Everyone knows that SEO is more important today than ever.
With 63,000 searches on Google every second, brands are missing out on opportunities if they don’t have a solid SEO strategy in place.
But ranking well is a significant investment.
It takes at least 4 to 6 months to begin seeing any results. And it’ll also require you to invest in content and regularly update and maintain the current information.
Thankfully, there are SEO techniques you can hack.
You don’t need an SEO specialist or any coding knowledge. It’s a technique that you can implement in under a minute but can boost your SEO results significantly.
If you’re wondering what it is, it’s an XML sitemap.
Here, I will show you how to create an XML sitemap and how you can upload it to Google and your website.
But before we jump in, let's have a look at what an XML sitemap is and how they help search engines index your website.
What is an XML Sitemap?
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file that lists the pages within your website.
Sitemaps live on your server and help search engine web crawlers understand the structure of your website.
If you're still feeling confused, think of a sitemap as a table of contents, a blueprint or a floor plan.
You would not build a house without a clear blueprint. And you would not decorate a home without knowing the floor plan.
It's the same with websites. You wouldn't design and build a website without a clear understanding of what pages are needed.
Tip - 7 Best Practices to Improve Your Sitemaps for SEO
When do people create sitemaps?
People make sitemaps when they are designing a website, adding a new page, or redesigning a new site.
Sitemaps are excellent for SEO because it allows the search engine to read your file and intelligently crawl through your website. Sitemaps tell the crawler the importance and priority ranking of each page, when the page was updated, and how often the page is updated.
The XML sitemap
An XML sitemap is a sitemap (XML file) designed for search engine bots. The file contains HTML code which allows the bot to read the outline of the website and understand the relationship between each page.
That’s why an XML sitemap looks like a list of URLs.
There are also visual sitemaps. But they’re only helpful for designers that need to understand the website’s hierarchy and user experience.
We need an XML sitemap to boost our SEO efforts.
Why are XML sitemaps Important?
If you don’t have an XML sitemap, search engines like Google, won’t penalize you. However, creating a sitemap is highly recommended as it can have a direct impact on SEO and allows Google (and other bots) to find your most important URLs easily.
How does an XML sitemap impact SEO?
- It helps the bot crawl your website more effectively.
- It tells the search engine to crawl and index every page on your website. Sometimes deep pages are not found by search engines. A sitemap ensures that crawlers include these pages.
- It helps your website gain indexation instantly. Search engines can now discover new pages faster, which helps with the indexation process.
- It tells the search engine which pages are a priority in your website. On your XML sitemap, you can include a tag which states which pages are the most important. The crawler bots will focus on the pages with priority.
- It provides further information about your pages. You can include optional tags that give search engines more data to help them crawl through the website. For example, 'lastmod' tells the search engine when you last changed the page, whereas 'changefreq' tells the crawler how often the page is updated.
- For example, the XML sitemap below has just one URL and uses all optional tags.
- It gives you more information on Googlebot activity via Google Webmaster (a free tool that helps you assess and maintain your website’s performance in search results).
- It can remove duplicates on your website. If you don't use a sitemap, you could have duplicate content, which is terrible for SEO.
- It helps large websites organize their indexation well.
A sitemap is essential for those with:
- A new website:
A sitemap will help crawlers find the new site and index the page on the search engine faster.
- A large website
When we say large, we mean a site with thousands to millions of pages. If you have a lot of pages and content, then a sitemap will help organize the information more effectively to crawler bots.
- Frequent content changes
If you consistently change your content, a dynamic XML sitemap can help new crawlers index new content on search engines.
- New content indexing requirements:
If you’re a company that needs to quickly index many new pages (for example a news/ journalism company), then you need an XML sitemap.
How to create and submit your XML Sitemap
Create your XML sitemap
There are many tools you can use to create your XML Sitemap. While you can build your own, there are sitemap generators that will make the process quick and easy. Be sure to include the URL to your sitemap file in your Robots.txt file.
XML sitemap generators
Screaming Frog is a website crawler that will help you evaluate your on-page SEO. It can help you find broken links, analyze page titles and metadata, find duplicate content, and discover other issues. It’s no surprise that the company also offers users a tool to create their XML Sitemap.
To create an XML Sitemap via the Screaming Frog, you need to download the spider (SEO web crawler). It’s free to use for the first 500 URLs (small websites.)
XML-Sitemaps is an online sitemap generator. It doesn’t require any signup or registration. XML-Sitemaps is free to use for small sites up to 500 URLs (like the Screaming Frog.)
Inspyder is a downloadable sitemap creator that helps you generate an XML sitemap. Unlike the sitemaps above, it is a desktop app that costs $39.95. It's simple to use and allows you to upload your sitemap to your server and notify Google crawlers about any changes.
Create an XML sitemap with Screaming Frog
The Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool is an excellent XML sitemap generator for any business.
It’s a great example because it can work for both large and small websites. It doesn’t matter how old or new the site is, and which CMS you’re currently using.
Best of all, if you're a growing business, there's a good chance that you can use the app for free. It's free for up to 500 pages. So if you have a larger website, you can upgrade to the paid version which costs £149.00 per year (approximately $180).
To begin, hop on the Screaming Frog website.
Click on ‘SEO Spider.’
And then click on ‘download.’
After clicking ‘download,’ follow the instructions to finish the installation process.
Once you’ve installed the program, open up the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. The desktop application should look like this.
To start the program, type in your website’s URL in the search field.
The search field is in dark grey, and it is next to the logo on the top left.
