What Is a Sitemap? (Why & How to Create One)

what is a sitemap

Most likely, you’ve heard the word “sitemap,” but what is it exactly? A sitemap is a file on your website that lists all the pages that make up your website. This file could be meant for search engines or for visitors to use to explore your website.

It’s no longer necessary to provide sitemaps as links in the footer to help visitors find their way through your website. Nobody enjoys the experience, therefore, you shouldn’t make it your strategy.

Expecting visitors to browse your sitemap’s links in order to find the information they require is unrealistic. Instead, concentrate on improving your primary site navigation. This will be better for your website and the people that frequent it.

However, adding a sitemap for search engines is quite distinct and beneficial. They are referred to as XML sitemaps. They aid in indexing your website’s pages by search engines like Google.

There are sitemaps, which we’ll discuss later, that assist people in navigating your website. Just keep reading below!

What is a sitemap?

Sitemaps, which help search engines navigate a website, are a useful method to inform them that your website is accessible and ready for crawling. In order to improve optimization and permit efficient communication with the search engine, it is crucial that you update your sitemaps if your websites have complex structures.

A sitemap is a file that contains the URLs to all of your website’s key pages. The main goal is to make it easier for search engines to comprehend your website and find particular pages.

These aren’t very easy to understand and aren’t exactly fun. But if you master them, they can increase your website traffic and ranking.

They come in four primary categories:

  • The most popular kind of sitemap is the standard XML sitemap. Typically, it takes the form of an XML sitemap with connections to various pages on your website.
  • Use a video sitemap to explain the video content on your page to Google.
  • Google is assisted by the news sitemap in finding material on websites that have been authorized for Google News.
  • A sitemap for photos aids Google in locating all of the images stored on your website.

Why create a sitemap?

Your sitemap helps search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing discover the various pages on your website. Most of your website should typically be accessible to Google web crawlers if your site’s pages are properly connected.

All search engines will be able to find your website thanks to a well-organized sitemap, which will provide consumers with more precise search results when they browse for keywords related to the material you can offer.

On the other hand, the web sitemap tells search engines where to go, while the Robots (.txt) file instructs them which parts of the website to exclude from crawling.

The amount of information that occasionally has to be organized and included in a new website’s design might make it a challenging procedure.

Sitemaps may be useful planning tools for organizing and clarifying the material that must be on your website and removing any extra pages.

The sitemap of your website is crucial for search engine web crawling robots since it helps them to count the pages on your website, analyze what these pages are made of, and determine how frequently you update your website.

It is essential to adopt a well-thought-out and organized sitemap since, in addition to the plethora of SEO tips and tactics you use to optimize your site, having an updated sitemap may benefit it more than you realize.

How to create a sitemap?

Creating sitemaps is easy. You can do it with the following four easy steps:

1. Examine the layout of your pages.

The first thing you should do is take a look at the information already on your website to see how it is organized.

Everything begins on the main page. The next thing to consider is where your homepage connects. Based on the menu selections on your website, you have probably already found this out.

But not all pages are created equal when it comes to SEO. When you’re doing this, keep in mind the depth of your website. Be aware that it will be more difficult to rank the pages that are located further from your site’s homepage.

If you create a sitemap with a shallow depth, it should only take three clicks to access any page on your website. That is significantly better in terms of SEO.

Because the About Us page is the most crucial, it is included in the top-level navigation. The administration page is categorized as third-level content since prioritizing it at the same level as Products, Pricing, and Blogs would not make sense.

Therefore, you must establish a hierarchy of pages according to their significance and how you want them to be indexed. Sort the material you want to prioritize into categories that make sense.

2. Code your URLs

It’s time to code those URLs now that you’ve gone through and determined the significance of each page and matched that significance in your site structure.

To accomplish this, prepare each URL with XML elements. You’ll have no trouble with this if you’ve ever coded in HTML. The “ML” in XML stands for the markup language, which is the same as HTML, as I mentioned previously.

It’s not that difficult to understand, even if this is new to you. Get a text editor to start with so you can make an XML file.

Then add the corresponding code for each URL.

  • location
  • last changed
  • changed frequency
  • priority of page

Here are some examples of how the code will look for each one.

  • http://www.examplesite.com/page1
  • 2022-11-24
  • weekly
  • 3

Make sure you read this through carefully, taking your time. While inserting this code is made much simpler by the text editor, it still demands mental acuity on your part.

3. Validate the code

Any time you manually code, human error is always a possibility. However, there must be no code errors for your sitemap to operate correctly.

Thanks to tools, you can check your code to make sure the syntax is accurate. You can accomplish this by using software that is available online. You may get more information by performing a fast Google search for “sitemap validation.”

If you forget to add an end tag or something similar, the tools can help you find it quickly and fix it.

4. Add your sitemap to the root and robots.txt

For this, you would need to find your website’s root folder, and then add the sitemap file there.

By doing this, the page will also be added to your website. This is in no way an issue. In actuality, this is present on a number of websites. Enter a website address and add “/sitemap/” to see what results appear.

On various websites, you can view the code by adding “/sitemap.xml” to the URL. You should include the sitemap file in the robots.txt file in addition to the root folder. This can also be found in the roots folder.

In essence, this is to provide guidance for any crawlers crawling your website.

The robots.txt folder has a few distinct purposes. When search engines are scanning your website, you may configure this to display URLs that you do not want them to index.

How to edit a sitemap?

The Search Appearance options of Yoast SEO allow for customization of the sitemap index. These options are available under SEO > Search Appearance.

Under the “Content Types” tab, posts, pages, and other custom post types may be configured.

