What is an XML Sitemap and why is having one important for SEO? Good question! Think of your website as a house and each page of your site as a room. You can think of an XML Sitemap like a blueprint for your house and each web page were a room, your XML Sitemap would be a blueprint—making it easy for Google, the proverbial home inspector of the web—to quickly and easily find all the rooms within your house.
XML Sitemaps are important for SEO because they make it easier for Google to find your site’s pages—this is important because Google ranks web PAGES not just websites.
There is no downside of having an XML Sitemap and having one can improve your SEO, so we highly recommend them.
XML Sitemaps are especially important if:
You have pages on your site created dynamically (e.g. some e-commerce sites)
Your site is not well-structured or well-linked (internal links)
Your site has few external links or is new (a newly developed site just set “live”)
Your site is large and/or has lots of archived content that may not be well-linked
XML Sitemap Formatting
Some website content management systems give you the ability to automatically create an XML Sitemap. If you use one of these programs or an auto-XML Sitemap generator, make sure that the output is in the correct format and is error-free.
For example, Google requires that all XML Sitemaps adhere to a specific protocol—Sitemap Protocol 0.9. Your XML Sitemap must start with this tag: <urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″> and must use UTF-8 encoding.
Once you’ve created your XML Sitemap and uploaded it to your webserver, you will want to verify it with the search engines. Google makes this easy via Google Webmaster Tools.
Just make sure your Sitemap is in the correct format and has been properly uploaded to your web server before you attempt to verify it.