What is a sitemap for
A sitemap makes it easier for search engines to index your entire website. It’s basically a URL list that forwards information about each of your subpages to the search engines. So a sitemap allows search engines to quickly spot new changes you made to your website or blog. It only needs to check your URL lists for any updates and not the whole page content. Therefore, a sitemap makes most sense if you have an active website on which you regularly create or update new content, especially a blog. That’s why you should have a sitemap.
Sitemaps are not always necessary
If you have a static website and only occasionally update your content, then a sitemap makes sense if your page is new or you did a complete redesign. Otherwise, it is not necessary, but still always better to have one.
However, if you have a dynamic website and often create or update content, be sure to set up a sitemap. Make sure the creation is done automatically, otherwise the Sitemap information will not match your new website content. The better the match of the sitemap and your page is, the more often it will be used by search engines to keep your sites search results up-to-date.
How to create a sitemap
Many common content management systems (CMS) as WordPress already have sitemaps. Usually you just have to install a plugin (Yoast SEO on example) and activate the plugin.
You can create your sitemap manually, which I don’t recommend as you need some programming knowledge and you need to keep it up-to-date manually all the time. Alternatively, you can have the Sitemaps created online with an external tool, there are various providers.
Make the sitemap accessible to Google
Make your sitemaps accessible to Google by submitting them to the Google Search Console. However, submit only the most important URLs that are essential to appear in the index. Additionally, avoid submitting different URLs that have very similar content. The sitemap is a text file with the extension .xml and is normally named sitemap.xml or sitemap_index.xml.
Make your sitemap available to Google by adding “Sitemap: http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml” anywhere in your robots.txt file or directly submit it to the Google Search Console.
For more detailed and technical information check out the Google Webmaster Support page:
- Want to improve your website traffic? Have a look at my Brief SEO overview and the importance of SEO.