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Sitemap tips for SEO — Dos and Don'ts

Common mistakes and helpful tips for an effective and useful sitemap and how to implement it into your website.

seo • 14 Mar




A sitemap is a list of URLs and their information. There is 2 main type of sitemaps, one is a webpage, that helps visitors learn about your pages. And the XML sitemaps, helps search engines discover your website content easier.

To improve your visibility to search engine, having up-to-date XML sitemaps are very important. They contain information such as:

  • loc: the full URL (i.e https://yourpage.com/url-target)
  • priority: How important the page is (value between 0.0 to 0.1)
  • changefreq: How often the page content changed. Also, it indicates how often search engine should recrawl the information. Valid values are always, never, yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, and hourly.
  • lastmod: When was the last time it updated (using YYYY-MM-DD format)

Want to have top-notch sitemaps for your site? Here are dos and donts when building your sitemaps

4 mistakes when creating a sitemap

1. Not submitting your sitemaps

Google and other search engine discover pages by internal links found on a page. Eventually, they will discover every internal link on your website. https://hemingwayapp.comNote that if a link is not visible on any pages, it might not be discovered.

Though submitting your sitemap helps search engines instantly learn about all your URL. Which sometimes covered URLs are not listed on any pages of your website, so no URLs are missing out.

2. Sitemap is not up-to-date

When your website often changes, for example, new blog posts, content is being updated often, etc… It's important to reflex on those changes in the sitemap. help notify search engines to recrawl accordingly.

In case your website is not static, and content are stored in a database, it's easy to create an xml sitemap that automatically updates the changes.

For example, WordPress has free plugins to generate XML sitemap such as google-sitemap-generator, Yoast SEO, or XML Sitemap & Google News. With Rebit, a sitemap is generated automatically, with options that you can customize.

3. Sitemap is too big

As your website grows, the number of content and URLs grows, you should be aware of how big the sitemap is. The restriction is different depending on the search engine.

For example with Google:

  • Sitemap size should be less than 50MB
  • The sitemap should have less than 50k URLs
  • The sitemap should have less than 1k images per URL
  • Up to 500 sitemaps for each website

In case your sitemap is exceeding the limit, you can separate them into many sitemaps. As listed above, a website can have upto 500 sitemaps.

4. Pages with duplicate content

Duplicate content is repeating a large amount of content in many pages within a website. For better SEO, it's important to avoid having duplicate content

A piece of content is considered duplicated when:

  • When a webpage has the same content with different formats (ie. different URL for desktop and mobile, or website vs printer-only versions)
  • A single-page application (SPA) template that does not properly display content. When crawling, search engines see the same page before the content displayed

To avoid duplicate content, make sure they are unique across pages. When having multiple versions, set the canonical URL to the same version to consolidate duplicate. With SPA, enable server-side rendering to ensure pages with the same template have different content.

4 tips to improve your sitemap

1. Set high priority for high-quality content

Content quality is the most important factor when ranking. The more pages with high-quality content, the better chance your website shows in search results.

You can measure your page content quality, and set higher priorities for them. Page quality can be:

  • Having lots of social signals (like/share)
  • More visits, longer time spend
  • Proper format with unique content
  • Have images, videos with proper alt description

2. Exclude URLs with duplicate content

As mentioned above, duplicate content hurts your site quality.

Try to exclude URLs of those versions and only use the canonical URL on your sitemap. It will help search engines skip crawling duplicate content.

3. Use RSS/Atom feeds with sitemap

Sitemaps help search engines learn every URL available on your website. While RSS/Atom feeds give the description of what changes in your site content. It helps search engines quickly learn and refresh the page content.

Search engines often take time to crawl and process your page content. It is optional, but having RSS/Atom help search engines learn about those changes quicker.

4. Block indexing for non-value content

Ideally, you want to only include high-quality content pages in the sitemaps (those with proper format, unique content, have images and video, etc.).

For pages that don't provide knowledge values, or are not important with SEO such as privacy, policy, terms of use, private pages. You can block indexing to those pages using a robot meta tag.

To block indexing, include the following meta tag within the <head>...</head> part in your page.

<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

Or to prevent only Google search engine to index your page, use:

<meta name="googlebot" content="noindex">


A sitemap is important for your website. It helps search engines quickly discover every URL available on your website. Including information to signal its priority, creation, and details that help to crawl.

Having up-to-date sitemaps and keeping them optimized allows you to control the URLs. Helps search engines learn about your website better, with every change

Get started for free.

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