A XML sitemap is an important part of any great website and a necessary thing that you must generate and submit to search engines such as Google in order to allow others to discover your site in search engines and start gaining traffic.
But what is a XML sitemap or a sitemap in general? Well the name actually does a great job of describing what is. A sitemap is simply that—a map of your site. Except this map is not for visitors but rather for robots. These robots, known as crawlers, are what the big search engines, Google, Yahoo, Bing, use to gather all the information about all the websites on the internet and determine what shows up in your search results. The sitemap helps them discover and index pages of your site when it is brand new since those pages not have ever be linked to by other sites that it can follow.
A sitemap helps the crawlers navigate your site and tells it what to view and what not to view. If you have a page you don’t want to show up in search, say a landing page that is only for customers coming from your email, then you can exclude it from your sitemap and it will be essentially hidden unless someone navigates to it directly.
There are many types of sitemaps that can be created and submitted and XML is just one of those types. XML is great because it can support multimedia like videos and images as well as plain old text. It depends on your site and media whether you want this type of content to be indexed by the search engines or not.
If you are using a preformatted web site builder like Weebly or wordpress.com then those sites may have their own sitemap types that are different then XML. There is no right type, however. XML is one of the most common but any other type can serve the same function.
Generating your sitemap manually is a technical process outside the scope of this article and depends on which language your site is coded in. If you want to go this route it is recommended to look for help with this process or search the documentation of your website’s language for tips.
A much easier approach is to use a simple third party tool to help you create your XML sitemap. If you are using a Content Management System (CMS), such as WordPress, then there are many easy plugins or add-ons you can use.
WordPress is one of the largest CMS mainly because of its ease of use and extensive library of plugins which can add numerous functions to a site. Many popular SEO plugins will help you with this process as it is an important foundation of good SEO or you can get an even simpler plugin that generates an sitemap as its only function.
Users of other CMS products should search for a similar tool or add-on or visit https://www.xml-sitemaps.com and create a XML sitemap in four easy steps.
Once you have your sitemap it is incredibly easy to submit it to Google. You can either add “Sitemap: http://example.com/sitemap_location.xml” to your robots.txt file, which is a file on your site that is intended to help those search engine crawlers understand your site. Remember to replace “sitemap_location.xml” with your actual xml sitemap URL that you generated above.
Alternatively, your sitemap URL can be submitted through Google Webmaster Tools’ search console at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools. If you do not already have a Google Webmaster account, simply create one and once your site is verified you can submit your sitemap.
I hope this quick guide has helped you create and submit your sitemap. Happy blogging!
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