A sitemap is a list of all the URLs on your website. It can be in HTML or XML format, and it helps search engines crawl and index your pages more efficiently. In this guide, we’ll discuss why you should have a sitemap, how to create one, and how to submit it to Google and Bing. Let’s get started!
What Is a Sitemap? A Detailed Definition
A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. A sitemap tells the crawler which pages exist on your website, when they were last updated, how often they change, and their relative importance.
You can think of it like an outline for your website. It’s a way to give search engines a high-level overview of your site’s content so that they can more effectively crawl and index your pages. Sitemaps aren’t required by Google or Bing, but they do help them understand and discover your content.
Do You Need a Sitemap?
If you have a small website with fewer than 50 pages, you probably don’t need a sitemap. Search engines are typically able to discover and crawl most of the pages on your site without one. However, if your site is large or has dynamic content, a sitemap can be helpful in ensuring that all of your pages are found and indexed.
A sitemap is also helpful if your site has pages that aren’t easily discovered by crawlers, such as pages without any internal links pointing to them. In these cases, a sitemap can help search engines find and index your content. On the other hand, you can exclude certain pages from your sitemap if you don’t want them to be indexed, such as pages that are duplicates of other pages on your site.
HTML vs. XML Sitemaps
There are two types of sitemaps: HTML and XML. HTML sitemaps are meant to be human-readable, while XML site maps are designed for crawlers.
HTML sitemaps should be easy for humans to read, navigate, and find the pages they’re looking for. They typically have a hierarchical structure, with the homepage at the top and child pages listed underneath. HTML sitemaps are sometimes used to help website visitors find the content they’re looking for, but they’re not as effective at this as a well-designed navigation system.
XML sitemaps are designed for crawlers and contain a list of all the URLs on your website. They usually don’t include any additional information, like when the pages were last updated or how often they change. XML sitemaps are submitted to search engines, who then use them to crawl and index your website.
How Site Maps Benefit SEO
Sitemaps benefit SEO in a few different ways. First, XML sitemaps help search engines crawling and indexing your site. This means your pages can become visible in search results more quickly and easily. Second, sitemaps can help search engines understand the relationship between your pages. This is especially helpful if your pages are not well linked together.
Finally, sitemaps can help search engines discover pages that are typically hard to find. By including these pages in your sitemap, you can make sure they still contribute to your website’s SEO.
Sitemap Generators and Creating One Manually
There are two ways to create a sitemap: manually or using a tool. If you have a small website, you can probably create your sitemap by hand. Just create a text file and list all the URLs on your site, one per line. Then, save the file as “sitemap.xml” and upload it to your website’s root directory. If you’re interested in how it’s displayed, you can view the sitemap by entering: “www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml” in your browser.
If you have a larger website, you can use a sitemap generator tool to create your sitemap automatically. There are many tools available online, both free and paid. If your website is built on WordPress, there are also sitemap plugins available. Once you’ve generated your sitemap, you can upload it to your website’s root directory in the same way as a manual sitemap.
Submitting Your Sitemap to Google and Bing
Once you’ve created your sitemap, you need to submit it to search engines, so they can find and index your pages. For Google, you should long into your Google Search Console account. Then, select your website in the sidebar and click on “Sitemaps.” Locate the “Add a new sitemap” field and enter the name of your XML file. In most cases, this will be sitemap.xml. Finally, click on the “Submit” button.
For Bing, you can submit your sitemap through their Webmaster Tools. Login and select your website. Then, navigate to the “Sitemaps” section and click on the “Submit a sitemap” button. Enter the URL of your sitemap (e.g., “www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml”) and click “Submit.”
If you don’t have access to Webmaster Tools, you can also submit your sitemap to search engines via an HTTP request. For Google, you would enter the following URL in your browser: “google.com/ping?sitemap=sitemap_url”. Just replace “sitemap_url” with the actual URL of your sitemap. For Bing, you would enter: “bing.com/ping?sitemap=sitemap_url”.
Common Sitemap Errors and How to Fix Them
Once you’ve submitted your sitemap, it’s important to check that it’s working properly. The best way to do this is to use a sitemap validator tool. These tools will check your sitemap file for any errors and give you a report of what needs to be fixed. Here are some errors you might encounter:
- “Submitted URL has crawl issue.” This means that the sitemap contains a URL that can’t be crawled by the search engine. This could be because the URL is broken or because the page loads too slowly.
- “Submitted URL not found (404).” This means that the sitemap contains a URL that doesn’t exist. This is usually because the page has been deleted or moved to a new URL.
- “Submitted URL marked ‘noindex’. This means that the sitemap contains a URL that has been blocked using a noindex tag, either as a meta tag or as an HTTP response header.
- “Submitted page blocked by robots.txt file.” This means that the sitemap contains a URL that has been blocked by your website’s robots.txt file. You’ll need to edit the file and remove the block for that URL.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it covers the most common sitemap errors. Now you know everything you need about sitemaps. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and create one for your website!