Impact of XML sitemap errors on SEO

Performance-io / July 24, 2023

When it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO), XML sitemaps play a crucial role in helping search engines understand the structure and content of a website. Often a sitemap can be read but has errors such as missing XML tags or contains broken links. In this article, we will explore the importance of XML sitemaps and how errors can affect your website’s visibility and rankings.

XML sitemap example

What is an XML sitemap?

An XML sitemap is a file that lists all the important pages of a website and is designed to help search engines navigate and understand the website’s structure. It provides valuable information like URLs, last modified dates, and priority levels, aiding in the indexing and crawling process for improved search engine optimisation (SEO). It serves as a roadmap for search engine crawlers, enabling them to discover and index your site’s relevant pages.

Born out of this observation and with a passion for digital marketing in healthcare, Lowe left pharma to set up healthcare’s first specialist SEO agency, leading to the launch of what we now know as performance-io – winners of the PM Society Digital Agency of 2022.

Importance of XML sitemaps for SEO

XML sitemaps offer several benefits for SEO.

Firstly, an XML sitemap makes it easier for search engines to find and crawl the pages of your website. This is especially helpful if a website has a lot of pages or if some of the pages are difficult to find through the navigation menu. By including a comprehensive list of all of your pages, an XML sitemap guarantees that search engines can find and index every page on your website.

Secondly, an XML sitemap provides valuable metadata about each URL. This information helps search engines understand the relevance and importance of your web pages. Additionally, you can assign priority values to different pages, signaling their relative importance within your site’s hierarchy.

Any error present within XML sitemaps can undermine your SEO efforts and hinder your website’s visibility. It’s essential to regularly review and validate your XML sitemaps to identify and fix any errors. Maintaining an error-free XML sitemap can enhance your website’s chances of achieving higher rankings, attracting more organic traffic, and improving overall SEO performance.

performance-io helps brands from Fortune 500s to start-ups to get their content compliantly ranking high on Google and thereby seen by healthcare professionals (HCPs), patients, careers, and the public. Through agile SEO strategies, benchmarking solutions, and marketing determined by cross-channel data and insights, performance-io delivers an average of a 5X increase in customer engagement on their clients’ sites.

Impact of XML sitemap errors on SEO

While XML sitemaps are essential for SEO, errors within these files can hinder your website’s visibility and rankings. Some of the most common XML sitemap errors are:

1. Missing pages

If your XML sitemap fails to include important URLs or pages on your website, search engines may be unable to find and index them. This means that your valuable content could go unnoticed by search engines, resulting in lower organic traffic and rankings.

2. Incorrect URLs or redirects

Including incorrect URLs or URLs that redirect to other pages in your XML sitemap can confuse search engine crawlers. They may waste their crawl budget trying to access non-existent or redirected pages instead of focusing on indexing your actual content. This can lead to inefficient crawling and indexing, potentially affecting your website’s visibility in search results.

3. Blocked URLs

Blocked sitemap URLs are caused by web developers improperly configuring their robots.txt file. If a sitemap is blocked by robots.txt, Google will not be able to access it. Hence, you must ensure that your XML sitemap is not blocked by robots.txt.

Blocked URL example

4. Broken links or error status codes

If your XML sitemap contains URLs that result in broken links or return error status codes, search engines may interpret these errors as a poor user experience. This can negatively impact your website’s rankings and overall SEO performance. Regularly monitoring and fixing broken links is crucial to maintaining a healthy XML sitemap.

5. HTTP errors

If the sitemap isn’t submitted properly or contains an HTTP error, it can impact the site’s performance, e.g., search engines cannot crawl and index websites as efficiently. This can make the website less visible in search results, resulting in fewer visitors.

HTTP error example

This can trigger the website to load slowly. This is because the Google bot tries to access the sitemap multiple times before successfully crawling it and also causes technical errors like 404 errors. This might irritate users and reduce their chances of returning to the site.

Conclusion

Any error present within XML sitemaps can undermine your SEO efforts and hinder your website’s visibility. It’s essential to regularly review and validate your XML sitemaps to identify and fix any errors. Maintaining an error-free XML sitemap can enhance your website’s chances of achieving higher rankings, attracting more organic traffic, and improving overall SEO performance.

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