A sitemap is a digital index of all content and pages on your site, delivered to search engines to ensure your content appears in search results for relevant keywords searches. All businesses should create sitemaps — which can be done for free using plugins — to get increase search engine visibility. That’s right, sitemaps are used to help search engines, such as Google, crawl and better understand what your site is about. In return, your website is more likely to rank in relevant search results.
There are some common types of sitemaps:
- XML sitemap: An Extensible Markup Language (XML) sitemap is a list of a website’s important pages and it is written for search engines.
- HTML sitemap: Same as the XML sitemap, but written in the HTML language for humans.
- Image sitemap: An XML sitemap that is dedicated only to providing search engine bots with information about the images on your website.
- Mobile sitemap: Mobile sitemaps are used to map out content on your website specifically designed for feature phones.
- Video sitemap: A Video sitemap is an XML sitemap that includes information about the videos on your website. You can either create a separate video sitemap or add video information to your larger XML sitemap.
According to Google, XML sitemaps are especially important to generate and submit to search engines when you’ve launched a new website, when your website has a lot of content or large archives, and when a website uses rich media like images and videos. While Google crawls internet content constantly, sites like these benefit from providing Google with extra crawling guidance, ensuring their websites get maximum exposure and higher rankings in SERPs.
What Is a Sitemap?
Technically speaking, a sitemap is a list of all the URLs, content (text and multimedia), and information on a website. This includes tags, categories, images, videos, and details on when content was last updated. Sitemaps can either be HTML-based, meaning they exist on your site as a separate index page of all site content; or they can be XML-based, which is a file type used to store sitemap information that can be submitted to search engines like Google.
Does a Sitemap Help Boost SEO?
When a sitemap is submitted to a search engine like Google, it helps to ensure the search engine is aware of the content the website owner would like evaluated for listing in search engine results pages (SERPs). In other words, a sitemap serves as a way for search engines to quickly and easily identify the contents of your site. With that, search engines can then consider whether or not it is a good search results for any given search query.
This process serves your business by continually increasing the chance that key content on your website appears when people search related keywords. Don’t worry about updating your sitemap; Yoast will take care of that for you.
How Do I Create a Sitemap?
The easiest way to create a sitemap is by using a plugin, such as Yoast. On top of being easy, it’s also free and it automates the process creating a sitemap. All you have to do in install and activate the plugin on WordPress. Then, go to the plugin and click “General” > “Features” and use the toggle to turn on the XML Sitemap. Follow the step-by-step instruction on how to create an XML sitemap, including how to submit it to Google
Best Sitemap Generator Tools
Sitemap generators are tools or plugins you can use to crawl your website to generate a list of all your website pages in sitemap form that search engines like Google will accept. While some sitemap generators are meant for only one type of site builder, others work for all site builders, are better for using on more than one website simultaneously, or are best for agencies serving their clients’ varied sitemap needs.
Here are the top three sitemap generators for small businesses:
- Screaming Frog: Best free sitemap generator for any CMS.
- Yoast: Best free sitemap generator for WordPress.
- Slickplan: Best sitemap generator for marketing and web agencies creating sitemaps on behalf of clients.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the purpose of a sitemap?
A sitemap is a listing of all pages on a website. Useful for both complex and basic websites, sitemaps show search engines all the content they need to crawl. Then, these search engines will show relevant content to searchers in SERPs when they search for specific keywords. Google originally introduced Google Sitemaps to help businesses ensure that none of their website pages are missed when Google’s bots crawl the internet.
What should a sitemap include?
A standard XML sitemap should include all of the website URLs you want website visitors to be able to easily find on your website. For many small business websites, this includes blog posts, landing pages, product pages, tag overview pages, category pages, FAQs, about us pages, contact us pages, and team bio pages. It should also include your media, like your website photos and videos.
How do I submit a sitemap to Google?
To submit a sitemap to Google, begin by generating one using a sitemap generator like Yoast or Screaming Frog. From there, open a Google Console account and connect your website to it. Finally, submit your sitemap by pasting your website’s sitemap URL into the Console. You can do so under the “Sitemap” submenu option under “Index” in your Google Search Console left-hand menu.
Do I need a sitemap for SEO?
Yes. A sitemap is important for search engine optimization (SEO) because it helps to ensure all of the pages on your website are indexed by search engines like Google and included in relevant search result pages. If pages are not crawled and listed, you run the risk of losing traffic to those pages.
Bottom Line: What Is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a complete list of your website’s content. This information is shared with search engines so that they can include relevant content in search engine results pages (SERPs). Creating a small business sitemap can be automated via plugins like Yoast. Once you’ve generated your sitemap, be sure to submit it to search engines like Google and check back into your search engine account to ensure the content is being accurately indexed.
While sitemaps are critical for website visibility, if your website doesn’t offer quality content, a sitemap likely won’t help drive traffic to your site. To help, Ignite Digital can evaluate your website to pinpoint needed improvements and then create or improve content for optimal ranking. Click here to get a custom quote from Ignite Digital.