Sitemaps? Xml Vs HTML Sitemaps? Why Sitemaps Are Important?

A sitemap is like a blueprint for your blog, showing everything about it. Just as a blueprint helps you understand a building, a sitemap lets Google know what’s on your website when it crawls through.

Now, here’s where it gets a bit tricky for beginners – there are XML and HTML sitemaps. Even though both are sitemaps, they give different results. To keep it simple, I’ll explain why you should use a sitemap, their benefits, and the difference between HTML and XML sitemaps.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know how to create sitemaps easily using the best tools. So, let’s dive into the details!

What’s Sitemap in SEO? Importance & Types

The simple definition of a sitemap by Google is: 

“A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site and the relationships between them.”

In short, the sitemap file is the blueprint of your website. Sitemaps help Google and other search engines like Bing and Yahoo in detail about the content you’ve on your website, which includes landing pages, blog posts, videos, product pages and so forth. 

Keep in mind that Google crawlers never come to your site like a user. The crawler instead read the sitemap file for navigation. Whenever Google crawler sees important pages or a new entry (links) in the file, like a video blog post, it will index if the content is relevant and helpful. This is why you need sitemaps for your blog or business website. 

Fact: Sitemap is especially important if you have an e-commerce store. It’s because if your store has thousands of product pages, it will become difficult for Google to crawl all pages. If you have a proper sitemap, Google can easily find out what pages you’ve added recently to your store. This enhances store visibility in search results which ensures fast traffic

Two Types of Sitemaps – XML Sitemap and HTML Sitemap

There are two main types of sitemaps: XML and HTML sitemaps. You can use XML sitemaps or HTML; it’s up to you, but before doing that, know how they work. 

Both types of sitemaps help web crawlers understand what’s on your website. However, the difference is that the HTML sitemap also assists users in finding your website’s main pages. While the XML sitemap is specifically for Google crawler, it’s not easy to understand for users.

Let’s understand the key difference between XML and HTML sitemaps. 

Key differences between HTML Sitemap and XML Sitemap

HTML Sitemaps: The HTML sitemap is designed to show the Google crawler and the user what’s on the website. This type of sitemap is more user-friendly than the XML sitemap. You can see the example of an HTML sitemap in the image below. 

XML Sitemap: As stated, the XML sitemap is specifically for assisting search engines in finding new pages on your website. XML sitemaps don’t look user-friendly like HTML sitemaps. You can see an example of how XML sitemaps look in the image below.

How to Create Sitemaps for Websites? 

The best and easiest way to create sitemaps, whether it’s XML or HTML, is by using the Rank Math plugin. It’s a free plugin and is available on the WordPress Plugins store for all website owners. Anyone with a free account can create HTML or XML sitemaps in just a few moments. 

A step-by-step guide to creating an HTML sitemap 

  • Download and activate the plugin: Download the Rank Math plugin from the WordPress store. Activate the plugin. 
  • Enable HTML sitemap: Go to Rank Math settings and enable the Sitemap module. Choose “sitemap” settings and enable “HTML sitemap”. 
  • Create Sitemap: Select “shortcode” if you want to create a new sitemap page. Afterwards, copy the code and paste it on the page you want to use for the sitemap. If you want to use any existing page for the sitemap, select “page” and choose the page name from the navigation bar. 
  • Sitemap settings: Decide how you want to sort the page by date, alphabetical, modification date and so forth. You can also decide whether the sitemap should have the published date of the pages and the SEO title or not. 
  • Save changes: Click on the save setting, and your HTML sitemap is ready. 

