What is a Sitemap, and how does it benefit your SEO?

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Estimated reading time: 3 min

Sitemap, it sounds complicated, and what the heck should I get out of it?

Imagine the XML Sitemap, which is completely unreadable for you, to be the one telling the search engine what content is available and how they can reach it.

Our example above, tells the search engine about all nine pages through the sitemap while on the website, it would have to jump through five internal links to find page number 9.

The ability of an XML sitemap, is to assist crawlers for a faster indexation and espcially important for websites that:

1) Have hundreds if not thousands of pages and/or a deep website architecture

2) Frequently add new pages and content

3) Frequently change content of already existing pages

4) Suffer from weak internal linking and often orphan pages

5) Lack of strong external backlinks


Submitting an sitemap with noindex, the URLs can also speed up the deindexation of content. This can be a more efficient way, than removing the URL’s in Google Search Console, in case of many urls that needs to be deindexed.

Be aware of the consequences of this method, and use it with case to only add such URLs temporarily to your sitemaps.

The Takeaway of a Sitemap

Search engines are getting smarter, and can technically find your URLs without it, but by including pages in the XML sitemap, you’re indicating that you consider them to be quality landing pages.

There are no guarantees nor confirmations, that using XML sitemaps will get you up in the search results faster, ranked, crawled or submitted, it however certainly increase your changes.

Sitemap formats

Above an one-pager site using all available XML tags, which would have this XML sitemap.

But however should an SEO use each of these tags, and is all the metadata actually valuable?

Location tags (LOC)

The location tag is the absolutely most important, and contains the canonical version of the URL.

It should accurately reflect your site protocol, and if you have choosen to use or remove the usage of www.

For international websites, we suggest you implement your hreflang handling.

By using the xhtml:link attribute, you can indicate the language and region variants of each LOC, by doing so you reduce the page load time, which the other implementations of the link or HTTP headers can’t offer you, at this point of time.

Read more about Yoast and WPML here in our support section, on how you can use these kind of tags optimally.

Last Modified tags (Lastmod)

We always suggest to use the Last Modified SEO Tag, as it communicates clearly to the search engines if they need to scrape your posts again.

John Mueller from Google acknowledged that they use the lastmod metadata tag to understand when a page was last changed and if they should crawle it again.

It seems especially critical for content sites as it fully assists Google to understand that you are the original publisher and powerfully to communicate the freshness,.

Search engines have had some cases where they got tricked to think content was fresh, without being so – and you will get a penalty on your SEO-score if you misuse it.

Change Frequency tags (Changefreq)

Sites that never change, doesn’t need to be crawled as often as sites that change every day.

Some search machines, to this day still use the Changefreq tags, while Google have changed direction and started using the timestamp posted directly in the XML.

Priority tags (priority)

The importance of your content, should be used to define which parts of your website that is the most critical, and what sections is just supportive sections.

The tag is optional, but use a scale from 0.0 to 1.0.

Google stated a couple of years ago that they have deprecated it and see it s bullish garbage noise that could be removed – but not every other search have taken the same standpoint, yet.

What key takeaways are you getting from this?

Your website needs an XML sitemap – for sure, but not necessary the top priority and change frequency metadata.

Use the Last Modified tags accurately, and focus attention on ensuring you have the right and full URLs submitted.

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