A post type will also be removed from the sitemap if it is removed from the search results. They will be displayed in the sitemap if they appear in the search results. As necessary, add or delete objects.

It is simpler to manually create a static sitemap URL than a dynamic one. Make a list of all the active URLs on your website that you want to include in the sitemap before you do anything else.

Google limits each sitemap to 50,000 URLs, but we advise against using that many unless you’re using a dedicated server that can handle the load. The best strategy is to divide the sitemaps into multiple sitemaps, which also aids in the better and quicker crawling of the URLs by search engines. If your website has fewer than 500 live URLs, you can use an online generator like XML-Sitemaps.

It’s crucial to have your images indexed because they might appear in image search results. Additionally, having some visual assets indexed in Google is a good idea given the increase in rich content that is showing up in the SERPs.

When your sitemap is ready, you can download it as an.xml file. It’s time to upload it to the root directory of your website. To do this, you will need a free File Transfer Protocol (FTP) manager. You might also want to review your knowledge of FTP in advance if you’re not familiar with it.

Once it’s installed on your computer, you’ll need a few key pieces of information for logging in – a Host, Username, Password, and Port.

What to do after you’ve created your sitemap?

Now that you’ve both created and edited your sitemap according to your requirements, it’s time to submit your site’s files to search engines after creating and including your sitemap.

To accomplish this, you must use Google Search Console. Some of you may have this set up already. If not, getting started is relatively simple.

Go to Crawl > Sitemaps once you are on the search panel dashboard. Then, in the upper right corner of the screen, select Add/Test Sitemap.

You have an opportunity to check your sitemap one more time for mistakes before moving ahead. Naturally, you’ll want to correct any errors you find. Once your sitemap is free of mistakes, just click submit.

Everything else will be handled by Google from here. Your website will now be easily indexed by crawlers, improving your SEO position. And voila! Your sitemap is ready for action.

Use Your Sitemap to Find Problems With Indexing

A great feature of using a sitemap is that it may provide you with an approximate estimate of:

How many pages you WANT indexed

How many pages ARE indexed

Let’s take the scenario where your sitemap has connections to 5,000 pages.

However, the Google Search Console shows that there are just 2,000 pages on your website that are indexed.

That indicates that something is wrong. It’s possible that those 5,000 pages include a significant amount of duplicate information. Google does not index all of them, therefore.

Some Frequently Asked Questions

What is an HTML sitemap?

A page with the second level of nesting, called an HTML sitemap, is a list of links to the website’s primary pages. Finding the appropriate part or page on the website is the primary function of the HTML sitemap. Additionally, it allows for more interlinking.

Is a sitemap necessary for SEO?

A sitemap is essential for effective SEO techniques, and SEO is essential for increasing website traffic and income. On the other hand, sitemaps are necessary for search engines to crawl and index the website in order to rank the material inside it in the search results.

Which sitemaps are best for SEO?

XML sitemaps are frequently cited as an SEO best practice, with claims that they are necessary for a website to rank as highly as possible.

Do Google sites create a sitemap?

Google Sites will automatically provide a sitemap for you if you used it to construct and validate your website. The sitemap, though, cannot be changed.

Does Google have a sitemap generator?

Both Linux/Apache and Microsoft IIS Windows servers can be equipped with the Google Sitemap Generator.

Is creating sitemaps free?

Yes, creating and editing sitemaps are absolutely free.

What does a website sitemap look like?

A sitemap is a file that contains a list of all the website pages that users and web spiders should be aware of. It resembles a table of contents from a book, with the exception that the parts are links. HTML and XML sitemaps are the two primary forms of sitemaps.

What is the difference between HTML and XML sitemaps?

The distinction is that HTML sitemaps are created for people, whereas XML sitemaps are written for search engine spiders.

Do you need a sitemap for a small website?

While some smaller websites may theoretically function without them, all websites gain from having them. And soon, every expanding website will require at least one.

Does every website need a sitemap?

Although sitemaps are strongly recommended for all websites, they are not necessary for search engines to find your website.

How do I remove a URL from a sitemap?

By accessing the content item in edit mode, unchecking the Include in sitemap option, and publishing the content item, it is possible to remove the URL for a specific content item from the sitemap. The URL for this specific content item will not be included in the sitemap after generating it once more.

How do I clean up a sitemap?

It is possible to use the filter in the panel to find what you want to get rid of.

What should not be in the sitemaps?

Google advises us to limit the URLs in our sitemaps to those that are reliable and fully qualified. To avoid sending Google to non-indexable pages that send unclear signals about which pages we want Google to crawl and index, we must avoid doing the following.

How often should I update my sitemaps?

It is safe to update your sitemaps as frequently as possible. However, there needs to be a cap on the number of updates every day. Google accepts updating them once or twice per day.

How do I find my sitemap URL?

You may try directly going to www.example.com/sitemap.xml as this is the most popular place, or you can search Google for “site:example.com filetype:xml” or “site:example.com inurl:sitemap.”

Closing Words

Creating sitemaps for your website pages is an essential step in taking your SEO strategy to the next level. I wish you luck in creating and designing your sitemap with the aid of this post. There are alternative choices for those of you who are still indecisive about manually editing code on your website. There are many sitemap resources on the Internet, but Yoast, Screaming Frog, and Slickplan are all excellent places to start.

Craft a compelling press release by focusing on a newsworthy angle, using a concise headline, providing key details, incorporating quotes, and concluding with contact information for media inquiries.

Faraz Sayyed, Director of Notion Technologies- an expert delivering a wide range of services from web design, mobile app, eCommerce, SEO, to content marketing services for fast-growing companies be it Fortune 500, entrepreneurs or small businesses.