Feb 25, 2021
What Is a Sitemap & How to Create One for Your Website
When looking to set up your website, the first thing you need to take care of is web hosting. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this report by Hosting Data on the best web hosting services in the UK. However, even with most of the basics done and ready, taking your time to work on the backend will truly take your website to a new level.
An example of such work is creating a sitemap – an important part of your website’s backbone and essential for any SEO strategy you might have.
What Is a Sitemap?
What is a sitemap? As the name suggests, it’s a map of every page on your site. Of course, it’s not the typical map that you’d find under the header bar.
Instead, a sitemap is made in XML (Extensible Markup Language) and is primarily used as a way for AI to index your site easier. Search engines like Google use XML sitemaps to store your site’s pages more efficiently, producing better results when people search for related terms.
Why Is Having a Sitemap Important?
The primary importance of having a sitemap is to help support your SEO strategy.
As mentioned above, search engines use crawlers to go through websites and index them together, taking a closer look at the content on their pages. By providing these crawlers with a map of your site, your content can be indexed more quickly. That way, it’s easier for these crawlers to show results when somebody searches for a keyword.
Sitemaps contain very pertinent information about your website, such as update frequency, where the page is in relation to other pages and your landing page, and how important that page is. The sitemap will even let search engines know that you don’t have any duplicate content, which is a big problem when it comes to SEO.
How to Create a Sitemap?
Regardless of whether you use a generator to create your sitemap or do it manually, an important first step is to actually take a look at the layout of the pathways of your site. Generally, the more shallow your site structure, the easier it is to rank your website.
For example, a page that is three times removed from your root page will be much harder to rank. That’s exactly why most SEO experts say that you should try and create your sitemap to be as simple as possible.
We can take this website sitemap template as an example.
As you can see, there are only three levels to the sitemap, increasing the importance of pages such as “committees” and “renew membership” compared to the home page.
Creating a Sitemap Manually
If you have some experience with HTML, you could create your sitemap manually. XML is, after all, a form of markup language, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty.
The process is simple: just create a text file with a .xml extension, and fill it with code that contains relevant information. Here’s an example of what it should look like:
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?> <urlset xmlns=”example.com″> <url> <loc>http://www.example.com/</loc> <lastmod>2005-01-01</lastmod> <changefreq>monthly</changefreq> <priority>0.8</priority> </url> </urlset>
Once you’re done, make sure to validate your XML sitemap using a sitemap validator. This step is important because you can end up hampering your site by handing in an invalid sitemap.
Creating a Sitemap Automatically
If you don’t have the experience or the time to create a sitemap manually, you can always use an online generator.
With a generator, all you have to do is put in the URL and it will create a sitemap for you. If you use something like WordPress, the Yoast SEO plugin has a function to create a sitemap automatically and even go so far as submitting it. It does so with every new page you publish, so that website crawlers can always have your website up to date.
Submitting your Sitemap
Once your sitemap is complete, the next step is to submit it to the search engines of your choice. First, upload the sitemap to your website, then get the URL for the submission process.
To submit to Google, you’ll want to use the Google Search Console. Once you make your account, click on Sitemaps in the menu, then in the Add New Sitemaps section, upload your file and click on Submit.
If you want to submit to Bing, you can use the Bing Webmaster Tools. Once you create your account, go to My Sites, and on the left-hand menu click on Configure My Site, followed by clicking on Sitemaps. Just add your URL in the relevant field, click Submit, and you’re done.
If you want to submit to DuckDuckGo, you’ll be glad to learn that you don’t have to. DuckDuckGo uses information from both Bing and Google for its searches, so as long as you submit to those two, you’ll be absolutely fine.
Remember to avoid including redirected URLs to your sitemaps when submitting them.
Sitemaps are an important part of your website. Having a well-built sitemap is imperative to good SEO, as well as making sure that everything is well organized.
More importantly, remember that unless you’ve installed a plugin that automatically submits a sitemap to your preferred search engines, every time you update it, you’ll need to submit it manually again.