For this example, we’re going to type in Spyfu’s website URL.
After typing in your URL, hit the 'Start' button.
When we hit ‘Start,’ it only took us a few seconds for the crawling process to finish.
You can tell when the crawling process ends when the crawl bar turns completely green and says ‘Crawl 100%.’
Since SpyFu has less than a hundred pages, it only took a few seconds. With sites that have a few thousand pages, the process can take a few minutes. For websites with millions of pages, it can take a few hours.
Next, click on ‘Sitemaps.’
Under ‘Sitemaps,’ select ‘XML Sitemap.’
A pop-up will appear asking if you want to check a few boxes. I’ve checked PDFs below, but I will explain to you what these terms mean and why I left them unchecked.
What do these terms mean?
Pages that contain HTML Code in the header that tell search engines not to include the page while crawling and indexing for search. We recommend NOT checking this box.
When pages have more than one URL pointing to them, site managers often manage that through canonicalization. It tells the search engine which URL to prioritize.
If you check the box, you are telling XML sitemap to include variations of the URL that go to the same page. We recommend NOT checking this box.
It’s best practice to avoid paginated URLs. It can also hurt your SEO efforts if they’re not paginated correctly. We recommend NOT checking this box.
You can also include PDFs in your XML Sitemap, especially if they are essential to your users. We recommend you DO check this box.
Once you’ve selected ‘PDFs,’ click on the ‘Image’ Tab.
You can choose to skip this step. However, it’s a good idea to include images in your XML sitemap.
Under the ‘Images’ tab, make sure you select ‘Include Images.’
When you click ‘Include Images’ the third box, the ‘Include only relevant images…’ will be checked automatically.
Then select next.
Once you finish, click ‘Next.’
Then, find a secure place to save your XML sitemap.
Then click ‘Save.’
And that’s it!
We have just created an XML sitemap together.
By following these simple instructions, creating an XML sitemap is an easy and process that anyone can do.
For those who are curious, when we open the saved XML sitemap, this is what it looked like.
The code and HTML tags look very similar to the examples explored above.
But just before we celebrate, we still need to upload our XML sitemap to our website and major search engines like Google.
How to Upload the XML Sitemap to your Website
There are two ways we can upload our XML sitemap.
We can upload via:
- Our Web hosting provider or cPanel File Manager (the web-based hosting control panel that allows you to manage your websites)
- An FTP client (A file transfer Protocol client - software that enables you to transfer files over the internet.)
For this example, we’re going to upload our XML sitemap using a cPanel File Manager.
First, log into your cPanel.
Ours is Crazy Domains as you can see below.
Click on ‘File Manager.’
Once you’re in the ‘File Manager,’ click on ‘public_html’ to the left of the menu bar.
Then, click ‘Upload‘ on the top bar.
Select ‘Browse’ and upload your XML sitemap to the cPanel.
And once you’ve done that, congratulations!
You’ve just uploaded your XML sitemap to your website.
There are also a few additional steps you can do to speed up the process of crawler bots discovering your XML sitemap:
- Add the following line ‘sitemap: ‘http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml’ to your robots.txt.file. (please make sure you change ‘www.yourdomain.com’ to your actual domain name.)
- Go to your Google Search Console and submit the sitemap to Google for indexing
Before we end things, we’re also going to show you how you can upload the XML sitemap to Google.
How to Upload the XML Sitemap to Google
To upload the XML sitemap, you need to connect Google Search Console to your website.
Connecting your website to Google Search Console is easy.
All you need to do is add your site, verify your website, and follow a few more steps. Have a look at this Search Console Help Guide if you’re not sure where to start.
Once you’ve connected your website, sign into Google Search Console.
Select your website.
You should then see a dashboard that resembles something similar.
First, move to the left menu bar and click on the word 'Crawl.' The 'Crawl' category should reveal many subcategories.
One of these subcategories is 'Sitemaps.' Click on 'Sitemaps.'
You should see ‘Sitemap details.’ The details include the number of sitemap webpages and images submitted and indexed.
You can now ‘Resubmit’ your XML sitemap (if you have uploaded an XML sitemap in the past).
But if you haven't, you can click on the 'Add/Test Sitemap' button on the top right-hand corner in red (the same position as the resubmit button.)
Here's a box will appear saying ‘Add a new sitemap.’
You can enter in the XML sitemap’s URL into the box. For example ‘www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.’ Please remember to change the ‘yourdomain’ to your actual domain name.
Once that’s done, click ‘Submit.’
The Google Search Console will let you know the status of the XML Sitemap.
If it’s successful, the status will read ‘Success’ in green, as you can see in the image above.
There you have it!
We have successfully created an XML Sitemap, uploaded the sitemap to our website, and submitted it to Google.
XML sitemaps help you achieve faster and better indexing from search engines.
With billions of websites on the internet, it would be impossible for Google to crawl every page, every day.
It even takes about three months for Google bots to crawl and index a new website.
That's why uploading an XML sitemap has become a necessity for many companies today. Businesses move quickly, and consumers are making faster decisions.
With every brand keen to improve their SEO, an XML sitemap no longer puts you ahead of the pack but keeps you running in the race.
While XML sitemaps may look technical and confusing, it's simple and easy.
Together, we created and uploaded the XML sitemap to our website and Google in under a minute.
Let's say you don't know anything about sitemaps, and you need to walk through the entire process.
It'll take you, at most, an afternoon.
If you've never made an XML sitemap, I recommend you start now.