In the pursuit of better search engine optimization, one of the best things to do as a basic rule is to generate and submit an XML sitemap for your website. A sitemap file is simply a local file hosted on your website that let’s search engines know that you want them to specifically crawl the pages listed inside.
Sitemaps files are in the XML file format (Extensible Markup Language) and provide a guide for search engines when they come to periodically index your webpages.
Note: Just because a webpage isn’t listed in your sitemap does not mean it won’t be indexed. If you’d like to prevent a webpage from being indexed by Google or other search engines, then you’ll need to take some extra steps. Namely excluding those pages in a robots.txt file or adding a “noindex” meta tag on that specific page.
What if I don’t have a sitemap?
That’s okay! If your website is small (around 500 pages or less) there are some free tools out on the web that help you generate a sitemap for free.
Our favorite is www.xml-sitemaps.com. That’s what we’ll be using in this example.
To generate our sitemap, all we need to do is navigate to www.xml-sitemaps.com, and input our website homepage URL in the textbox on the front-page. After we click “Start” we can see that the XML-Sitemaps tool goes to work finding and organizing all the pages it can see on our website.
After a few minutes or less, we can download an XML file ready to be put on our website!
Remember to look over the generated file to make sure things look okay. Using these free sitemap generator tools is a great starting point, but may not work perfectly in every circumstance. If we look in our sitemap we can see that we have a list of our web pages organized by priority.
The priority is important. We don’t want blog posts to be flagged as more important than our main website pages for indexing. Now that we have the sitemap file, it’s very easy to deploy it on our website.
Add the sitemap file to your website
You’ll need to log into your website’s root directory through an FTP client. To get Google and other search engines to see our sitemap, all we need to do is copy the file into the root directory, where our index page is.
If done correctly your site maps should be accessible by navigating to “YourWebsite.com/sitemap.xml”. Make sure you refresh the page to make sure there is not a cached version lurking around.
If you see XML code on this page, Congratulations! You have successfully generated and deployed your website’s sitemap!
You are well on your way to building a great foundation for the SEO on your website.
A great next step is to do research on submitting the location of your new sitemap to Google, Bing or other search engines through their webmaster tools. This way search engines are more likely to know that you have recently added or updated your sitemap and will consult it when crawling your website.
If you’re curious about how to further improve your website’s SEO and digital marketing start a conversation with us by clicking the button below and let us help you find the best solution for your needs.