What is Sitemap in SEO?
A Sitemap is an on-page optimization element of SEO. When it comes to on-page optimization it plays a vital role in improving the visibility of your website for search engines.
Now what exactly is a Sitemap? Sitemap as it is literally means a map of your site. It is a web page which contains URLs of all your existing web pages. Before moving forward let me tell you that there are two types of Sitemaps. One is for humans and other is for search engines.
Sitemaps which are for humans are mostly visible link on website mostly you will see it in the footer or sidebar of a website. How does it help? It acts like an index of a book which tells a visitor of website where to find what.
Sitemap for search engines are either HTML or XML file which contains URLs of your website. Unlike human version this is not visible to human it is built for search engine and it is a file which is uploaded to the root of website folder. Don’t be panicked it is not rocket since it is quite simplest of SEO steps any webmaster can perform.
Now what is the significance of sitemap built for search engines? Just like the Sitemap which are built for humans, help humans to find new pages similarly sitemap built for search engines, help search engines to find pages on your website. Once you create sitemap and submit it to search engines your website gets indexed directly by search engines and you are no longer dependent on external links for search engines to crawl your website.
Moreover, if your website is new or if you have a blog where you update a blog post frequently then sitemap is must for you. It helps search engines to index your pages much faster as compared to normal crawling process.
Sitemap for humans and sitemap for search engines both have their own importance. If you are a coder you can create sitemap for human in your website theme for people who are using WordPress or any other CMS sitemap are part of the theme so when you are selecting themes check if it has got sitemap feature.
Now again if your theme has not got this feature, or if you don’t want to change your existing theme to get sitemap then it is not end of the world. If you do not have a sitemap for humans, it may not impact you much, but if you do not have a sitemap for search engine it would definitely hurt you.
Now how do we create a sitemap for search engines?
If you are a coder or a non coder creating a sitemap for search engine is easy cake walk for you. If your website is a WordPress website you can simply download Google XML Sitemaps plugin and install it to your website and activate it and boom you are done. You can now check your sitemap by visiting a link which would be like this http://YourURL/sitemap.xml.
For people who are not using CMS other than WordPress can search for a plugin for their CMS version. I am sure you will find one as sitemap is such an important thing that all CMS has one plugin or the other.
Don’t worry if you can’t find a plugin. There are a number of websites which will generate a sitemap for you for free. You simple need to Google free sitemap generator and you will get dozen of websites which will solve your purpose. Once such website is www.xml-sitemaps.com. Once you have generated sitemap of your website through these sites you need to upload it to the root of your website folder if it is not already present there.
There is one thing to keep in mind while generating a sitemap, is that you need to generate an XML site map. XML because Google now accepts only XML Sitemaps. HTML Sitemaps are now being phased out by all major search engines and they are now using XML format.
Once you have a sitemap you need to submit this sitemap to search engines. You can follow below steps to submit your sitemap.
Sitemap submission to Google
- Sign in to Google Webmaster Tools.
- Click Add a Site.
- Enter the URL for your website (for example, http://www.websiteurl.com).
- Click Continue.
- Click Crawl on the left side of the page.
- Click Sitemaps.
- Click Add/Test Sitemap.
- Enter sitemap.xml after “http:// www.websiteurl.com /”.
- Click Submit Sitemap.
Sitemap submission to Yahoo and Bing.
- Sign in to Bing Webmaster Tools.
- On the My Sites page, enter the URL for your store (for example, http://www.websiteurl.com).
- Click Add.
- In the Add a sitemap field, enter http://www.websiteurl.com /sitemap.xml (replace “websiteurl.com” with the URL for your website).
- Fill up the rest of the required fields on the page.
- Click Save.
Sitemap are navigators of your websites. So check your sitemap that it contains all the link which you want search engines so index so that it solves the purpose which it has been created for.
I am sure this article has helped you in identifying the importance of sitemap in SEO. If you do not have it yet this is the time to get one. If you have any information which can help to improve sitemap or any other information about sitemap please share.