Large Ecommerce Sitemap Specifications

Posted by Sean on May 28, 2020

Here are the specifications I wrote for a bespoke sitemap set up for a large ecommerce website in February 2017 in an attempt to optimise the performance of the site and enhance discovery of new product, pages and articles as well as any other assets accociated with them.

At the request of the development manager I used an Agile Given When Then approach to writing the specification.


Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
When the assets are published
Then they should be listed in a XML sitemap file in order to make it quick for the search engines to find

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And these assets are of different types
And some of them are webpages
And some of them are images
And some of them are videos
When the assets are published
Then they can be grouped together where these assets all feature on one page
And we need to group related items together within <url> </url> tags
And we need to encapsulate the items in the correct tags for their type

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And that they belong to a variety of different categories
And that some of these categories have specific sitemap formats
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to make sure that these sitemaps are split into various categories
And each category has its own file
And if a category has its own format requirement that we use that format

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And we wish to sell our products
And we have a large amount of stock
And this stock is categorised by different brands
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list products of a given brand in their own sitemap xml
And this should be called Brand.xml so it is quick for humans to understand what is in it (for example Category.xml)
And this can contain the URL groups that include pages, images and videos
And this sitemaps should contain the URLs for the root page for the brand (e.g. https://www.website.co.uk/Category)
And this sitemaps should contain the URLs for the root page for all series under this brand (e.g. https://www.website.co.uk/Category/SubCategory)
And where applicable this should contain the URLs for the root page for models and sub models where these pages exists (e.g. https://www.website.co.uk/Category/SubCategory/16618, https://www.website.co.uk/Category/SubCategory/116610-LV, https://www.website.co.uk/Category/SubCategory/116610-LN)

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And we wish to buy products from the general public
And this stock is categorised by different brands
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list products of a given brand in their own sitemap xml
And this should be called SellBrand.xml
And this can contain the URL groups that include page URLs only (not images or video)

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And we have a New Arrivals section drives many new sales
And it would benefit us to make this most regularly crawled section of the website by search engines
And search engines tailor their crawl frequencies based on files they see changing rapidly
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list the latest 100 new arrivals page URLs on their own NewArrivals.xml sitemap
And new arrivals that are older than the latest 100 need to be removed
And this sitemaps does need to contain URLs but does not need to list image or video details on it
But this sitemap can and will list URLs that are on product sitemaps (Category.xml etc.)

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And some of these pages are relating to our service centre
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list all servicing pages in a Servicing.xml sitemap
And this does need to contain images and videos

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And some of these assets are articles
And some of these assets are news
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list all the pages that are in this category in a Articles.xml sitemap
And this should list all images and videos that relate to the articles
And we should also add them to specific News.xml for the first 48 hours that they are published
But then remove them after 48 hours from the News.xml

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And some of them do not fit into the categories listed (homepage, info pages, about us, awards, promos/sale pages etc.)
And that we do want these to be picked up by the search engines
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list these in a mop up sitemap Website.xml

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
When the assets are published and listed in an XML sitemap
Then we need to make sure the XML file is Encoded correctly
And we need to tell the search engines it is so by starting each file with <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
And we need to tell search engines what types of URL sets we are publishing

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And we need to tell search engines what types of URL sets to publish
And where they can find the matching schemas
And that we have pages, images and videos
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list these URL schema sets within the <urlset > tag
And for pages the schema is xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
And for video the schema is xmlns:video="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-video/1.1"
And for images the schema is xmlns:image="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1)"
And it should look like this <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9" xmlns:image="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1" xmlns:video="https://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-video/1.1">

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And some of them are web pages
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list the locations of URLs using <loc> </loc> tags
And these need to be within the URL group which is wrapped <URL> </URL> tags

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And some of them are images
And we can provide a title which will help the search engines understand what is in an image
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list details of images using <image:image> </image:image> tags
And we need to list the URL of an image within <image:loc> </image:/loc> tags
And we need to provide a title in <image:title> </image:title> tags
And this image, where it is a product should contain the H1 of the product page, the angle of the shot and the product code
And we need to provide license details which will be for every one <image:license>[https://www.website.co.uk/info/Licensed-Images</image:license>

