It seems like having an XML sitemap on your website has become standard advice, but are there any advantages of having a sitemap?
What is a Sitemap?
I like to think of a Sitemap like an office directory. When you walk into an office building, there’s usually one on the wall that lists who’s in what office so that you can find who you’re looking for.
A Sitemap is a directory of all the pages of your website. An XML Sitemap is a sitemap designed specifically for the search engines to read – i.e. they’re not designed or very useful for people. For your visitors, you could also build an HTML sitemap.
Do I Need One?
Here’s the important thing – not all websites need to have a sitemap.
For example, if your website is small then you probably don’t need one. Also, if you have an old and established website that has a lot of links already, especially to internal pages, then you probably won’t see much benefit in having one (though it can never hurt). And if you don’t give a hoot about search engine rankings, then there’s no point either.
However, they’re particularly helpful for getting a new website indexed by Google and they’ve been shown to give a definite boost in search engine rankings to new websites. They’re also excellent if you have large websites with a lot of content – it helps Google make sure is has found every page on your website.
Advantages of a Sitemap
There are two advantages to having a sitemap. One is that it can boost the search engine rankings of your website – something we’re all looking for. Now it’s not some super ninja secret that will catapult you from obscurity to #1 on Google, but it certainly seems to help a little based on our own tests.
The second advantage is that it also helps with getting all of your pages get indexed, even if they’re obscure.
And as you’ll see, they’re super simple to create so they’re well worth the little bit of extra effort they take to create.
How To Create A Sitemap
While writing the code yourself to build an XML sitemap that is automatically updated every time you update or add content to your website is a pain in the ass for anyone who isn’t a grizzled coder, you don’t need to worry – they’re super easy to build using 3rd party software and plugins.
If you’re using WordPress to manage your website (an excellent CMS choice) then all you need to do is download and install the Google XML Sitemaps plugin.
If you’re using Joomla, there’s an extension for you as well called Xmap.
If you’re not using a content management system or your the system you’re using doesn’t offer one, just use the XML Sitemaps Sitemap Generator to create one.
How To Submit A Sitemap To Search Engines
Getting your sitemap submitted to the search engines is a piece of cake – it’s mostly just clicking buttons – even a trained monkey can do it. Here’s how to do it for the major search engines (there’s no need to submit a sitemap to any other search engines than the ones I’ve listed below)
How To Submit A Sitemap To Google
Once your sitemap has been created (again, it MUST be in xml format), it’s time to submit your sitemap to Google since they may not actually find it if we don’t.
To do this you’ll need to go to google.com/webmasters
If you don’t already have a Google Account (you have one already if you have a Gmail, Youtube, Adwords, or Google + account), then you’ll need to sign up. These days most people have one so if that’s the case just click “sign in to Webmaster Tools.
If you get confused at any point, they have plenty of handy dandy videos to help you out – watch them.
Next just click the “Add A Site” Button.
Then enter the domain name of your website when prompted.
Now you’ll need to verify that you actually own the domain name. Google gives you a few ways to do this: HTML Verification, Meta Tag Verification, DNS Verification, and Google Analytics Verification.
If you are already using Google Analytics to keep track of the traffic on your website (and you should be using something), then just click on the tab that says alternate methods and click on that button.
If you’re not using Google Analytics, the HTML file is easy to do but pick whichever one you like best.
Once your website has been verified, then you can just click on the url of your website in Webmasters and you’ll see a section called “Sitemaps. Just click on the Add A Sitemap text and enter the path to your sitemap, usually all you need to do is enter sitemap.xml.
Then save it and you’re all set. Google will crawl your sitemap within a day or two.
How To Submit A Sitemap To Bing
To submit a sitemap to bing, you’ll need to navigate to Bing Webmaster Tools at http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster/
Then you’ll need to login with your Windows Live ID. If you already have a Hotmail, Messenger, or Xbox Live account, then you have a Windows Live ID. If not, then you need to create one.
First you’ll need to add a site. It’s just like the Google procedure – just enter your domain name and then follow the verification instructions.
Once verified you’ll be taken to a section called “Dashboard.” There won’t be any data available at first – don’t worry, that’s normal.
To get your sitemap submmitted, you’ll need to click on the “Crawl” tab right next to the “Dashboard” tab. Then click on the “Sitemaps (XML, Atom, RSS)” section.
Now click “Add Feed”
Then just fill in the details – the only thing you’ll likely need to do is enter sitemap.xml into the last box.
That’s it – your sitemap will be crawled soon by Bing.
How To Submit A Sitemap To Yahoo
Yahoo no longer has its own Webmasters section – it’s all integrated with Bing now so once you have your sitemap submitted to Bing, Yahoo will have it too. Creating and submitting a sitemap only takes a few minutes to do and if you haven’t already done it, it’s probably one of the most productive things you can do to help you website get more traffic. So get it done and cross it off your list
Creating and submitting a sitemap only takes a few minutes to do and if you haven’t already done it, it’s probably one of the most productive things you can do to help you website get more traffic. So get it done and cross it off your list