Joomla sitemap - Everything you need to know
Google first introduced Sitemap in June 2005, and up to now, it’s been over 14 years. However, creating a sitemap for your site is never outdated, and it still has a big impact on your Joomla SEO efforts.
Therefore, in this article, I will cover everything you need to know about Joomla sitemap.
In case you are still considering which CMS for your site, read more: Joomla vs WordPress - Which is the best for your website?
Table of content
- How do you create a sitemap in Joomla?
- Top 3 Joomla Extensions for creating a sitemap
- Notify search engine
- Advanced guide for creating a sitemap
- What is sitemap?
- Why do you need one?
How do you create a sitemap in Joomla?
Usually, there are 3 common methods for you to make a sitemap in Joomla
- Use Joomla sitemap generator extension - plugin
- Use online generator
- Hand code your sitemap with XML format.
However, despite which method you use, your first step is to always think ahead about your site structure.
Make your site structure
By carefully mapping your site like this picture below, when creating a sitemap, you will not miss any essential URLs. When creating a structure of your site, please be cautious about:
- Which sites are the most important and need to be crawled first.
- Do you frequently change the content in your site or any page in particular?
Take note of this information, it will explain in this next section.
When you have finished making your site structure, let’s go into the details of your sitemap
Understand sitemap structure
Despite whatever method you take to generate a sitemap, in the end, a standard sitemap in XML format will look like this:It may look confusing to you, but actually it’s easy to understand, and you just have to remember at least 4 variables in this field:
- <loc>: the URL you want to include in the file.
- <lastmod>: the date you modify the URL.
- <changefreq>: it determines the rate of changing your page (daily, weekly, monthly, etc)
- <priority>: Determines which URL need to crawl first though variable numbers 0 (lowest) to 1(highest).
If you use a 3rd-party extension or online generator, they are likely to ask you about those variables and need you to fill them in.
Read this guide to better understand the sitemap XML format.
Now, let’s go into the details of each generator method.
1. Online sitemap generator.
This is probably the easiest way to generate a sitemap. You can search for “online sitemap generator” and there will be hundreds of results about online applications from free to premium come up.
However, among those, you should try xml-sitemaps.com. It has a useful free plan, and easy to use.Insert your URL and click Start, it will generate you a nice sitemap. With the free plan, you can generate up to 500 URLs, a decent number if your site is not too big.
After 5 minutes, you can download a whole set of your sitemap in your computer to see and modify if you want.
2. Using Joomla sitemap generator extension
In Joomla, or like any other CMS, generating a sitemap is a needed demand. Therefore, you can see various Joomla Sitemap extension listed on JED with all the features listed.
However, for you not to drown into the confusion, I have some recommended Joomla sitemap extensions for you to try out. These are my Top 3:
With more than positive 400 reviews, JSitemap is the best commercial Joomla sitemap extension out there. Not only does it provide you with sitemap generator feature from basic to advanced demand, it also provides you with an complete SEO solution.
The most useful, and powerful features of this extension is the ability to make any type of sitemap (image, video, amp, RSS, etc)
Moreover, the concept of “Data Source” that lets you embed into your sitemap with page or item taken only from an extension, JSitemap has completely taken Joomla users minds since Joomla website is heavily integrated with many components, and extensions.
Besides these outstanding features, JSitemap also provides you with:
- One-click to submit a sitemap to Search Console
- Advanced Seo Control panel
- Google Indexing Tester
- Automatically Ping Search Engine when there is new update.
- Required no additional plugin
- And many more.
With a price of $49, it will be worth the time if you want to optimize thoroughly for the sitemap.
Automatically create a sitemap for your site right after installation with the ability to handle a huge amount of URLs. Moreover, with an intuitive control panel capable of making changes on the sitemap.xml file right in the dashboard, OS Map has shown us a very prominent sitemap generator despite it being a Free version. (Also includes image and google news sitemap generator)
For a Pro version, this extension adds more flexible to your control over the file:
- Noindex, Nofollow for a single item
- Powerful cache for larger sites with big sitemap
- Multiple column layouts for HTML sitemap.
Another great tool for creating sitemap. For a free version, Aimy Sitemap offers far more than any competitors with some advanced features such as evaluates robots.txt, set priorities, frequency or excluded URL when making a sitemap.
When upgrading to Pro, you get some unique and interesting features like crawling HTTPs only website, display browser notifications on the desktop after crawling and many more.There are many more Joomla Sitemap extensions, however, based on my own experience and Joomla community reviews, I think these are the best 3 sitemap generators in Joomla.
3. Create a sitemap from scratch
You can create a 500,000 URLs sitemap from scratch, hand-coded. It’s possible, but I am strongly against it. It takes so much time, and is not as effective as the methods I suggest you use above.
However, I think you need to understand how to create a sitemap without using any extensions or online application. Because it will become extremely handy when you just want to modify 1 or 2 URLs in the file, and your current extension can’t or needs a huge amount of time to do so.
Here are some basic guidelines for you to start:
- You can open or save a sitemap.xml file with NotePad/ TextEditor on your computer. Or some application made especially for coding like Sublime.
- Write your sitemap following the site structure you have made in the previous step, and the XML format.
In the simplest form, your sitemap must:
- Begin with an opening <urlset> tag and end with a closing </urlset> tag.
- Specify the namespace (protocol standard) within the <urlset> tag.
- Include a <url> entry for each URL, as a parent XML tag.
- Include a <loc> child entry for each <url> parent tag.
