There are already N- Number of factors involved in creating one user and search engine friendly website. These factors are the biggest shareholders of whether your customers are going to come back on your website or not.
From SEO Purpose, One common and yet very important SEO activity that is needed is getting their website listed on the search engines like Google, Bing, Yandex etc. Most newbies assume that search engines will crawl the content on their website and they would start ranking but this statement is not 100% true as search engines take a lot of factors to crawl a new website especially.
To make sure that search engines like Google know about the URLs and the content on your pages, one is supposed to create and submit them to the search engines, the easiest method is creating a table of content and then ask the giants to feed on.
This table of content is indexed by Google and then listed on the SERP, moreover, one of the most important reason one should perform this activity is that it helps in preventing from Google’s Panda penalty as content curation is not something unknown to people like us in digital marketing.
This extensive guide will walk you through a different kind of Sitemaps, easy methods of creating them ,how to submit your Sitemaps in GWT (Google Webmaster Tool) or Google Search Console and lastly we will discuss validating the sitemaps.
Let’s start walking….
- 1 What are sitemaps and why are they so Important for us
- 2 Why use a Sitemap?
- 3 Different types of Sitemaps
What are sitemaps and why are they so Important for us
Remember those school days when we used to create Index on the first page of all the practical’s performed in our practical files for Physics and Chemistry? This sitemap is somewhere similar to that, the only difference is instead of writing down the activities we performed in our labs we add URLs to a file which is then Signed by your Teacher or crawled by Googlebot in this case.
Still looking for a proper definition! :/
According to Google, Sitemap is “A file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site.”
The entire article from Google about the proper definition of the sitemap can be found here.
Why use a Sitemap?
There are several reasons why one should use sitemap, some of them are listed below
- As mentioned above, It helps current scenario of Panda algorithm
- Easier access to users as well as search engines for indexing your content regularly depending upon the frequency we set it to.
- Helps search engines to notify which all pages are having errors like 404 or soft 404 etc.
- Helps in getting your website crawled if we have lesser number of external links.
Different types of Sitemaps
There are five different type of Sitemaps
- HTML Sitemap
- XML Sitemap
- ROR Sitemap
- RSS Sitemap
- Text Sitemap
For this guide, we would be focussing upon the first two i.e. XML and HTML Sitemaps and the guide for rest of the sitemaps can be found on Microsystools.
Let’s take an example for HTML sitemaps from Zomato
These are those sitemaps created for users, not the search engines and are mostly found in the footer section of the website.
They generally help the visitors in navigating through the website as evident from the image below
Showing the hierarchy/structure of the website, they enable users to reach to the desired web page/content on the website.
Note: If you’re looking forward to creating a good looking HTML sitemap, then download A1 Generator from Microsystools which comes with 31 days free trial.
These Sitemaps are not available in the footer section but can be viewed using any web browser by going to the URL of the sitemap(s).
Most of the websites have their XML Sitemaps on www.domain.com/sitemap.xml and can be seen by human beings too.
XML Sitemaps are created for search engines and their spiders not for the regular visitors, they create a table of content for the crawlers and notifies them whenever there comes a change in the already posted content or whenever a new content is updated.
To sum up, they act as a mean of communication between the website and the search engines.
To create one
If you’re using a WordPress website,
Step a) simple plugin would do the job
Step b) Install and activate the plugin
Step c) go to Settings -> XML-Sitemap
Step d) Notify the search engines about your sitemaps or sub-sitemaps
If non-WordPress website
Step a) Visit XML-sitemaps and enter the URL of your website
Step b) Select the change frequency according to how often you update your content on the website
Step c) Leave all the setting as it is and click on start
Step d) Wait for some time for your XML sitemap
Note: Under the free version of this website, we can only generate a sitemap for 500 pages and therefore paid version is required for more than that.
XML Sitemaps can be further categorized into
- Image Sitemap
- Video Sitemap
- Mobile Sitemap
- News Sitemap
- Geo Sitemap
Let’s try and understand what each type means
In most of the cases, one would require adding images to their Blog posts in which case creating a normal sitemap would suffice the work BUT if the websites bread and butter comes only via the images then in that case Image sitemap would be required.
To create one,
If you have non-WordPress Blog,head over to angeldigital
And just simply add your URL, wait for some time and once done follow the step by step instructions given there.
NOTE: It will take some time so don’t give up yet on this free tool.
If you have a WordPress Blog, you can install a small plugin and let it do the magic for you
Note: the plugin helps in generating ALT text for all your images
Creating Video Sitemap is somewhat similar to having the standard XML Sitemaps for your website
Why should you opt for it?
Suppose you have just bought one expired domain from websites like PBNHQ or Expireddomains.net etc. and now you want their content to be indexed by Google Bots ASAP, this is where this strategy plays a vital role.
It gets your content indexed really quickly similar to fetch as Google option in Search Console.
To do this
For Non-WordPress Users
Step a) go to YouTube and Search for a video similar to your niche, copy its URL.
Step b) Visit Video sitemap generator and enter the URL you just copied
Step c) Click on Add Video
Step d) Fill in the Information asked
Step e) Click on Generate free Video Sitemap XML
Step f) Copy the code to clipboard and save it to a notepad file
For WordPress Users
There are a plethora of plugins that can be installed for this purpose, for this guide I have used YouTube Video Sitemap generator which will help you in creating a video sitemap for all your URLs.
Follow the usual steps of installing and activating the plugin
Right under the setting tab in your dashboard you would find Video Sitemap
Select all your desired options and click on create sitemap
Wait for a minute and you will have your video sitemap
Note: Since this Plugin doesn’t come with auto-pinging service, we would require pinging the search engines about the changes on our website
To do so add your video sitemap URL at the end of http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/ping?sitemap=
These kind of sitemaps are different from standard sitemaps and are only created for browsers with limited features like features phones.
If you have a desktop website (www.example.com) and a mobile website (m.example.com) then, in that case, it is suggested to have a mobile sitemap uploaded in the root directory of your website.
Moreover, if your current website is responsive to browsers then, in that case, this sitemap is not required.
Specifically designed for websites having some news stories which can be published in Google if all the given requirements are fulfilled.
If you’ve already installed A1 Sitemap Generator from Microsystools, then it would be much easier to create and upload directly to your server, afterward, we can always ping search engines using the same tool.
If using A1 Sitemap Generator follow this guide to create using their awesome tool which comes with 31 days free trial.
If your company thrives on local business and wants to differentiate sitemaps for each category separately,
Head on to www.geositemapgenerator.com
And follow the steps mentioned below
Step c) Download
Validating the Sitemap
Next thing, we should always check is validating the sitemap we just uploaded, to do so visit Validome and just feed in your URL & check sitemap, it should present you with something like this
Adding to Google Search Console
Before we proceed with this step, just make sure that we have uploaded sitemap.xml in the root directory of your website
Step a) Go over to Google Search Console and sign in with your Gmail Id
Step b) Head over to Sitemaps under the Crawl section in the search console
Step c) On the right-hand side you would find an option saying add/test sitemap
Step d) Sitemap added and Indexed
Once we are done with creating, uploading and pinging the search engines for our desired sitemaps, next step we have to confirm is to monitor the errors in Google Search Console or your WordPress dashboard.
A complete list of errors which one might face while using WordPress and Search Console are listed neatly on Yoast.
Closing the Coil
The two important sitemaps which one should have on their website are the Image and Standard XML sitemaps, apart from these rest can be chosen depending upon the level and domain of work.
Hope you’ve liked this extensive guide for Sitemaps, looking forward to your valuable feedbacks