‘Sitemap’ is a word often thrown around by SEO experts, but in practice, it can be overlooked or even forgotten about completely. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at the benefits of creating one and show you, step-by-step, how to create your own Magento 2 sitemap.
What is an XML sitemap?
An XML sitemap is a collection of the important content on your site. Pages, images and anything else that positively impacts your store are bundled together in a tidy package for search engine crawlers to navigate and extract information from. This information allows search engines to determine how much of an authority your store is and how relevant it is to specific searches.
Automatically generated sitemaps are the easiest way to create an XML sitemap for your online store as Magento will do all the work for you. You can set your options to ensure your store is updated regularly (more on this later), which means new content will be included as you add it.
Benefits of having an XML sitemap
These sitemaps are made specifically to tell search engine crawlers what they need to know about your website. An easy-to-navigate map containing all of the importance information from your store allows crawlers to make an informed decision about your ranking.
If you have a strong SEO plan in place that focuses on aspects like keywords and backlinking, a sitemap will further boost your ranking efforts. Websites are rewarded for ease of use and a sitemap makes your eCommerce store easy for a crawler to evaluate and extract information from.
Another big reason many websites have sitemaps is to avoid duplication penalties if other sites steal their content. Content theft isn’t as prevalent in eCommerce as it is among content-driven sites, but it still happens. You may have another online retailer with similar or identical products stealing your product descriptions or landing page copy. In these cases, having a regularly-updated sitemap will protect you against duplication penalties.
By logging the content in their sitemap, they have a timestamp that proves they were the original creator. This should make Google’s Panda algorithm work in their favor, penalizing the content thieves and maintaining the original site’s ranking.
XML vs HTML
At their core, XML is for search engines and HTML is for humans. HTML sitemaps are made to be used easily by visitors to find pages on your site. XML sitemaps, on the other hand, are made specifically for crawlers, allowing them to access the important information they need from your site to rank it.
While XML sitemaps have a more obvious and direct benefit to SEO, HTML sitemaps make your store easily to use and that impacts both conversions and user experience, which can indirectly benefit your appearance to search engines.
Both have their important uses and both should be applied to your store; however, today we’re concentrating on XML.
Does an eCommerce store need a sitemap?
In short – yes. Large websites with a lot of content and those that are image heavy, as well as websites with content that isn’t well linked are recommended to set up a sitemap by Google. eCommerce stores usually fit into one or all of those categories.
Without a sitemap, your online store will be harder for search engine crawlers to navigate, which positively impacts your SEO strength and rankings.
Creating your Magento 2 sitemap
#1. Once you have logged into your Magento 2 admin panel, click Stores in the left-hand sidebar.
#2. Navigate to Settings and click Configuration. Open the Catalog option and select XML Sitemap.
#3. In the Category Options section, open up the drop-down menu and set Frequency to Daily. There are other options, and at minimum, we would recommend a weekly review; however, if you’re regularly adding new products or blogging, it’s best to ensure these are logged as efficiently as possible.
#4. In the same options section, set Priority to a number between 0.0 and 1.0 with 0.0 having the lowest priority. Mid-range values are recommended for your Category section.
#5. Navigate to the Products Options section and make the same changes to Frequency and Priority that you did in the Category Options section. If you want to include images in your sitemap, set the Add Images into Sitemap option to include All.
CMS Pages Options
#6. Next, open the CMS Pages Options section and again, make changes to Frequency and Priority.
#7. Moving to the Generation Settings section, you’ll need to make a number of changes here. Expand the section and begin by setting Enabled to Yes.
#8. Next, choose the time at which you want your sitemap to begin updating each day in the Start Time dropdowns and again, set Frequency to Daily.
#9. In the Error Email Recipient field, enter an active email address so you’ll receive notifications about updates. You’ll also need to select the sender in the Error Email Sender section, along with the specific style and content in the Error Email Template field.
#10. Now move to Sitemap File Limits and expand that section. First, you’ll need to enter the limit for URLs you want to include in your sitemap. The default maximum will be 50,000, which you can leave in place or change to another number you prefer.
#11. In Maximum File Size, enter the maximum number in bytes of the files size you want.
Search Engine Submission Settings
#12. Finally, move to the Search Engine Submission Settings section and set Enable Submissions to Robots.txt to Yes to allow search engine crawlers to receive instructions from your eCommerce store through robots.txt files.
#13. Select Save Config to save your changes and kick off your new XML sitemap.
Stay tuned for more helpful Magento 2 tutorials, insights and guides…