Download and check XML sitemaps

⚠️ THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS

It's not required to submit an XML sitemap to have a successful website but it's definitely an SEO nice to have.

Nevertheless, if you do submit one, it's best to make sure it's error-free and as you will see its is quite straightforward to extract URLs using R

Install xsitemap R’ Package (to be done once) and Load

install.packages("devtools")
library(devtools)
install_github("pixgarden/xsitemap")
library(xsitemap)

Find and fetch XML sitemaps

xsitemap_urls <- xsitemapGet("https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/")

This function will first search for XML sitemap url. It will first check the robots.txt file to see if an XML sitemap url is explicitly declared.

if not, the script will do some random guess (‘sitemap.xml’, ‘sitemap_index.xml’ , …) most of the time, it will find the XML sitemap url.

Then, the XML sitemap URL is fetched and the URLs extracted.

If it’s a classic XML sitemap, a data frame (special kind of array) will be produced and return.

If it’s an index XML sitemap, the process will get back from the start with every XML sitemaps inside.

This will produce a data frame with all the information extracted.

(optional) Check URLs HTTP code

Another interesting function allows you to crawl the sitemap URLs and verify if your web pages send proper 200 HTTP codes (HEAD Requests)

It can take some time depending on the number of URLs. It took several hours for https://www.gov.uk/ for example.

xsitemap_urls_http <- xsitemapCheckHTTP(xsitemap_urls)

It will add a dedicated column with the HTTP code filled in. You can check data inside rstudio by using

View(xsitemap_urls_http)

or if you prefer, generate a CSV

Like in the intro, it's quite easy to count HTTP codes

View(table(xsitemap_urls_http$http))

to discover, at the time of writing that most of the XML sitemap URLs are actually redirects...