In SEO marketing efforts, we cannot overlook the importance of having a correct and updated sitemap. To define a sitemap is pretty simple. A sitemap is a small file, or “map” linking together each page of your website, and in a format that is easily readable, and accessible, by search engine crawlers.
Generally, site maps are documents that website creators upload onto the website once it is complete, but sitemaps can also be utilized as a planning and organizational tool for web designers. Sitemaps are the organizational side of a website. When you view a sitemap, the pages, navigation, and labeling of the website should be easily defined for users and search engines.
A sitemap’s meaning will vary from website to website. Each will be unique to the website that they represent, and each will have different elements – it all depends on the creator of the sitemap and what the user is hoping to achieve.
Overall, you need a sitemap so search engines know what content is on your site, and how often it is updated.
There are two main types of sitemaps. XML and HTML. From these two versions, site maps split even further into different categories. These categories cover webpages (generally XML site maps), image sitemaps, and video sitemaps.
When you’re ready to create a sitemap file, you will generally use XML. We’ll talk about why in a few moments.
Since sitemaps are the best way that search engines find your website, you want to ensure that all the information from your webpage is listed in your sitemap. This means every link and its click path, must be present and accounted for.
You can also create image and video sitemaps, but these are not widely used among SEO specialists. Depending on your need, you may not utilize these versions of site maps at all.
While search engines use sitemaps as their guide through your site, and can increase your rankings, creating a sitemap isn’t a given that your site will appear on the first page of search results. What the sitemap will do, however, is ensure that search engine crawlers have the information they need, and that they can see each and every page listed on your website.
Understanding the need for a sitemap is a great starting point, but how do you find a sitemap from a site you’re managing? Or for that matter, how to find the sitemap of any website out on the internet? There’s a pretty easy way.
Most websites list their sitemaps at the bottom of their homepage. Since the purpose of a sitemap is to allow search engine bots to crawl your pages, having the sitemap on the homepage of your website is common practice. This makes is extremely easy for search engine bots to find the sitemap and work their magic.
The sitemap location can vary from website to website, but when you look at most websites, scroll to the bottom of the home page. You’ll more than likely notice a small link labeled “sitemap” or “links”.
When a website creator takes the time to manually create their own xml sitemap, the sitemap.xml location is generally listed as something similar to www.URL.com/sitemap.xml - which will allow users to access the sitemap directly.
We’ll dive into how to create sitemap.xml for your website in a moment, but first, let’s take a look at a few website sitemap examples. These will give you a better idea of what to include in your sitemap, and how best to arrange the pieces of your sitemap correctly, for maximum search engine results.
Take a look at this extremely basic sitemap example:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
Now, before you runaway screaming from the paragraph of code, let’s take each XML tag one by one and understand its meaning. Break out your old HTML skills, they’re going to come in handy here!
It seems daunting and scary, but it really isn’t as difficult as you’d think. We’re going to review several website sitemap checkers that will help you feel more confident in your sitemap writing abilities.
Get ready to start creating your own sitemap.xml file! It’s that time. Depending on the platform that you are using for your website, there may be different plugins you can utilize that will actually help you create and build your website sitemap automatically.
We’re going to assume you’re doing this old school and writing your own.
Let’s start by opening up a text editor, like notepad. Don’t use Word, or any version of the program. Word formats text automatically, and this can make your sitemap invalid, and incorrect. Use notepad – and save yourself a headache.
Create your template. As shown above, your sitemap template does not have to be complex. Especially if you are working with a fairly small site, without many pages, manually creating your sitemap will be extremely easy.
Use the above example as your guide. Copy and paste this into your notepad file.
That’s it! You’ve just created your sitemap.
Now that your sitemap is created, let’s talk about how to add a sitemap at your website. Uploading the sitemap.xml file is pretty straight forward, it’s just a matter of discovering where the correct features on in your particular website platform.
There are a few different tools out there that you can use to validate your sitemap.xml file. Many are extremely easy to use, and will provide you with details on what you’ve done incorrectly, and allow you to resubmit your sitemap until it looks exactly right.
These are free tools, and each will help ensure your sitemap.xml file is ready to go for search engines!
There are many other tools that can help you validate your sitemaps, and also a few tools that will create your sitemaps for you.
These are just two options of the many tools out there that can help you generate your website sitemap, should you decide not to write it yourself.
Since Google is the search engine to target, we’re going to talk about how to submit your sitemap file to Google’s Search Console.
Adding your sitemap to Google’s Search Console is incredibly easy. A few things to remember before submitting:
Make sure your sitemap does not exceed 10MB or 50,000 URLs. If it does, you will need to break your sitemap into several files.
If you’re all set to submit to Google, log into your Google Search Console home page.
That’s it! You’re done.
While sitemaps can seem a little daunting and scary, they are fairly easy to work with once you get the basics down.
Remember that a sitemap is needed for search engines to crawl your site and hit each and every page that is active on your website. Without a sitemap, you run the risk of pages being missed, or your site not being indexed at all.
Refer to this article when you need additional help, or have questions about creating your own website’s sitemap! Also, try our DA and PA checker to discover these important metrics for your site.