Even if developing a sitemap is an important part of website design, is often overlooked. Sitemaps work as roadmaps that lead search engines through a website. When developed well, sitemaps make it easier for search engines to index your site, enhancing your website’s visibility on search results.
Furthermore, sitemaps contain additional metadata that’s useful to search engines. This includes the importance of web pages on a site’s hierarchy and the last time those pages were updated. With this information, search engines can crawl the website’s content and provide the best results to users.
For website owners, sitemaps are highly instrumental in removing redundant content and forecasting how visitors will navigate the website. But to enjoy these benefits, you need to properly develop your website’s sitemap. The best way to do this is to avoid errors that confuse search engines.
Below are the five biggest sitemap mistakes you need to avoid and how to fix them:
- Failing To Submit the Sitemap to Search Engines
While this may sound obvious, you’ll need to submit your sitemap to search engines to enable them to crawl your website. Doing this gives the search engine an alternative way to crawl your website where web pages aren’t linked properly.
Though it’s advisable to create a sitemap for every website, sitemaps are particularly valuable for sites with few internal links, large websites, and those that don’t have external backlinks. To fix this mistake, ensure that you submit your sitemap is updated with search engines.
- Failing To Update The Sitemap
Whenever you’re migrating your website, it’s easy to forget that you need to undertake smaller tasks, like updating the sitemap. This may not mean much if the changes you’re making to your site are minor. However, if the migration entails making substantial changes to the website, like undertaking a full redesign, it’s important that you update the sitemap. This will ensure that the updated pages are found by search engines.
To fix this problem, online sitemap designing should focus on updating sitemaps every time changes are made to a website. Remember, search engines give priority to sites that have dynamic content. To have one, ensure that search engines can crawl every change you make to your web content.
- Sitemap Crawl Errors
To fix crawl errors, your web designer will have to analyze the sitemap to determine the problem. You can also perform a crawl audit using crawl services. Fix the problem and resubmit your website domain to search engines for inspection and indexing. After this, monitor your domain to ensure that the error no longer recurs.
- Failing To Limit Indexing To Content Pages
While sitemaps should feature pages that carry high-quality content, some website owners make the mistake of indexing utility pages. Content pages should be easy for search engines to crawl and rank. On the other hand, utility pages shouldn’t serve as landing pages for search engines.
Though utility pages are useful to visitors, there’s no need to index them. Examples of utility pages include privacy policies, wish lists, and content headers or footers. To address this mistake, consider placing no-index tags on every utility page. This allows you to declutter the sitemap and enable search engines to easily crawl your website.
- Publishing Duplicate Content
Search engines are often quick to flag sites that contain duplicate content. Whenever they come across such content, search engines interpret it as an attempt to manipulate it. Duplicate content includes identical pages or pages that carry near-identical content, like discussion forums, online store items that carry multiple URLs, and printer-only page versions.
If you have a sitemap with duplicate content, consider using a canonical page to consolidate the duplicate content in a single URL. Then, send a message to search engines informing them which pages to index.
Optimizing sitemaps for search engines is one of the most effective ways to increase your website’s visibility on search results. However, various mistakes can compromise your sitemap, keeping you from enjoying these benefits. If you’ve made a mistake with your sitemap, use the tips discussed above to address it.