30 second summary:
- A sitemap is one of the technical aspects of SEO.
- A sitemap doesn’t increase your SEO traffic, but rather helps search engines index your web pages faster.
- It is very easy to create an XML sitemap and does not require any programming knowledge.
- Once a sitemap has been created, you need to submit it to Google.
- You can view detailed reports on index coverage and troubleshoot technical issues, if any, from your Google Search Console dashboard.
- Jyoti Ray, founder of WPMyWeb.com, guides you through the process of creating an XML sitemap with various tools and details on how to fix existing sitemap errors.
When it comes to SEO, you need to master and execute over hundreds of Google ranking factors in order to increase your search engine visibility. Believe me, it’s a lot of work – generating content ideas, researching keywords, creating quality content, building backlinks, checking your website, etc. Working on each of the techniques is time consuming and involves a lot of effort. Fortunately, there are some SEO techniques that are easier to perform, but have a huge impact on SEO. One of them is sending an XML sitemap to Google.
Although a sitemap is part of “technical SEO”, it does not require any technical knowledge and, above all, is free and easier to create.
You can even create an XML sitemap and send it to Google in just 10 to 15 minutes.
In this article, we’ll first explain what an XML sitemap is, why you need a sitemap, and then we’ll show you how to create an XML sitemap and submit it to Google. Let’s begin.
What is an XML sitemap?
A sitemap is a list of a website’s URLs. It’s a roadmap of a website that tells Google what information is available and where to find it. A sitemap contains important information about each URL, such as: B. – when a post or page was last updated, how often you make changes, etc.
The best part of a sitemap is that you can specify which pages, posts, or media files you want search engine crawlers to index.
Sitemaps are written specifically for search engines, not people. So it would be hard for us to understand if we didn’t see it beforehand.
This is what an XML sitemap looks like:
Why do you need a sitemap?
Search engines use crawlers to find and index all information on the web. When crawling a page, they use both internal and external links to discover new content.
However, if a new webpage is not linked to other known pages, crawlers will find it difficult to find new pages on a website. As a result, the indexing process is delayed.
Here comes a sitemap.
A sitemap not only contains a number of valuable links, but also helps search engine crawlers to find new information faster.
Once you’ve submitted your sitemap XML file to Google, you can see that any new posts / pages you publish are available somewhere in Google search results (after a few minutes). It’s up to the sitemap file.
When do you need to use a sitemap?
Not everyone needs a sitemap. Google has its own complex algorithm for scheduling the crawl.
Google has officially stated when a webmaster needs a sitemap:
- Your website is really big
- Your website is brand new with few external links
- They don’t create internal links
In most cases, however, a sitemap can be beneficial in a number of ways.
Now I know the basics of a sitemap. Let’s see how to create an XML sitemap and send it to Google.
How to create an XML sitemap
Creating a sitemap is very easy. You can use an online tool to create an XML sitemap. Numerous plugins are available for WordPress sites.
I will show both.
1. Create a sitemap in WordPress
More than 35% of all websites are operated with WordPress.
If you’re running a WordPress site, you can use a plugin to create a sitemap.
There are several WordPress plugins that you can use to create an XML sitemap such as: B. Yoast SEO, Rank Math SEO, etc.
Method 1: create a sitemap with Yoast SEO
Yoast is one of the best SEO plugins for WordPress. You can use the Yoast plugin to optimize your page titles, meta descriptions, SEO analyzes, etc.
It is also possible to create an XML sitemap.
If you are not using the Yoast SEO plugin, download and install it from the WordPress plugins directory.
Follow the steps below
In your WordPress admin, go to Plugins> Add New and search for “Yoast SEO”.
Once activated, go to SEO> General> Features. Click the question icon to view the sitemap url.
Method Two – Build a Sitemap Using Rank Math SEO
Using the Rankmath SEO plugin allows you to create a sitemap like you did with the Yoast SEO plugin.
However, I prefer to use the Rank Math plugin as it offers advanced options that are missing in Yoast SEO.
First, log into your WordPress dashboard and go to Plugins> Add New.
Find “Rank Math” and install it.
Once enabled, go to Rank Math> Sitemap Settings.
From there you can specify how many links to want per sitemap page, exclude urls, images in posts, etc.
