All You Need To Know About Image & Video Sitemaps

by | Dec 4, 2014

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Ever since Google has begun showing images and videos in the organic search results, image and video sitemaps have become increasingly important. We will give you the rundown of everything you need to know to make sure your visual media get indexed as correctly and complete as possible.

First off, why would you even need image and video sitemaps?

The information provided in image and video sitemaps helps Google discover images they might not otherwise find (such as images your site reaches through JavaScript). Thus, your sitemap lets you indicate images and videos on your site that you want Google to crawl and index, increasing your organic search visibility by providing Google with a better understanding of your site and your content.

Let’s get to the juicy bits, feel free to jump straight to the video sitemaps if images aren’t all that relevant for you.

Image Sitemaps

We use image sitemaps to provide Google with more information about the images available on your pages.

To give Google information about images on your site, you need to add image-specific tags to your sitemap. For this, you can use a separate image sitemap, or you can add image information to your already existing sitemap. Whichever you choose is entirely up to you, both solutions are perfectly acceptable for Google.

For each URL you list in your sitemap, you can add additional information about important images on that page.

Assuming you already have a standard XML Sitemap set up, you must first add the following XMLNS declaration to the <urlset> tag:

xmlns:image=http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1

This declaration allows the additional image-related information to be interpreted because it is not part of the standard Sitemap protocol.

Image Sitemap Example

In order to turn your standard Sitemap into an image Sitemap you must then add the following tags which go between the <url> and </url> tags: <image:image> which encloses all information about a single image, and <image:loc> which specifies the URL of the image.

The following example shows a sitemap entry for the URL http://www.example.com/sample.html, which contains two images.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
  <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
  xmlns:image="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-image/1.1">
  <url>
    <loc>http://example.com/sample.html</loc>
    <image:image>
      <image:loc>http://example.com/image.jpg</image:loc>
    </image:image>
    <image:image>
      <image:loc>http://example.com/photo.jpg</image:loc>
    </image:image>
  </url>
</urlset>

You can list up to 1,000 images for each page, using the syntax outline in the example above.

Image Sitemap Tags

Below is an image with the available image tags for your sitemap, some of which are required, others optional:

image optimisation sitemap tags

If you want to further increase the likelihood of your site coming up in relevant image search results, check out the complete guide on image optimisation for SEO.

Video Sitemaps

Similar to image sitemaps video sitemaps provide Google with information about video content on your site. If you are using YouTube videos on your site, you’re in luck as the world’s largest video site is operated by Google and it’s relatively easy to set up a sitemap for these.

In your video sitemap, you can inform Google of the category, title, description, running time, and intended audience for each video contained on your site.

At the moment, Google can crawl the following video file types: mpg, .mpeg, .mp4, .m4v, .mov, .wmv, .asf, .avi, .ra, .ram, .rm, .flv, .swf.

Video sitemaps come with a few requirements and restrictions in order to be accepted by Google:

Each sitemap that you provide must be under 50MB in size when uncompressed, and can contain no more than 50,000 video items. If your uncompressed file is larger than 50MB, or you have more than 50,000 videos, you can submit multiple sitemaps and a sitemap index file (such as ours here).

Each URL entry must contain the following information:

  • Title
  • Description
  • Play page URL
  • Thumbnail URL
  • Raw video file location and/or the player URL (SWF)

All files must be accessible via HTTP. Metafiles that require a download of the source via streaming protocols are currently not supported.

Pro Tip: Make sure that your robots.txt file isn’t blocking any of the items (including the play page URL, the video URL, and the thumbnail URL) included in each sitemap entry.

Video Sitemap Example

The entries in a video sitemap must include a link to the landing page for a video and some required information. Many of the elements in a video sitemap are optional, but they provide useful metadata that can enhance your video results and improve Google’s ability to include your video in search results. 

Here is an example of a sitemap entry for a page that includes video. Similar to image sitemaps, you must first add the following XMLNS declaration to the <urlset> tag:

xmlnvideo=http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-video/1.1
<urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"
  xmlns:video="http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap-video/1.1">
 <url>
   <loc>http://www.example.com/videos/some_video_landing_page.html</loc>
   <video:video>
    <video:thumbnail_loc>http://www.example.com/thumbs/123.jpg</video:thumbnail_loc>
    <video:title>Grilling steaks for summer</video:title>
    <video:description>Alkis shows you how to get perfectly done steaks every time</video:description><video:content_loc>http://www.example.com/video123.flv</video:content_loc>
    <video:player_loc allow_embed="yes" autoplay="ap=1">
    http://www.example.com/videoplayer.swf?video=123</video:player_loc>
    <video:duration>600</video:duration>
    <video:expiration_date>2009-11-05T19:20:30+08:00</video:expiration_date>
    <video:rating>4.2</video:rating>
    <video:view_count>12345</video:view_count>
    <video:publication_date>2007-11-05T19:20:30+08:00</video:publication_date>
    <video:family_friendly>yes</video:family_friendly>
    <video:restriction relationship="allow">IE GB US CA</video:restriction>
    <video:gallery_loc title="Cooking Videos">http://cooking.example.com</video:gallery_loc>
    <video:price currency="EUR">1.99</video:price>
    <video:requires_subscription>yes</video:requires_subscription>
    <video:uploader info="http://www.example.com/users/grillymcgrillerson">GrillyMcGrillerson
     </video:uploader>
    <video:live>no</video:live>
   </video:video>
 </url>
</urlset>

Video Sitemap Tags

Below is an image with the required video tags for your sitemap.

video optimisation sitemap tags

If you want to know more about video optimisation, check out the Google Developers course here. It’s a great resource, if you’re up for a bit of reading – you have been warned.

Handy Tools (and they’re free!)

Before you start nervously wringing your hands at the sight of all the code, check out these free sitemap generators that automatically detect embedded videos and images on your pages, and create separate sitemaps with related details. Many of them also support other video formats besides YouTube, such as Vimeo, Google Video, Dailymotion, MTV and Blip.tv.

Free XML Video Sitemap Generator on Canada SEO Zone

Free 30 Day Trial Image & Video Sitemap Generator from A1 Sitemap Generator

Free Video XML Sitemap Generator Plugin for WordPress

Free Image Sitemap Generator from Angel Digital

Unfortunately we haven’t found a great free tool for video sitemaps yet, most of them still require some tweaking. If you know of any, please do share in the comments!

Still confused? Get in touch if you think you’re not getting the most out of the images or videos on your sites!

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