What is the best sitemap format?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Our sitemap generator produces a number of sitemap formats including HTML, XML and RSS, but which is the right one? The answer is all of them depending on the circumstances.

Here are some quick thoughts on why you might use each format.

HTML Sitemaps


An HTML sitemap was traditionally to help users find pages in your website, but they are also great for helping search engines find your pages organically. This is particularly true for websites with deep complex structures.

The HTML Sitemap can be linked relatively high up in your site structure and provide a direct route in to pages within your website no matter how deep they are in your website structure.


XML Sitemaps


XML (Extensible Markup Language) Sitemaps are human and machine readable although they are generally more targeted to search engines. XML sitemaps are a great way to provide information beyond a list of links to the search engine, including details about when and how often pages are updated and how important pages are. They provide search engines more hints about the content of your website.

XML Sitemaps are supported by a number of the major search engines including :


RSS Sitemaps


RSS uses XML as well, but contains different content to an XML Sitemap. RSS sitemaps include more narrative about the content of the page including the Title, Description and when it was last updated.

Many search engines also support RSS sitemaps, but webmasters tend to favor XML sitemaps when working with search engines, however RSS sitemaps can prove a very useful tool in your SEO toolkit.

RSS sitemaps are generally more widely accepted for blog searches and directories because RSS is primarily used for content syndication. The result is ping tools such as  our sitemap generator ping tool can automatically distribute them to more services.

This means you can potentially distribute your website updates more quickly and widely than with an XML sitemap. Due to the narrative nature RSS sitemaps can also help with external link building.



Each sitemap format has its role and can be equally valuable. With all formats being easily created using our sitemap generator it makes sense to get the maximum benefit by using as many sitemap formats as possible to distribute your website content and updates.

Sitemaps and multiple domains

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

We sometimes get asked by people why our sitemap generator doesn't find all pages in their website. There can be a number of reasons, however one reason we have found is references to multiple domains within the same website structure, in particular homepages that reference a different domain to the one the user specifies for their sitemap..

We recommend you are consistent with your domains. Pick a primary domain and stick to it. If you have secondary domains by all means use them, but make sure your website structure uses the primary domain. this will make it clearer to our spider and search engines where your pages are and the structure of your site.

A concrete example of this is if you have 2 domains pointing to the same website and use full absolute links in your page, avoid mixing the use of domains and where possible just use the relative path.

e.g. if you have mysite1980.org.uk and mysite1980.org pointing to the same site, avoid doing this :

<a href="http://www.mysite1980.org.uk">Home Link 1</a>
<a href="http://www.mysite1980.org/aboutus">About</a>
<a href=""http://www.mysite1980.org.uk/features">Features</a>
<a href=""http://www.mysite1980.org.uk/contact">Contact us</a>

We also see some website framing another site. We assume people do this to masquerade the site under another address. The best way to do this is using a DNS CNAME or HTTP 301 redirect depending on your circumstances and need.

If you frame one domain in another our spider wont recognize the two domains are the same website.

Remember it is perfectly acceptable to have more than one sitemap, one for each domain / website, but where the domains all point back to the same website you should make sure you have a good HTTP redirect strategy or make use of canonical URLs to ensure that users end up in the correct place, and that search engines don't penalise you for duplicate content.

And of course if you don't supply the correct address to the sitemap generator you risk it not being able to find some or all of your pages, if your canonical urls and redirects aren't in place.