Using a Sitemap Effectively for SEO

A sitemap file tells a search engine about the pages of your site by making the pages more easily accessed by search engine crawlers. Think of a sitemap like a blueprint of your website; it gives your website a clear and concise layout for the crawlers.

Using a Sitemap and it's Importance for SEO

A sitemap is mainly used to speed up the indexing of your site - it can quickly tell the search engines how often your site is changed and, due to the hierarchical format, how important some pages are relevant to other pages. A sitemap will help crawl and index all pages of your site. This is beneficial for your customers, because if a page is not easily navigable internally, it could still show up in the SERPs! While having sitemaps will never guarantee its appearance in the SERPs, it will definitely improve the chances.

Building an XML sitemap

You should organize your pages in a hierarchical format to tell the crawlers which pages are more important than others. The first page will hold the most weight for search engines; this is typically your homepage. From there, the further the search engines have to crawl, the less weight they will apply to those pages.

Typically, a sitemap is built with an XML file. Also, keep in mind that all the data of an XML file must be entity-escaped and UTF-8 encoded.

A basic sitemap format will look like this:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="">

Tags That Can Be Used with Sitemaps:

  • Last modification date: open with <lastmod> and close with </lastmod> 
    • It tells the crawlers when the page was last updated.
    • The date must be in the format: YYYY-MM-DD
  • Change frequency of the page: open with <changefreq> and close with </changefreq>
    • You can tell the crawlers how often your page is updated or changed.
      • Available values include: always, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, never.
    • This is a hint for the crawlers, not a command
  • Priority of the page: open with <priority> and close with </priority>
    • It's your personal preferences of how your pages ought to be prioritized by the search engine crawlers.
      • Values of a priority tag can range from 0.0 to 1.0.
        • By default, each  page a value of 0.5.
        • 0.0 is low priority, 1.0 is high priority
    • Search engines use this information to compare and contrast between different URLs on the same site. It will help increase the chances that pages you consider higher priority will be present in the search index.
      • Setting a high priority to all your pages will not help you get indexed more frequently. Search engines are clever and will even out the priority level you have given.