Before we begin, you might be wondering what a sitemap is and if you really need to create one for your website.
Imagine your website is a house, and the different pages within it are like rooms, and Google is a home inspector.
A sitemap is essentially the blueprint for your website so it will be much easier for Google to evaluate it and then rank your website.
A sitemap is important because Google not only ranks your website as a whole, it also ranks individual web pages as well.
Having a sitemap and submitting it to Google is not a requirement, but it does help improve your website’s Search Engine Results Page ranking, so it will be worth your while to go through these extra steps.
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Why are Sitemaps Important?
Sitemaps, particularly XML sitemaps, provide a lot of different benefits, which is why you should at least consider creating one and submit it to as many search engines as you can.
Here are some of the said benefits:
– XML sitemaps allows the algorithms used by search engines to get a grasp of your website’s essence that you want them to index; in other words, the pages that you want people to find using search engines.
– XML sitemaps can hasten the indexation of websites that have multiple posts and dynamic content. Using XML sitemaps is the easiest way to indicate to search engines that there is new content published in your site, and that they need to index it as soon as possible.
– Small and static websites can use XML sitemaps to constantly remind search engines to check and re-evaluate what they first thought were pages unqualified for indexing for new content and updates.
– If yours were one of the many websites that were negatively hit by the huge Google Panda update a couple of years back, you can use an XML sitemap to recover, if even partially.
– This helps when your website does not have enough internal links.
– XML sitemaps are beneficial if your website is relatively new or has few external links.
– XML sitemaps are great if you have a huge website and/or has tones of archived content that might not be linked to.
SEO experts use XML sitemaps to allow your website to communicate better with the search engines.
While HTML uses codes that will allow your website elements communicate with your human website visitors, the XML sitemaps is the channel used by the search engine to understand what your website is all about.
The sitemap uses XML file that provides a list of your website’s URLs together with the metadata for each that will help the search engine spiders to crawl your website for new changes and updates.
The search engine spiders or bots crawl on the web pages through the links within and outside the website.
With an XML file on your site, you can easily supply search crawlers more data so they can evaluate your site URLs and its associated metadata.
Different Types of Sitemaps
There are essentially two types of sitemaps: HTML and XML sitemaps.
An HTML sitemap is one that contains information about the resources of your website and their location.
These kinds of sitemaps help users find a specific piece of information in the website, or just so they can easily explore the website.
One website has thousands upon thousands of webpages, and they are segregated into different directories. With this sheer number of pages, it can be quite difficult to navigate, just looking at all the pages can actually be very intimidating.
An HTML sitemap can help users sort through all of the different pieces of information so they can find that one thing that they need.
Another neat thing about HTML sitemaps is that they link resources internally, which helps with Search Engine Optimization.
On the other hand, XML sitemaps store information in an organized and pre-determined format.
The difference of XML from HTML is that humans cannot read this format, but search engines do, and they do know their purpose.
This is the reason why SEO specialists advise that webmasters use XML sitemaps as they contribute greatly to search engine optimization.
Creating and Submitting a Sitemap to Google
Now that you know that you should create a sitemap for your website, how do you go about making one? It is actually quite simple.
You can actually write your own sitemap if you know how to code, but if you don’t there are plenty of websites online that can help you create a sitemap for free. Most websites just require you to follow a couple of simple steps:
- Go to your free XML sitemap generator. XML is the preferred format as it is more conducive for SEO.
- You might need to create an account to use the generator tools, but there are some free sites that do not require signing up for the service.
- Type in your domain address in the appropriate space.
- Tweak the options according to your preferences. Usually you want to set the time and date when you last modified the URL. If there is an option to tweak the Priority, just leave it on Automatic.
- Click on the Start button and wait for the process to finish.
- Download the generated XML file, this is what you will be submitting to Google later.
Submitting Your XML sitemap to Google
Now that you have your automatically generated XML sitemap, the next thing that you need to do is submit the file to Google so they can index your website immediately.
Here are the steps that you need to follow:
- Open up the Google Search Console (link: https://www.google.com/webmasters/) and enter your website’s URL.
- Click on the index tab, and select the sitemap option.
- In the text field, the one beside your domain address, type “sitemap.xml”
- Click on the “Submit” button and wait for the process to finish
Note: This process is only for XML sitemaps, if you used an HTML sitemap, you will only be getting an error message.
Also, if you want to speed up the indexing of certain pages in your website, you can enter them individually using the previous steps for submitting XML sitemaps.
Yes, submitting a sitemap to Google and other search engines might not be a requirement, but considering the amount of benefits that you can get from doing so, you might as well treat it as such. Now that you know the processes involved, there’s no better time than now to start giving your website the advantage it needs.