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And some of them are videos
And we can provide additional details about these videos
And we host all our videos on YouTube
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list details of videos using <video:video> </video:video> tags within the URL group below the page location details
And we need to provide a thumbnail by using <video:thumbnail_loc>[httpss://img.youtube.com/vi/<insert-youtube-video-id-here></video:thumbnail_loc>
And we need to provide the title which should match the page’s H1 tag and this should be wrapped in <video:title> </video:title>
And we need to provide the title which should match the description from the page (currently wrapped in itemprop=”description” tags on page) and be wrapped in <video:description> </video:description>
And we need to provide the content location which will be <video:content_loc> [httpss://www.youtube.com/embed/<insert-youtube-video-id-here></video:content_loc>

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And that we have a lot of different types
And that when we list all of them the lists can become large
And that speed means a lot to us
And that aside from splitting up sitemaps we can also compress them
When the assets are published
Then we can publish gzipped sitemaps along site unzipped sitemaps
And provide these gzipped sitemaps to the search engines instead
And list these in a public sitemap index xml with the filename https://www.website.co.uk/sitemap.xml that we provide to the search engines
And this should be listed in robots.txt
And this should be the only one uploaded to search engine webmaster tools
And list the uncompressed in another file for internal SEO and human use that we publish at /sitemaps.xml

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And the search engines have a 50,000 item limit per sitemap
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to split any lists that go above this size
And if this happens it would make sense to split sitemaps into logical categories
But this should not need to be thought about for a while

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And that we can advise the search engines on when a page was last modified to help with crawl prioritisation
And that we can advise the search engines on what priority we rate a page from 0.0 (lowest) to 1.0 (highest)
And that we can advise the search engines on how frequently a page is likely to change (always[changes when accessed]/hourly/daily/weekly/monthly/yearly/never[archived pages])
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to add this data within the <url> </url> tags
And we need to use the <lastmod> tag in W3C datetime format with time omitted (e.g. 2017-12-25)
And we need to set a priority on pages
And that should be set to 1.0 for new arrivals, 0.9 for promo pages, 0.8 for all product pages and left to 0.5 (default) for all other pages (we can tweak later if required)
And we need to use the <changefreq> to advise on change frequency (always/hourly/daily/weekly/monthly/yearly/never)

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And we don’t want to have duplicate content being pushed to the search engines
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to list only canonical URLs
And we don’t want any pages that have a query string in them in the url to feature in the sitemap
And if we have important pages that have query strings in, these need to be changed to non-query based URL’s so the search engines don’t ignore them

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And we have multiple country sites
And some we don’t provide certain services in some countries (e.g. serving)
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need to have a specific set of sitemaps per country
And not list in the sitemap services we don’t provide in these countries
But we also need to make sure these pages do not have hreflang tags point them to non-existent pages within the pages themselves (added otherwise I will forget to tell you this)

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And we have multiple country sites
And these are in multiple languages
When the assets are published and added to an XML sitemap
Then we need include hreflang alternatives for each page URL
But if this does not exist in the language or is not available as a service then we should not list it as an hreflang alternative on any sitemap (e.g. https://www.website.fr/service)

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And sometimes these pages are archived
When the assets are archived
Then we need to move them off all lists into an archive.xml
And give all these pages priority 0.0 And if this list exceedes 50,000 items we need to split the list and come up with a genius name like archive2.xml
And if their URL group contains any other assets they need to be included as well

Given that we have assets on the websites and that we want search engines to find them and index them quickly
And sometimes are removed
When the assets are unpublished or deleted
Then we need them to be removed from all sitemaps
And if their URL group contains any other assets they need to be removed as well


Given that I have tried to make this document exhaustive but I am only human
When the developer comes to do the coding
Then here is a list of relevant assets written by far smarter people than me

Google, Microsoft & Yahoo Sitemaps partnership site
Google Sitemaps Help
Google Video Sitemaps Help
Google Image Sitemap Help
Google News Sitemaps


Note that I am not using anything even remotely as complex on this on this blog as this is more for me playing around and testing stuff out.