You’ve certainly heard of it, and you probably know it’s important, but you still have that cloud of uncertainty about what it is and what it really does. Don’t panic, there’s really nothing complicated about sitemaps!
What is a sitemap? – Definition
A sitemap is a file in the root of your site that helps search engines and users to find their way around. Think of it as a kind of map that will be read by search engines crawlers when they process your site. You can also picture it as the bone structure of your site. The sitemap will inform search engines of all the pages that exist on the site. It will also tell search engines which pages on the site are more important than others, and how often you update it.
Although sitemaps do not increase your ranking, they do allow search engines to explore your website more effectively, and it’s still helpful for showing up on search engines. If you want a little further with the SEO of your website, learn here how to choose your keywords with the Google Keyword Planner.
Here’s the Google definition of a sitemap:
“A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organisation of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to crawl your site in a smarter way.
Also, your sitemap can provide valuable metadata associated with the pages you list in that sitemap: Metadata is information about a webpage, such as when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and the importance of the page relative to other URLs in the site.”
Now that you’re a little more familiar with what a sitemap is, let’s look at how to create one.
How to make a sitemap
There are several ways of creating a sitemap. If you don’t have much experience in this area, the easiest way is to generate it either with a plugin (if your site is in WordPress) or with an online tool. If you have a little more experience with sitemaps, you can write yours by hand. This is a process that can be time-consuming, depending on the size of your site, but it allows you full control over what you want to include or leave out.
How to make a sitemap in WordPress
Creating a sitemap for your WordPress site is very simple. The easiest way is to download a plugin that will generate a sitemap:
Google Sitemap Generator – With over 2 million active installations, this is the best plugin for creating a sitemap on WordPress. Just install it, and it will take care of the rest!
If you don’t want to download a plugin, sites like https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ allow you to simply enter the URL of your site, and they then generate a free sitemap for it. However, it can take a long time to generate a sitemap if your website has a lot of page depth.
How to send and have your sitemap validated by Google
To send your sitemap to Google, you must sign in to Google’s Search Console. Once logged in, go to ‘Add Property’ and add your site.
Once your site has been added you must verify your ownership. If you’re having trouble with this step, read this Google guide to help you: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35179?hl=en
Once validated, still in the Search Console, go here (left-hand column):
Then at the top right, click on ‘Add / Test sitemap’
In the window that opens, add ‘https://mysite.en/sitemap.xml’
And there you have it, your site has a sitemap!
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