Creating a sitemap makes sure that all your website pages are are indexed by search engines. This makes a sitemap a “must have” for SEO, because it helps make your website and content more visible on Google and other search engines, and helps newly published content get indexed rapidly.
I’ll show you how to create a sitemap for your website. Then I’ll refer you to my other posts which tell you how to use it to promote your content and attract more visitors. If you have a WordPress website, I’ve written a post especially for you that makes the whole process fully-automatic, so that WordPress will do the work for you.
For WordPress websites read: How To Create A WordPress Sitemap
What Is A Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file (or set of files) that lists all the pages on your website, including their full website address (URL). There are several formats, but you only need to use one, and the standard that everyone accepts is now in XML.
You don’t need to know anything about this! But if you want details, visit WikiPedia to read more about website sitemaps here.
Note: a sitemap is essentially a list of website URLs that helps a search engine find all your pages. It does not override any instructions you provide to a search engine in your robots.txt file, so indexing is still regulated using robots.txt
How To Create A Website Sitemap
This method of creating a sitemap relies on all pages being reachable by a user who starts at your homepage and explores your website by clicking on links in your pages. This is reasonable, because how else will your website visitors find those pages! Even if you have some “orphan” pages that are not linked, you will have done this for special purposes and probably don’t want those indexed anyway. Otherwise, you will need to add any “orphan pages” to the sitemap manually, but this is very unusual.
We will use a website called XML Sitemap Generator. There are other free online sitemap generators, so if you know any good ones, please leave a comment.
Now let’s create a sitemap for your website:
- Click the link to visit: http://www.xmlsitemapgenerator.org/
- Type in the address of your website, such as “http://theWebalyst.com”
- The default settings are almost certainly adequate, and the “Advanced Settings” only needed if you want to control which pages are included or excluded, so you can ignore those.
- Enter the “captcha” code (4 letters)
- Click “Generate Sitemap” and wait. For a handful of pages this will be quick, but for a website with lots of pages it can take some time, especially if your web server is overloaded! When it is done you will be presented with a download link.
- Click the download sitemap link to save a copy of the sitemap file to your computer. This should be a file such as “sitemap.xml.gz”
- Click the “view sitemap” link and check that it looks ok. It is important to do this in case there were any problems “crawling” all your pages. Examine the listing to check that the links are sensible and look for errors in the output, such as “404 : Not Found”. If it doesn’t look right, or you find errors that matter, try again.
Now you have a sitemap sitting on your computer, although at this point some sitemap generators offer the option to submit your sitemap to search engines for you. Its ok to do this, but don’t rely on it.
I’ll tell you what to do with your sitemap in a moment, but remember, as your website changes you’ll need to update and republish your sitemap because the old one will become out of date.
What To Do With A Sitemap
The first thing to do is upload your sitemap file to the home (or ‘root’) folder on your website. So if your sitemap file is called “sitemap.xml.gz”, it should be accessable as:
Next, make a note of the URL or website address of your sitemap and read the following post: