A sitemap is a vital part of the technical SEO that helps you to get your Magento website crawled, indexed, and discovered. Search engines read a sitemap to discover new pages, define how often they are updated, and rank them depending on the validity of information they provide.
However, when it comes to generating sitemaps, people get confused about what sitemap to use.
So, in this article, you'll discover what is the difference between HTML and XML sitemaps, whether you should use them both and find out how they impact your Magento SEO.
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To begin with, let's define what these sitemaps are used for.
What is XML Sitemap?
The XML sitemap is the machine-readable sitemap created in an Extensible Markup Language (XML) that contains information about all of your website URLs along with the metadata. The metadata includes information about how important is the URL, when it was last updated, how frequently it is updated, the relation of the URL to other URLs in the sitemap, etc.
Webmasters use the XML sitemap to help search engines better understand the structure of a website and index it faster correspondingly. Moreover, all major search engines use the XML Sitemap protocol.
So, the absence of the XML sitemap can result in some pages being invisible for search crawlers.
And if spiders see nothing beyond the websites' HTML structure, they will index and rank only those pages they can discover through crawling the HTML. Since not all of your pages are equally linked to, this scenario is not an option if you want to get ranked.
That's why Magento XML Sitemap is used mainly for search engine spiders.
What is HTML Sitemap?
HTML sitemap is a sitemap written in hypertext markup language that serves as a directory of links or table of contents for your website pages. It is a page with a general overview of all website pages that visitors can easily jump across your site from.
Though HTML sitemap doesn't have any direct influence on search engine optimization, it is the case for a better user experience.
Since Google and other search engines do pay attention to the user-friendliness of your website, consider creating HTML sitemap for your Magento store. It definitely won't be redundant.
However, you won't get penalized for not having it either.
What is the difference between HTML and XML Sitemap?
Though you should have caught it by now, let's sum up it again.
The main difference between HTML and XML sitemap is that XML sitemap is used to help search crawlers navigate your website, while HTML sitemap guides users through your store pages. XML sitemap targets robots, HTML one — humans.
If you're wondering which one you'd better use, the answer is simple — both, since they both provide valuable benefits.
Benefits of HTML and XML Sitemaps
As you might have noticed in the page contents there are no drawbacks mentioned in this article.
No, we don't want to persuade you to use the sitemaps by hiding the pitfalls. There simply are no pitfalls, only benefits.
And we'll start with the benefits of HTML sitemap:
- Internal linking opportunities — the sitemap is a page with multiple internal website links that allow you to jump to any page of your store which is a great internal linking asset.
- Better website navigation — regardless of whether you have archived content, a sitemap could be a directory of all equally accessible pages which improves navigation.
- Improved crawling start point — since HTML sitemap is a page with the anchor link, it comes in handy for search crawlers that can discover and index pages placed there.
XML sitemap benefits for your store:
- Avoid content duplication issues — XML sitemap shows search engines the date and even time the content was published which validates you as the owner of the content in case it gets duplicated without your permission.
- Better website crawlability — containing all of your website pages, sitemap makes it easier for search engines spiders to crawl and discover those pages, even if some don't have any internal links.
- Faster pages indexation — XML sitemap is the best way to notify search engines about new or edited content which boosts the indexing and improves search rankings.
Should you Use One Sitemap Over the Other?
At this point, you see that the difference between HTML and XML sitemap is mainly technical. They both play an important role in your Magento 2 website rankings and user experience which eventually influence your website SEO.
You should use both sitemaps to ensure better indexation, crawlability, and navigating through your store pages — for search spider and humans.
However, since sitemaps alone are not going to cater to your SEO needs, you should cover sitemaps from a broader perspective. Check out the Magento 2 SEO Extension that covers not only sitemaps but plenty of other SEO-related features.