The XML sitemap is a direct and effective way of communicating with search engines, as it makes it easier for them to find the pages on your website and recognize new content faster. This is important because your new pages are ranked faster and of course frequent indexing improves your website's ranking in search results.
Usually, Google doesn't give a clear message when it comes to SEO issues, but for creating a sitemap, it does point to a guide that guides website owners. Google states:
"If your sitemap pages are properly linked, web crawlers can usually discover most of your site. However, a sitemap can improve the crawling of your site, especially if your site meets one of the following criteria..."
- has a lot of content that is not well connected
- has rich media content
- makes frequent updates (especially eShops that have thousands of products)
- is new website with some external links
- has dynamic content
In other words, a sitemap is not necessary for SEO and sites do not rank better or worse as direct result of its existence or not. However, it can make a significant difference Indirectly, especially for websites with the above features, where Google specifically suggests its use. However, even though XML sitemaps help Google quickly locate all the key pages on your site, it still states that "adding a sitemap does not guarantee finding these URLs."
In simpler terms, any website can benefit in terms of SEO by helping Google easily crawl new websites and the latest updates. In fact, some content management systems (CMS) can automatically create XML sitemaps. However, if this is not the case in your situation, there are many amazing tools you can choose from:
1. Yoast SEO Plugin
Free Version | Premium: €89/ year
If you're using WordPress, this is probably the best option. Yoast is a very popular SEO plugin with a lot of features. Creating a sitemap is just a small part of what it can do. The Yoast SEO plugin automatically creates a sitemap for your site and submits it to Google and Bing. The best thing about this plugin is that it updates automatically. As soon as you create a new blog post or product page, a link is immediately added to your sitemap so you don't have to worry about it.
Furthermore, the Yoast SEO plugin features integration with Google Search Console, so you can easily see how your site is performing in search results without leaving your WordPress dashboard. It's also great for creating the best dynamic sitemaps for your websites.
One of the most impressive features it provides is the ability to create sub-sitemaps, divided by category for every 1,000 links. It's very convenient for larger websites. Each sub-sitemap is linked to the main sitemap which allows Google easy access to the entire directory.
2ND SE Ranking
Free Version | Premium: from €23/ month
For those who don't use WordPress, this may be the best option. SE Ranking is a lesser known tool, but with many advanced features. In its free version, it has a sitemap generator with an unlimited number of pages provided as part of the SE Ranking Website Audit tool. It generally has many useful features for SEO, such as allowing you to monitor keyword performance, perform an SEO audit of your website and more.
SE Ranking is easy to use with the ability to select the types of pages you want to include in your XML sitemap. Thus, you can easily exclude pages such as: redirections (3xx), client (4xx), server (5xx), duplicate or normalized pages, pages excluded from robots.txt, noindex and nofollow pages.
3. Screaming Frog
Free Version | Premium: £149/ year
The Screaming Frog is an extremely powerful desktop software which has a wide range of SEO functions. It is the tool used by almost every SEO specialist. It includes the ability to create XML sitemap for any website in minutes, regardless of the type of CMS of the website. The free version gives the ability to crawl 500 pages. If you have a larger website and want to crawl more than 500 pages, you will need to buy the annual version. It's worth it, especially if you want to put a lot of emphasis on SEO as a marketing tool.
Other advantages of Screaming Frog are the functions for finding broken links, duplicate content discovery, visualisation of site architecture and much more. You can also integrate this tool with Google Analytics to capture user data and directly control metrics such as bounce rate, goals, the conversions and much more.