If you’re a website owner, creating a sitemap should be one of the first things you do. You know that ranking high in Google search results is essential to attracting new visitors. Did you know, though, that using a sitemap can help triple your traffic from Google? In this blog post, we’ll explain what a sitemap is and how to create and submit one to improve your website’s SEO. So whether you’re just getting started with SEO or want to take your efforts to the next level, read on for tips on using a sitemap to increase your visibility in Google search results!
A Little History
In the late 1990s, the major search engines would spend all their time aimlessly spidering the web and filling up their databases with what they found. Search results wouldn’t necessarily contain the the best sites, just the ones that they currently had in the system. They eventually began allowing you to submit your URL to them, which quickly created a queue of up to six months long to get your site indexed. It was incredibly slow and inadequate for the rapid growth of the internet.
Now, the major search engines want you to do do a bit more work to categorize and actually tell them what pages are important. they are requiring website owners to create an index of all the relevant pages within their site, and submit that to them. This is where XML sitemaps came in – they provide a way for website owners to submit a list of their pages to the search engine, telling them which ones are most important so that they can be indexed more thoroughly.
What is a sitemap?
A sitemap is an XML file that lists all the URLs for a website. It also includes information about each URL, such as when it was last updated and how important it is relative to other URLs on the site. This information helps search engines index your website more thoroughly and accurately. It might look like this:
What are the benefits of Creating a sitemap for your website?
Well, it’s important to note that Google and Bing probably won’t include your site into their database unless you start creating a sitemap. There are a few exceptions to this but for the most part, this rule is the law.
It is also an important way to inform search engines of all the pages on your site, so they can be included in search results. Search engines use a variety of factors to determine how important each page is, but they don’t index every page on your website automatically. Creating a sitemap helps ensure that more pages from your site will be included in search results.
So let’s create a sitemap!
How can you start creating a sitemap?
There are many ways to begin creating a sitemap. You could hand code them, use an online generator, or look for plugins that will help you automatically generate one in your CMS of choice.
Check to see if a sitemap already exists
If you are using a CMS like WordPress or Joomla, they might have already create a sitemap for you.
Try to access https://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or https://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap
If you see an XML page already created, that’s awesome! The hard work is already done. If not, a plugin probably exists that will do this for you. Search for one within your CMS to get this created.
Creating a Sitemap Manually
If you’re not too familiar with XML, hand coding a sitemap can be tricky. There are online tools that will create one for you such as:
All you need to do is enter in the URL of your website and it will generate an XML file for you.
Having your sitemap update auto-magically
Now that finished creating your sitemap, it’s important to keep it updated. If you make changes to your website and don’t update your sitemap, the search engine might not be aware of the new pages.
This one requires a bit of programming knowledge, but is great at getting new site updates into Google and Bing within days. If you have a blog, or have consistent updates to your site, update your sitemap to let Google know about them. It is best practice to update your sitemap at least once a week.
For this blog, we have each blog post added immediately to our sitemap with name, url, and updated date. This way, as the search engines hit our sitemap daily, they see that the new blog posts and immediately add them to their database. We have seen a tremendous spike in traffic since implementing this method.
Facebook does this with your profile pages. The search engines know about them quickly, which is why your Facebook profile is a link directly from within Google.
Updating your website with your sitemap
Ok, so you have a sitemap created.
- Make sure it’s named “sitemap.xml” (Search engines actually search for it with this name)
- Put it in the root folder of your website.
- Verify that you can access it at – https://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml
Submitting your sitemap to Google and Bing
Now that you finished creating a sitemap and placed it on your website, it’s time to update Google and Bing. To do this, log into their respective webmaster tools:
Google Webmaster Tools: https://search.google.com/u/1/search-console
Bing Webmaster Tools: https://www.bing.com/webmasters/home
Once logged in, find the Sitemaps area (currently on the left navigation).
Within this area, submit the sitemap URL. You should be able to quickly see if the format is acceptable as Google and Bing hit your sitemap.
While you’re in there, be sure to check out all the other tools you can use to utilize the search engines to their fullest.
You did it! You have successfully created a sitemap and submitted it to Google and Bing. Now it’s time to wait for them to index your website. In the meantime, continue optimizing your website content and adding new pages/posts. The more quality content you have, the better chance you’ll have of ranking higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Don’t forget your can use our free SEO Ranking tool to make sure your pages are optimized for Google and Bing.
If you have any questions or need help, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re more than happy to assist!