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What is a Sitemap?

Search engines are fully committed to displaying the most relevant results for any given query. To this purpose, crawlers or bots read, organize, and index all data on the internet. They are responsible for navigating through your site and identifying what your content is about and whether it’s valuable enough to show users. If they find it so, they’ll place your site somewhere among the SERPs. Creating a sitemap of your website can help boost your its rankings.

Sitemaps or XML sitemaps are a list of all existing pages on a given website. XML stands for ‘extensible markup language,’ and works as a way to display information that’s both human and machine-readable. At its core, a sitemap makes a crawler’s job easier, as they help them index your site correctly.

Your website’s sitemap will tell search engines the following information:

  –  The location of a specific page on your website.

  –  The exact time when it was updated.

  –  How frequent is a given update happening.

  –  How important is that particular page within your site

As much as a well-done sitemap will help your SEO efforts, a poorly done one will do the opposite. In the latter case, crawlers could index some of your content as duplicate, which could end up hurting your SEO efforts tremendously.

How can I create a Sitemap?

If you want your website to be easily and quickly indexed, you need to follow a few steps to create a useful XML sitemap.

First, you must determine your site’s existing architecture. How is it structured? Identifying your pages hierarchies is essential to building a successful sitemap. For SEO purposes, you need to be aware of those pages that may be too deep. Those that are further away from your homepage can be difficult for crawlers (and users) to access. One recommendation is to keep your site structure’s depth shallow, meaning that it shouldn’t take that many clicks to navigate your site.

After you have optimized your page’s hierarchy, you can begin coding your URLs. This is done by formatting each URL with XML tags. If you don’t have any experience with coding, there are tools available to help you set it up. When creating the format, you need to add four attributes to your pages:

  –  Location

  –  Last changed

  –  Frequency

  –  The priority of a page

Then, using a sitemap validator, verify your code to make sure it is error-free. At this point, you’ll have your XML sitemap ready to go. The next step is to add it to your website’s root. Keep a logical and clear hierarchy while doing this, as it will be crucial when crawlers are scanning your site.

Lastly, you need to submit your new sitemap to search engines. To do this, you need to add it to your robots.txt file or submit it directly to Search Console (Google) and Bing Webmaster Tools (Bing and Yahoo!). This will let crawlers know that your sitemap exists.