Creating XML Sitemaps for an SEO Friendly Website
Sitemaps are a vital, yet often overlooked, part of creating an SEO-friendly website. A sitemap is a list of URLs for all of your website pages that provides the necessary paths for web crawlers to discover pages on your website. A sitemap can also include helpful metadata, like the last time the page was updated and its relative importance compared to other pages within the website.
Why are Sitemaps Necessary for Search Engine Optimization?
Since one primary objective of search engine optimization is to make a website easier for search engines to crawl, a well-maintained sitemap will lend to improved website performance in organic results.
Almost all search engines, including Google, Bing and others, maintain an enormous database of web pages. In order to keep this database up-to-date, they enlist the help of web crawlers – often called spiders - to continuously surf the web and sift though all of its pages of content. Pages that the spider crawls are indexed in the database, and when a query is entered into a search engine, the search engine retrieves pages from the database and serves them to the user.
Offering a well-maintained sitemap to the spider will help get your pages crawled, indexed and served to users much faster. This is particularly important if your website is new or if you have a large website with a lot of pages and a complicated URL structure. Because although web crawlers are great at locating pages, a sitemap provides a means of assisting them and may lead them to pages they wouldn't have been able to locate otherwise.
How to Generate an XML Sitemap
Most content management systems offer some way to generate a sitemap.
If you are using Wordpress:
Wordpress does not have a built-in sitemap tool. Consider using the Yoast plugin to generate your sitemap.
If you are using Concrete5:
In Concrete5 you can automatically generate your sitemap under System and Settings > Automated Jobs (under the Optimization heading).
Generating a sitemap in Concrete5.
If you're using something else:
Refer to the CMS documentation, or use a web-based tool like xml-sitemaps.com.
Generating a sitemap online.
How to Submit an XML Sitemap to Google and Bing
Once your sitemap is created, you must also notify the search engines that your sitemap exists by submitting it through their management dashboards. First – upload the sitemap.xml file to your website via FTP or your preferred method.
Submitting a sitemap for Google.
Log in to Google Search Console and select your web property.
Navigate to Crawl in the sidebar, then choose Sitemaps from the drop-down menu.
Click the Add/Test sitemap button and enter the URL where your sitemap resides.
Submitting a sitemap for Bing
Log in to Bing Webmaster Tools and select your website.
Navigate to Configure My Site in the sidebar, then choose Sitemaps from the drop-down menu.
Enter the URL where your sitemap resides.
If you question your technical ability to complete the process for sitemap generation and submission, consider hiring a local SEO provider to assist you.
Maintaining an XML Sitemap
Maintaining an accurate sitemap is relatively easy, and becomes increasingly important as your website grows. When you add a new page to your website, you should update your sitemap.xml file and resubmit it to each search engine.
Occasionally, Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools will alert you to any problems with your sitemap, such as URLs being inaccessible.
XML sitemaps are a great way to notify search engines when you have added new content to your website or updated old content. For webmasters wanting to cover all the SEO bases, this one is a no-brainer. Sitemaps are quick, simple and there is no penalization for not having one present.
About the Author: Alison Stoughton is owner of Stratagem Digital LLC. She works closely with clients in Hutchinson, Wichita and surrounding areas in Kansas to implement SEO strategies that bolster organic visibility.
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