Sitemaps are virtually universally accepted as a great idea for getting Google to pay attention to your pages. However, I’ve seen a lot of companies do it strangely. Conveniently, these are very easy problems to fix and nearly immediately see benefits from. Take a look at these best practices and see if there are any quick improvements you can make.
Crawl your site first
Before generating a sitemap, make sure there isn’t any duplicate content that the sitemap generator might throw into the sitemap. This will confuse Google, and could prevent Google from getting the best reading of your content. This is available at Google Search Console under “Crawl”, and then select “Crawl Errors”. Are there any pages that are showing up that have errors?
Unless you have a very small site, you’ll probably want to use a sitemap generator to get at all the nooks and crannies of your site. Usually the backsite style generators get a more comprehensive scour of the urls, since it can more thoroughly get through gateways made on the site. Make sure you give it a good look-through when you are done.
When Google says update infrequently, what they mean is:
If you’re a smaller site, expect to update your xml sitemap daily if you update your site frequently. If you’re a larger site, only feel the need to update the part that is new.
Sidenote: You should be trying to maximize the ability of your sitemaps, don’t put just a few dozen links in one. If you’re doing a lot of small sitemaps, there’s a higher chance that Google will miss one.
This tells the Google bots exactly when a page has last been modified. It also tells Google that you want the date of the change you reported visible to the search engines. This also minimizes the chance that Google is going to have trouble indexing your newest content – you’ve laid it all out for them already.
Check up on Google’s indexation of your site
If you think you might have some indexation problems going on in a portion of your site, an easy way to diagnose is to segment up your sitemap categorically, by depth, or by content freshness. There’s a great in-depth article on using site maps to check in on indexation problems here.
If done right, your sitemap can be your key to make sure all the pages on your site are continually getting indexed, which is the first step in making sure they get seen and turn into traffic and conversion. However, you still should be checking in on Google Search Console to guarantee these pages are getting indexed. Sitemaps are not difficult, but also easy to get wrong. Following these steps is a great way to improve the visibility of your site incredibly fast.