Above you can see your sitemap url, which looks like this:
Now you can send to the Google Search Console.
2. Creating a sitemap without a CMS
If you’re not using a CMS, you can still create a sitemap.
In that case, Screaming Frog would be a great option. Screaming Frog is a desktop-based program (available on Windows and Mac) that crawls your website. The software is available as both a free and a premium version.
If your website has fewer than 500 URLs, you can use the free version of Screaming Frog to create a sitemap.
Follow the steps given below
Once downloaded and installed, open the software on your computer.
Enter your website URL at the top of the screen and click Start.
It will start crawling your website and it may take a few minutes to complete.
After the crawl is complete, see which pages are being crawled.
If the number is below 500, you’re good to go.
In the menu area at the top, click Sitemap> XML Sitemaps.
You can also include or exclude any options from your sitemap file, such as: B. Noindex pages, last modified date, paginated URLs, PDFs, images, etc.
I recommend keeping this default setting. However, you can make changes.
When you’re done, click the Export button and save the file to your computer.
Your sitemap XML file is ready to use.
3. Creating a sitemap in Wix
When using Wix, there is no need to manually create a sitemap.
Wix does it automatically.
You can view your sitemap file at your-wix-site.com/sitemap.xml.
However, in Wix, you wouldn’t have much control over your sitemap.
If you’d like to exclude a page from the sitemap, simply go to the “SEO (Google)” tab under “Page Settings” and uncheck “Show this page in search results”.
Note: Wix recommends that you submit your sitemap every time you make changes.
4. Create a sitemap in Squarespace
Like Wix, Squarespace automatically creates a sitemap.
You can view your sitemap by adding “/sitemap.xml” to the end of your website url, which is “your-website.com/sitemap.xml”.
You can’t manually edit your sitemap in Squarespace, but you can exclude pages from search results.
To do this, go to the page settings and activate the option “Hide this page from search engine results” on the “SEO” tab.
5. Create a sitemap in Shopify
Shopify will automatically generate an XML sitemap file for you. You can view your sitemap file at your-website.com/sitemap.xml.
The generated sitemap contains all products, collections, blogs and websites. The sitemap files are automatically updated when changes are made.
Your sitemap file is now ready to be submitted.
Recommended Reading – How To Optimize Your Shopify Website For SEO
How to Submit an XML Sitemap to Google
Now that you’ve just created an XML sitemap file, you can submit it to Google.
To do this, you need to connect your Google Search Console account to your website. Here is the step-by-step guide from Google.
Once connected, log into your Google Search Console account and select your website.
Click the sitemaps on the dashboard.
You will see the option “Add a new sitemap”. Enter your sitemap url in the blank field and hit the submit button.
That’s it. Now sit back and relax. Google takes care of the rest.
Fix Your Sitemap Errors To Improve SEO
In general, if your site has one or more technical errors it is very difficult to find out. However, in most cases, it will only be noticeable if you use a paid site auditor tool.
But there is good news for you.
Once you’ve submitted your sitemap to Google, you can view detailed index coverage reports to see if your website has a technical problem.
Sign in to your Google Search Console account and click Coverage.
Then click the Error, Valid with Warning, Valid and Excluded tab to get the details.
From there, you can check the pages for the following:
- Indexed but blocked by robots.txt
- Pages with a server error (5xx)
- Excluded by the ‘noindex’ tag
- Crawled but not indexed
- Not found (404)
- Forwarding page
- Blocked by robots.txt and many more
Click on each of the error pages to see what you need to fix. You can then ask Google to mark it as fixed by clicking Validate Fix.
If you’ve fixed any technical errors using your sitemap file, you can see a significant improvement in your search traffic.
Creating an XML sitemap is very easy and does not require any technical knowledge. If you use WordPress, you can create a sitemap with SEO plugins in just a few clicks. It’s also easier if you’re not using a CMS.
There’s no evidence that a sitemap will improve your website’s SEO, but it does help Google find and index your website’s content faster. I also recommend that you use a sitemap.
Sending a sitemap to Google is only a tiny part of the whole SEO game.
Jyoti Ray is the founder of WPMyWeb.com. He writes on blogging, WordPress tutorials, hosting and affiliate marketing.