If you’re embarking on a digital marketing strategy that includes content marketing and a blog to attract website visitors, you’ll need to take a few critical steps to ensure your website is crawlable by all the major search engines (Google, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo!, Bing, etc.)

Sitemaps are one of the first and most important steps you should take.

What exactly is a Sitemap?

Sitemaps are advanced SEO tools that allow Google to view information about your site like the videos, pages, and files, as well as how those pieces of information are connected to each other. Google can then use this information to crawl your site much more efficiently so that they can give better recommendations.

Your sitemap.xml file tells search engines about the pages you think are important, and provides additional information so that you can optimize how you are recommended online by search engines.

Some of the most common sitemap entries include news, video, and files.  Put into one sentence, sitemaps are critical for SEO because Google ranks pages, not just websites, so making sure Google can find each page is critical to a comprehensive SEO strategy.

Why would I need a sitemap?

If your website is properly linked, Google can usually do all of the legwork required to access all the pages. What’s linking? If every page that you think is important can be accessed somehow, that’s linking, but if you have a very large site, a complex site, or just don’t want to leave it up to Google, you can use a sitemap to make certain that you’re good! For those of you wondering why sitemaps are important, in a nutshell it lets Google see and recommend every page on your whole website. 

Other reasons to use a sitemap can include if your page is new, if you have a lot of news or video/image content, or if you aren’t sure your site is properly linked. If your website is simple, or properly linked, however, a sitemap might not be needed, like if you want to sitemap one page website.

How do I create a sitemap?

While Google supports XML, RSS, mRSS, Atom 1.0, and Text sitemaps, this guide will only cover XML. XML is a style of code that is frequently used in development, with common features like XML comment, and XML viewer to facilitate ease of use. Furthermore, the ability to use a javascript xml search engine makes it a lot easier to use.

Does my website have a sitemap?

Many website builder apps like Wix, Squarespace, and Yoast etc. can generate sitemaps automatically, and you can check out your respective website’s pages for information on auto-generating a sitemap. In these cases your website probably already has a sitemap ready and waiting. For those who want to make a Google Sites sitemap, however, this guide is for you!

How do I find examples of sitemaps? 

Some common sitemap examples can be found by simply searching for websites, like “match site map” or the like. These can be a useful graphical example.

What are the parts of a sitemap?

Basic Anatomy:

KEY NOTE: All URLs in a sitemap MUST be from a single host.

XML Tags:

XML Sitemap Example:

Note how the site map example shows the clear structure of each part of a sitemap.

Key Values:

XML sitemaps only ever use ASCII characters or control codes and special characters that XML supports. Replace every instance of these following characters with the code below:

  • Replace & with &amp
  • Replace ‘ with '
  • Replace “ with "
  • Replace > with >
  • Replace < with &lt;

My sitemap is done. How do I submit it to Google? 

To submit a sitemap, use the Sitemaps Report page in Google Search Console: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451001

A common occurrence users run into is the error “Your sitemap appears to be an html page. Please use a supported sitemap format instead.” In this case, the code is not registering as XML and changes may be necessary to convert your sitemap to XML or any other accepted sitemap. If you’re wondering about how to find sitemap information, your Google account will be able to access that data. Just log into your Google website and go to the Sitemap page linked above!

Just A Few Last Words

Sitemaps are a great way to give your article a bit more spotlight. They can never hurt your SEO performance and can really give your website the boost it needs to start raking in traffic. We hope that this guide has been helpful and as always don’t hesitate to ask questions on Sage!