A sitemap is a model of a website’s content designed to help both users and search engines navigate the site. The most popular type of sitemap webmasters create is a XML sitemap.
In order for search engines, like Google, to index your webpages and display them in search results, their web crawlers need to first find these pages. Whilst Google’s web crawling bot is incredibly intelligent, sometimes it needs a helping hand to navigate your website. The easier you make it for their bots to crawl your website, the more success you will have in being indexed – and that is why sitemaps are used.
Put simply, sitemaps are the equivalent of roadmaps; they help search engines get from point A to B to C etc.
There are a few methods for creating a sitemap for your website. However, you need to know whether or not your website has been built using a content management system (CMS), like WordPress. If your website has been built without a CMS it’s not the end of the world, but the process is a bit more difficult and requires more admin – I’ll explain below.
Creating an XML sitemap for a non-CMS website requires the use of some software or another website to crawl your site and generate the file for you. There are a number of websites that can generate an XML file for you e.g. XML-Sitemaps.com, and once the file has been created you need to upload this to your website’s hosting server.
After the file has been uploaded you will need to log on to your website’s Google search console and submit the sitemap – and there you go, you’re all setup.
However, what makes this method more complicated than the WordPress method below is that each time you change the structure of your website by moving webpages or creating additional webpages, you have to generate a new sitemap and upload this to Google Search Console to make them aware of the new structure.
Us SEOs love WordPress because the SEO-friendly CMS has a plethora of plugins developed for it, and the plugin of choice for SEO and sitemap generation is Yoast. Yoast has a very simple process for generating an XML sitemap for your website and what’s more, the sitemaps are dynamic. Therefore, any changes you do will be updated automatically in the sitemap, giving search engine bots an up-to-date view of your website’s architecture.
Sitemaps have not be given the credit they deserve. They play a vital role in helping search engine bots navigate your website, and thus indexing your webpages.
And, whilst you may not have given it much thought, the way your website has been built will also determine how search engine friendly it is.