pages that are not linked to any other page. To illustrate, try to think of them as little islands isolated from the mainland of your website.

If you have no links, search engine crawlers can’t reach them. They won’t be able to crawl or index them, thus it won’t appear in search results. An orphaned page is undiscoverable unless it’s in a sitemap or submitted directly to a search engine.

Sitemaps tell search engines when content is updated

Search engines use the <lastmod> tag in the sitemap to check if a URL has been changed or modified since their last visit. This information can be used to decide whether to recrawl the URL.

Sitemaps provides search engines with alternate versions of your content

If you want your content to be read in multiple languages, it is a good practice to inform search engines. Include the content’s URL in the site map so search engines can identify the languages available for the content.

Easier navigation

When you have an HTML sitemap that guides visitors, you allow them to search your site for the content they want. For example, if users search for doctoral degrees in education online and the website contains a relevant link for that intent, then they can click the link without relying on search engines.

When users are satisfied with browsing, this can improve dwell time and reduce bounce rate.

Sitemaps build good internal backlinks

An HTML sitemap is a good source of internal backlinks. Internal links are important because they help Google understand and rank your website better. By giving Google links with appropriate anchor text, you can indicate which pages of your site are important, as well as what they are about.

A boon to SEO

Sitemaps are not a ranking factor. While Google has confirmed that sitemaps don’t affect the ranking of your web pages, sitemaps are highly recommended to make it easier for search engines to crawl your website.

The technicalities of a sitemap can be intimidating and time-consuming to generate. There is also added pressure not to create mistakes, since this may cost money and hard work. You may opt to use Netpeak’s software SEO app features such as the sitemap creator to generate sitemaps for improved website structure and performance.