X Is for XML Sitemap: Helping Search Engines to See Your Site
Hello, fellow marketers. I understand if you feel indifferent about XML. I had to ask one of our developers to give me a proper explanation of what XML does.
As it turns out, XML doesn’t actually do anything, it just carries information. Software is needed to even send, receive, and display it. Said developer went on to say that XML sitemaps are what I should really dig in on.
Tell me more
So a sitemap is an XML file that lists the URLs for a website. It allows people like Raka’s devs to note information about each URL, like when it was last updated, how often it changes, and how important it is in relation to other URLs in the site. This information helps search engines decide how best to crawl the site.
Ah-ha! The word “search” probably woke you up, huh? Indeed, the reason you maybe haven’t heard of an XML sitemap is that it targets search engines, not people. But that’s the same reason why you should learn about it.
Why XML sitemap is important to marketers
Let’s say your company decides to launch a whole new product line.
Before creating new landing and thank you pages for sample requests, drafting a blog post and a press release, designing new CTAs, and developing a workflow for email lead nurturing, you have to update your website.
You add the new site pages, making sure the title tags and meta descriptions are on point, of course. That’s when you check to see how the products look when they come up in a search.
They don’t. A Google search of the new product names yields zero results. A Google search of the specific product URLs reveals zero results. What a nightmare!
What went wrong?
Well, Google doesn’t know those pages exist. And you don’t know Google’s crawl schedule, so who knows when they’ll show up? There are dozens of new URLs, so submitting them manually to Google Search Console doesn’t make a lot of sense. In this situation, your best bet is to ask your developer to update your XML sitemap and resubmit the whole thing to Google for indexing.
Note that we haven’t mentioned search rankings.
There’s a good reason for that: Sitemaps don’t do diddly to increase your rankings. Unlike URLs, which search engines scan for keywords that can help you rank, XML sitemaps simply inform Google, et al. that your pages exist. So while they can improve the visibility of your pages (which helps because Google can’t rank what it can’t see), it’s up to you to optimize for search engines in other ways.
But don’t worry, your friendly neighborhood marketing agency can help with that.
Want to learn more awesome inbound marketing terms? Check out our Inbound Marketing Definitions page.
If you skimmed this post…
Extensible Markup Language (XML) is a markup language, much like HTML, that defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable.