When trying to rank a website in search engines, a sitemap is one of the most important elements to keep in mind. Like people following a roadmap, Google and other search engine robots follow sitemaps to better understand, navigate, index, and rank web pages.

In this guide to sitemaps, we’ll go over what a sitemap is, why you need one, and how to create and submit one for your site.

 

What Exactly Is a Sitemap?

 

A sitemap functions as a layout of your website and all of its pages according to the website’s hierarchy. Search engine bots can then locate, crawl, and ultimately index and rank all of the content on the site using these sitemaps, often taking into account the prioritization of your pages.

 

The Different Types of Sitemaps

 

There are two main types of sitemaps that you can create for your website, including:

  • XML Sitemaps: XML sitemaps generate a text file listing all of a website’s URLs, but it’s entirely for technical purposes to allow search engines to crawl the site. Certain extensions in these sitemaps can also provide search engines with more context about content, such as the date when they were last updated and the type of content appearing on each page. For example, HubSpot has an XML sitemap that lists all of its pages and “last modified” dates.
  • HTML Sitemaps: These sitemaps, like XML sitemaps, can help search engines find and crawl a website, but they are more navigational in nature and actually appear on the website. These sitemaps often have a dedicated page that lists all of the pages on the site according to hierarchy or category. An example here would be Home Depot’s extensive HTML sitemap.

In addition, you could use text sitemaps or RSS feeds. Text sitemaps are basic sitemaps that are ideal for smaller websites, while RSS feeds can provide search engines with details about recent pages on blogs or news platforms.

 

The Importance of Sitemaps

 

Website Architecture for SEO. Sitemap for better User Experience.

 

Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and other search engines rely on sitemaps to identify and index websites. While it’s not necessary to have a sitemap, as search engines can usually crawl any website with linked pages, it can boost your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

A sitemap is particularly helpful if you have a new website with a minimal number of backlinks on other websites leading back to yours. Having an XML or HTML sitemap can help create links to your pages that can expedite the crawling and indexing process, allowing you to rank somewhat faster in some cases.

The key is knowing how to set up and submit your sitemap to Google.

 

Steps for Creating and Submitting a Sitemap

 

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If you want to benefit from a sitemap for your website, the following are some critical steps to take:

 

1. Audit Your Site for Technical Errors

 

Before creating your sitemap, you should conduct an audit to identify any technical issues that might prevent your website from being crawled, indexed, or ranked.

Using an auditing solution such as Semrush’s Site Audit tool, you can look for certain technical problems such as:

  • Broken links
  • Duplicate content
  • Slow loading speeds
  • Unsecured HTTP
  • Incorrect redirects
  • Messy URLs that aren’t SEO-friendly

Once you’ve identified and corrected these issues, you can more confidently develop a sitemap that helps your website when interacting with search engine bots.

 

2. Craft Your Sitemap

 

The next step will entail using a tool to create your sitemap. The specific tool you use will depend on the platform you use, and it could include the following:

  • Yoast: This is WordPress’s free SEO plugin that makes it easy to develop an XML sitemap, which will automatically update as you add new pages.
  • Screaming Frog: This tool can also help you develop XML sitemaps, including “last modified” tags.
  • XML-Sitemaps.com: Another third-party solution that can help with sitemap creation is XML-Sitemaps.com, which is available in free and paid versions. This tool makes it incredibly easy to create your sitemap by simply entering your URL.

There are other tools available as well, depending on what kind of sitemap you want to create and the web hosting service you use.

 

3. Submit the Sitemap to Google

 

After you’ve created your sitemap, you must submit it to Google to ensure search engines can crawl it. To do so, you will need to log into your Google Search Console account or create one if you don’t have one.

Within Google Search Console, you should see an “Indexing” menu in the left sidebar, with “Sitemaps” underneath. Click on “Sitemaps” and simply paste your sitemap URL into the “Add a new sitemap” field, and you should see your sitemap under “Submitted sitemaps” below.

 

4. Use Multiple Sitemaps if Needed

 

If you’re using XML sitemaps, keep in mind that they have certain limits, preventing you from listing more than 50,000 URLs or creating files exceeding 50 MB. As a result, you may need to create more than one sitemap and submit each one to Google.

 

Get the Most from Your Sitemaps With Good SEO

 

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Need help creating your sitemaps and other SEO tasks? You may understand the importance of sitemaps and implementing them properly, but maybe you need help with prioritizing URLs or otherwise structuring and submitting your sitemap. You may also want some assistance with content development, linkbuilding, and other SEO elements, in which case Vigor Seorchers is here for you.

Want to find out what we can do for your SEO, PPC, and other aspects of digital marketing? Reach out to us today!

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