Splitting up a Sitemap

When a website has thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of pages we always tell our clients to split up the Sitemaps. This is a standard recommendation that will help a search engine spider the content of a website more easily.

Recently I have been working on The Works Book Shop website and after making this recommendation realised that the developer had simply split the sitemap up into random smaller Sitemaps.

Although this is much better than having one sitemap with thousands of links this can be so much better.

Using the Site Structure for the Sitemaps

Nowadays we all know how important the structure of a website is and a key element of this is the site navigation. Yes the good old three clicks rule. Every page on a website should be within three clicks of any other page on the same website.


This should happen naturally with a good site structure. For example normally an e-commerce website will have categories followed by sub-categories followed by products.

Surely this is what we should use for the structure when we split the sitemap up?

How to Split up a Sitemap

Above gives us the theory of how to split up a sitemap. So how do we actually do it?

When you split up a sitemap you can also include a sitemap of the sitemaps i.e. a sitemap that contains a list of sitemap on your website. This is called a sitemap index.

I find it is always best to work from the bottom up. So you start with grouping products together then work your way up to categories.

  1. Set up a Sitemap for all of your sub categories, each Sitemap will contain all of the product URL’s for that sub category;
  2. Set up a Category Sitemap which contains a list of category URL’s;
  3. Set up a Static page Sitemap. The Static pages are pages such as Home, About us etc;
  4. Set up a Sitemap Index that contains a list of all the sub category Sitemaps and the Static and Category Sitemaps.

Now you have a Sitemap Index that is a list of all of the Sitemaps on your website and all of your products are nicely split up into sub category sitemaps.

Why you should structure your Sitemaps

Apart from ensuring that the Sitemaps are easy to spider by search engines using this method will also help you in the future. After submitting these Sitemaps to Google Website Tools if you encounter any spidering issues via Google you can easily track where the error is rather than working through your website one page at a time.

Important Notes

It is important to remember the Sitemap Index can only link to Sitemaps and each Sitemap can only link to URLs.

Also each URL should only be included once within all of the Sitemaps so if we have products that are included in more than one category then we need to either chose a category for the sitemap.