Sales & Marketing, SEO

Get Your Site Seen: Your Guide to Creating a Sitemap

Business Advice | 7 July 2023 | 10 months ago

If you want your website to be found online, you need to create a sitemap. This isn’t the confusing and complex task that you might assume it to be, as there are a variety of tools available to help. In this blog, we have taken a look at how to create a sitemap for your website.

What is a Sitemap?

If you know anything about website design and development, you might have heard of a sitemap. However, how much do you know about what a sitemap is and the importance of having one? A sitemap is a directory of all of the pages on your website, and it’s used for easy scanning. It’s a structured representation of a website’s structure and hierarchy, and it outlines the pages and content within a website. Everything on a website will be organised by a sitemap, in a hierarchical manner to provide an overview of the website’s structure and navigation. A sitemap is a key part of how users and search engines find your content, making it a vital part of search engine optimisation and website crawling. It’s there to help search engines understand the organisation and layout of a website, kind of like a road map. It allows search engine crawlers to index and navigate through the website more efficiently, ensuring that all pages are discovered and properly categorised for search purposes.

There are two different types of sitemap, XML and HTML. Though these are both sitemaps and they play similar roles, they are slightly different and they are aimed at different things. An HTML sitemap is designed for human visitors and is typically linked in the footer or sidebar of a website. It provides a user friendly, text based list of all the pages on a site, allowing visitors to quickly find and navigate to specific pages. However, an XML sitemap is specifically created for search engines. It is an XML file that lists all the URLs of a website, along with additional information such as the date of last modification, priority and frequency of updates. XML sitemaps are submitted to search engines to help them crawl and index the pages.

How to Generate a Sitemap

Knowing how to create a sitemap is vital as a website owner. A lot of people make the mistake of assuming that generating a sitemap is a complex and time consuming task, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. There are a lot of CMS plugins, such as Yoast, that will generate an XML sitemap for you. It will also keep it updated, ensuring that all new blogs and content are added to the sitemap. If you need a HTML sitemap, you can use plugins or tools such as Screaming Frog. Though this does need to be manually updated over time, it makes creating a HTML sitemap a relatively straightforward task.

Register Your Sitemap

Once you have created a sitemap, it’s important to register it. Registering your sitemap has a number of benefits, such as ensuring that all of your important pages are crawled and indexed. This is particularly helpful if your website has a large number of pages, complex navigation or generated content that might not be easily discoverable by search engine crawlers otherwise. Registering a sitemap can also speed up the indexing process. Search engines receive notification of the sitemap submission and can prioritise crawling and indexing your pages. This can help your new or updated content appear in search results more quickly.

When you register a sitemap, search engines can provide insights into any issues they encounter while crawling your site. They may report errors like broken links, duplicate content or crawlability issues. By identifying these errors, you can take corrective actions to improve your website’s performance and SEO before any lasting damage is done. Registering a sitemap also allows you to access valuable data and insights. You can monitor the indexing status, see which pages are crawled and indexed, check for crawl errors and gain insights into how search engines perceive and rank your website. Though different search engines sometimes have their own preferred methods of sitemap submission, registering your sitemap ensures that you adhere to the guidelines and requirements of each, which maximises the chances of successful indexing.

To register your sitemap, you can point to it in your robots.txt or submit it to Google. For HTML sitemaps, you should place a link on your website, and most businesses do so on the footer. This will make it accessible to crawlers and website visitors.

Advanced Sitemap Options

There are a variety of advanced sitemap options for you to take advantage of. For more control over your sitemap, set up your Google Search Console and see how Google crawls your website. It will highlight any errors that have been created, and it will manually submit individual pages.

If your website includes a lot of images, you can create an image sitemap. This specialised sitemap provides search engines with information about the images on your website, such as the image URL, caption, title and other relevant details. Image sitemaps can help search engines better understand your visual content and potentially improve image search rankings. Similarly to image sitemaps, if your website hosts videos, you can create a video sitemap. This type of sitemap provides search engines with metadata about your videos.

Mobile sitemaps are also an option. With the increasing importance of mobile optimisation, you can create a separate sitemap specifically for the mobile version of your website. Mobile sitemaps can provide search engines with information about the mobile specific pages, ensuring that they are properly crawled and indexed for mobile search results.

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