Again, you can read this guide about sitemap XML protocol for better understand.
3. Validate your sitemap with this tool to check if everything is formatted correctly
Best practice for creating a sitemap
For a site that is new or fairly small (around 500 URLs), you should use a free online generator, Joomla extension combine with customizing the file by yourself to exclude unimportant page or change the priority of a particular URL
If your site could have up to thousands of pages, or you need a more advanced sitemap, paying extra from $29 - $49 for a Pro version of Joomla Sitemap extension is quite reasonable. It will save you a lot of time and effort.
Notify the search engine about your sitemap
Create your sitemap is not the end. A search engine bot or crawler need to be aware of your sitemap. There are 2 ways for you to do it:
- Submit your sitemap to Search Console
- Put the sitemap on robots.txt
Submit your sitemap to Search Console
Some Joomla extension is integrated with this function, so you don’t have to do it manually. However, here is how manually you do it.
Note: Since Google is the most popular search engine, I will demonstrate with Search Console/Google Webmaster.
Step 1: If you don’t have Google Search Console, follow this guide to connect your site with it.
Step 2: Put your sitemap under the httpdocs folder.
- If you use Online Sitemap Generator to create your sitemap, you could download it and put it under the httpdocs folder. Using an FTP program or your hosting control panel to do this.
- If you are using a Joomla extension, it’s very likely the file has been put on the right place
- To check if the file is put on the correct folder, you could test by entering: yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml (or the name of the file). It will show you a complete sitemap.
Step 3: Login to your Search Console
Step 4: Go to Sitemaps tab, enter the name of the sitemap file (usually sitemap.xml) then click submit.
If it’s correct it will have a success status like the picture below.
Put your sitemap to Robots.txt file
You could easily locate your robots.txt file in your Joomla Data folder. Follow the example of these lines to add your sitemap to Robots.txt file.
You can add more than 1 sitemap in your Robots.txt file. It will automatically update when your sitemap gets updated.
Advanced guide for creating a sitemap
If you follow the instructions from the start, your sitemap will be very optimized for Search Engines. However, you can still optimize the XML file further by taking note of some of these guides:
1. Be aware of your file size: Google and Bing allow your sitemap to be up to 50Mb.
2. If your site is too big, split it up into multiple sitemaps. A sitemap is in the most effective condition if it has less than 50,000 URLs. So it’s best to split it into multiple sitemaps if your site has significantly more than that number. Follow this guide for more details
3. Do you know beside basic URL data storage file, you can have a sitemap that specific for image, video, different language version, etc. You should consider generate a specific sitemap for those cases if they are really important to your site.
- Guide for image sitemap
- Guide for video sitemap
- Guide for Google News sitemap
- Guide for different language version.
4. Consider to update your <lastmod> - last modified date. You should make the change only and only when you make a significant modification to a page. For example: you update outdated blog content. But don’t try to overuse this technique since Google can consider your action as spam.
5. Remember to exclude no-index, 404, 301, 302 URLs out of your sitemap. That means only URLs with 200 status could stay. Why? Because sitemap has a limited size, and it will cost your crawl budget, making the search bot spend more time to index all of your site. It will be a problematic issue when you have too much of these types of links.
6. And only include links that have a canonical tag in your sitemap. It would be unwise if you want to index a duplicate page.
What is sitemap?
Even if you are not tech-savvy, sitemap is an easy term for you to understand.
Sitemap is a file that contains a list of URLs in your page in XML format (It’s short for “extensible markup language”, and used for storing data)
With sitemap, search engine bots can crawl much more effectively and faster. It tells the crawler which URL is important for your site. Besides that, a sitemap provides extra information about these URLs such as: last update, the alternate language version, how often the page gets changed, etc.
In short, sitemap is a map of URLs, telling the search bot which way to go, which page is important.
Why do you need a sitemap?
Installing a sitemap brings great benefit to your Joomla site. One of the biggest impacts is to your SEO efforts.
Google or any Search Engine aims to show the most relevant answer for every query. To do that, they need to see, and index every page you want them to see. So with a sitemap, they can get the most out of your site without missing any important URLs.
When it comes to indexing, the merrier, the better. The more chance you will get ranked in the top results page.
According to Google, without a proper sitemap, some of the following situations could make search bots bypass your URL:
- You have a really big site: crawler bot likely to overlook some of the new or recently updated links.
- Some of your page is isolated, and not linked to each other. If these pages are not in your sitemap, it will surely be missed.
- Your site is new, has few or zero external links to it. If search bot can’t find a way to reach your site, it will never get indexed. So, be sure to submit a sitemap if your site is new.
- Your site uses rich media content for showing in Google News or image, video. Google can take these additional information in sitemap when crawling.
Note: having a sitemap doesn’t ensure all of the URLs in it get crawled since Google has a very complicated algorithm for its search engine. However, most of the time you will get benefit from it, especially on SEO effort.
Even if you are making a sitemap wrong, you have nothing to worry about since it will not cause any technical issues, and the bot will crawl normally as if you don’t have one.
That is everything you need to know about Joomla sitemap. It may seem long, but with an optimized sitemap, it could benefit greatly for your SEO effort. In short, you just need to remember 3 basic steps to create a sitemap for your site:
- Make your site hierarchy structure
- Create sitemap using an online generator or Joomla sitemap extension
- Notify Search Engine about your sitemap
I hope with this article, you can successfully create a sitemap that optimizes for search engines.
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