How to Create a Sitemap that Improves Search Engine Visibility
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a structural blueprint of your entire blog that details the pages and posts, and how they are interconnected within the network. Its main goal is to tell the search engine bots on what the domain is all about, especially its contents and the pages.
It is often confused with the site-index. However, it is actually a different one. The latter is simply an A to Z index of all published posts, while the former provides a general view of the pages and posts including the internal links between posts.
There are many instances that Google will not be able to crawl a page or a particular url. But if you have a Sitemap installed, the search engine will easily find posts that are not connected with links. It, therefore, helps the search bots to more effectively crawl on your blog and index it accordingly.
It can also be used to provide additional information such as the frequency each page is changed, the last date of update, the metadata of a particular page including the metadata of videos and images, and so on.
This file can remarkably help the crawlers in specifying the categories, the running time of videos, and the family-friendliness of the images and videos. This is also used by the bots to identify the sharing license of the images and the subject matter of the photos. While some blogs are still indexed and ranked well by Google even in the absence of a Sitemap for websites, this is very important for blogs with dynamic content as well as those with AJAX pages. This is also very helpful for websites with extremely huge number of contents.
Old blogs that are regularly updated will eventually accumulate numerous posts that are archived. Many of the archived posts are not linked at all. So, it is hard not just for the search bots to crawl on posts that were already archived but present users will find it hard to read articles that were posted several months or years back. But if there is HTML sitemap that provides links to some posts previously published, readers will easily find them. The same is true with the SE crawlers.
Its Role in SEO
When the SE crawlers arrive at your home page, it will navigate through the other pages via the sitemap. So if it is not properly laid out or it is inefficiently designed, the bots will have a hard time navigating through the pages.
Many experts will tell you that that having a good Sitemap will help improve your website ranking. It’s hard to tell about its overall impact on the page rank; but if it does have search engine optimization (SEO) value then it is nothing significant compared to the other SEO parameters like backlinks and content quality.
Nonetheless, it is still important to give this proper attention. After all, this is the platform that SE bots will anchor when they arrive at your blog to index it and to appropriately rank it in the search engine result pages.
Two Main Types of Sitemap
The XML format is the one used by the search bots. It tells them about the entire blog-structure, including the update frequency. The bots will be able to easily decipher the relative importance of a single post or a single page to the entire blog. This format silently hides in the background; visitors will not be able to see it, but search engine crawlers will.
This version is designed for the visitors. It literally tells the viewers regarding the map of the whole blog. It will guide them where to go if they need particular information. In a book, it is like a table of contents that details the pages and the posts, so that readers can immediately jump to the article that they want to read or to a certain page that they would like to visit.
Having this in the sidebar will greatly improve the user-experience of the visitors since it will make it easier for them to navigate through the numerous posts and pages.
Basic Steps on How to Create a Sitemap
Creating a sitemap seems technical. But you don’t have to be a techy geek in order to create one today. Thanks to some tools that allow you to build a sitemap in just four easy steps. You can do it right now and get it done in the next couple of minutes.
Go to an online sitemap generator
Fill up the form. Make sure to complete all the required information such as the web address and the update frequency.
Click on the ‘Start’ button. It will usually take several seconds or more than a minute to generate a unique XML-sitemap.
Download the file in XML format and upload it using the FTP file manager to the root directory of your domain
A Better Alternative
If your blog is hosted on a WordPress platform, then adding a sitemap is way much easier. You don’t need to follow anymore the above steps. Just log in to your WordPress admin dashboard and go to the plugin section. Look for ‘Google XML Sitemaps’ in the search bar and you will be presented with some options. Choose the Google XML Sitemaps plugin, download and then activate it; that’s it.
Once this plugin is already activated, the sitemap is running and SE bots will easily crawl on your pages and posts and index them accordingly. This option is much better and easier than the manual method mentioned above.
Submitting the Sitemap to Google
Once the sitemap is already created, it is important to submit the file to your Google’s Webmasters Tool. This is important because it can further help in tracking the performance of your blog and you can also gain access to the statistical data. The submission process is relatively easy. Here are the steps you can follow:
- Upload the Sitemap
- Go to Your Webmaster’s Tool
- Click the ‘Optimization’ button located at the left-side menu
- Click on the Sitemaps
- Click on the ‘Add/Test Sitemap’ button
- Input the path of your sitemap
- Submit it
Another submission option is to modify the robot.txt file of your blog and insert the following code: (Sitemap: http://yourwebsite.com/sitemap_location.xml)
The Sitemap plays an important role in your website. It must not be made not just for the search engines but also for the people who will visit your blog in the future. It can help boost the user-experience of your visitors by providing them easy and instant access to certain pages and blog posts that they would like to view and read.
But more importantly, this must be created to aid the search engine crawlers in properly indexing every page and every post. These SE bots are not perfect and they will normally miss out some pages when crawling over various pages of your blog. But if you have a Sitemap, the chances of getting each page indexed and ranked accordingly are much higher.
So if you are optimizing a blog post for the search engine, you are better assured that it will be quickly indexed and ranked if you have the XML-Sitemap installed.