A step-by-step guide to creating XML sitemap 

  • Download Rank Math: To create an XML sitemap, easily download and activate the Rank Math plugin. Make sure to sign up or log in with your existing account and connect your search console with it. 
  • Set up Rank Math account: While setting up the Rank Math account, you’ll have an option of “XML Sitemap.” enable it and don’t forget to toggle on the include images, videos, categories and so forth. 
  • Enable sitemap option: After setting up the Rank Math account for the XML sitemap, go back to the WordPress dashboard and click on the “Rank Math” option. Find “sitemap,” select it and copy the sitemap page link you see. 
  • Submit sitemap: Go to the Google search console, select “Sitemap,” paste the “sitemap_index.xml” part of the URL and submit it. 

4 Best WordPress Plugins for Generating Sitemap

Here are the four best WordPress plugins for generating sitemaps free. Besides sitemaps, you can use plugins to optimise your content, which improves ranking. 

1. Rank Math SEO Plugin

Rank Math is the best all-in-one plugin for SEO. It offers a comprehensive solution for submitting XML and HTML sitemap to Google. You can decide which type of sitemap you want in the settings. 

The best part about the plugin is its user-friendly interface, making it suitable for beginners and advanced users. You only have to download and sign up for the Rank Math account and connect it to your search console. After that, you can create a sitemap, be it XML or HTML. 

2. Yoast SEO Plugin

The Yoast SEO plugin is also like Rank Math. It’s an SEO plugin that not only helps create sitemaps but also assists in optimising content. The only issue with Yoast SEO is it’s only good if you want to use the XML sitemap. It doesn’t offer features to create HTML sitemaps. 

If you can neglect this feature, it’s a great plugin and super easy to use. Just install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin, go to SEO settings, navigate to the features tab, and enable the XML sitemap feature.

3. All-in-One SEO Plugin

In case you want to use a plugin that supports HTML and XML sitemap files, All-in-One SEO should be on your priority list. It’s a paid plugin but also has a free (limited) version. You can download the plugin, sign up for the free version and create sitemaps. 

The plugin offers many exciting features for bloggers. For example, it shows whether your website images has Alt tags, the content is properly optimised with keywords or not. 

4. Google XML Sitemaps

Google XML sitemaps help bloggers who only want to create XML sitemap files. It’s a free plugin, available on the WordPress store with the name “XML Sitemap Generator for Google” by Auctollo.

Around 1+ million individuals are using this, highlighting its widespread adoption and trust within the WordPress community. It offers a user-friendly interface which makes the process of creating a sitemap easy for beginners. 

XML vs HTML Sitemaps: Final Thoughts

XML and HTML sitemaps are used to show search engines what you’ve on your website. The only difference is that XML sitemaps aren’t user-friendly, while HTML sitemaps are visual sitemaps and are easy for users to understand. It’s up to you which type of sitemap you want to create, but I would suggest you consider incorporating both XML and HTML sitemaps into your website strategy. 

Most Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between HTML and XML sitemaps?

The main difference lies in their audience and purpose. HTML sitemaps are designed for Google and human visitors, providing an easy-to-navigate layout of a website’s pages, while XML sitemaps are crafted for search engines. 

Why do I need an HTML sitemap for my website?

An HTML sitemap serves as a user-friendly guide, helping visitors navigate your site more efficiently. It presents a structured overview of your content, improving user experience and making it easier for both humans and search engines to find relevant information.

Is it necessary to have both HTML and XML sitemaps?

While having both types of sitemaps is not mandatory, it is beneficial. HTML sitemaps enhance user experience, making it easier for visitors to find content. XML sitemaps, on the other hand, are essential for search engines. 

How frequently should I update my sitemap?

It’s advisable to update your sitemap whenever there are significant changes to your website. For example, you should update the sitemap whenever you add new pages, update content, change the site structure, or post new blogs. This will help search engines crawl your website’s new content easily. 

Can I create sitemaps without using plugins?

Yes, it’s possible to create sitemaps without using plugins, but it’s not an easy process. In this case, you have to write XML code, which takes time and attention. You can do the same task in a few minutes with the help of plugins like Rank Math, Yoast SEO, All-in-One SEO, and Google XML Sitemaps. 

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