It is really worth the effort to create a sitemap for your website. It will be very useful to your human visitors, which is important, and it will help the search engine robots to find pages on your site. Let’s talk about how to create a sitemap.
If you’re wondering what a sitemap is…
Sitemaps are files (pages) that contain the links to all the web pages on your website.
The purpose of site maps is to help your human visitors easily find any page on your website.
It also helps search engine robots who visit your website for the purpose of adding your website pages to the search engine index (database), to easily discover all the pages on your site.
What Types Of Sitemaps Do You Get?
There are two types of sitemaps. You need to create a sitemap of each type because they serve both of your audiences (human visitors & search engine robots):
Your HTML sitemap is a regular web page on your website. It should contain the links to all your web pages, laid out in a way that represents the page structure of your website.
Take a look at this website’s sitemap as an example.
While the HTML sitemap is primarily aimed at helping your human visitors find any page on your website, it serves the double purpose of also helping search engines find all your pages.
Google first introduced XML sitemaps, and Yahoo, MSN, and Ask joined later. All it really is, is a XML file that follows a specific protocol (format) and that lists all the web pages on a website.
The XML file is then submitted to the above-mentioned search engines, who use the information in the XML file when adding your web pages to the search engine database.
How To Create A Sitemap
Since a HTML sitemap is a regular web page, you create a sitemap just like any other page on your site.
To display the links in an indented fashion that simulates my page structure, I like to use nested unordered list elements (<ul>), but you can use any other method of indentation, like using style sheets.
You can create a sitemap (XML version) in your web page creator if it allows you to switch to “code view”. Otherwise, a text editor, like Notepad, will work well. Your sitemap should be saved with a .xml file extension.
Below is a sample XML sitemap that follows the proper protocol. You can copy & paste this code in your text editor as a starting point to create a sitemap.
<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>
<urlset xmlns=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9″ xmlns:xsi=”http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance” xsi:schemaLocation=”http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9 http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9/sitemap.xsd”>
Repeat the section starting with <url> and ending with </url> for each web page that you want included in the search engine database.
The <loc> element contains the full URL of the web page.
Use the <priority> element to tell the search engine how important the page is. It can be a value from 0 to 1, with 1 being the most important page. Use 1.0 for your home page. Use 0.8 – 0.9 for your main hub pages, and 0.5 – 0.7 for content pages under each hub.
The <lastmod> element contains the date and time that the page was last modified.
The sitemap protocol contains other optional elements that you can use too, but the elements above are sufficient.
If all else fails, there are several online XML sitemap generators available that will crawl your website and create a sitemap for you. Be sure to review such a generated sitemap and make adjustments where necessary, like changing page priorities or removing unwanted pages.
How To Submit A Sitemap To Search Engines
The XML sitemap now needs to be submitted to the three big guys in the search business (Google, Bing, and Ask). Here’s how to do it:
- Google: Go to Google Webmaster Tools and create an account. Then add your website to your account and add your sitemap.
- Bing: Go to Bing Webmaster Tools and create an account. Then add your website to your account and add your sitemap.
- Ask: At the time of writing this, Ask.com does not have a webmaster center where you can create an account. Submit your sitemap to Ask.com via their “ping” URL. Copy & paste this URL to a text file:
Replace www.your-website.com/your-sitemap.xml with the URL of your sitemap. Then copy & paste the modified URL into your browser’s address bar and hit Enter. You should get an acknowledgment from Ask.com.
Whenever you add new pages to your website, update both your sitemaps (HTML & XML). In most cases, the search engines will periodically re-download your XML sitemaps. If they don’t, it’s easy enough to prompt them to do it.
An additional way to make search engines aware of your XML sitemap is to add a sitemap directive to your robots.txt file: Sitemap: full-site-map-url
It is worth the effort to create a sitemap. The search engines will know that you are serious about adding value with your website, and they will smile upon you for it!