What Is a Sitemap? (Plus Why & How to Create One)

Maps afford us many advantages.  For instance, a treasure map tells us how to get wealthy. Topographical maps are enjoyable to contact. The world map reminds us that cats rule.


the world is a cat playing with australia


But it’s possible you’ll really feel a little much less keen on web site sitemaps. They usually are not very straightforward to perceive and final I checked, they’re not precisely enjoyable. But they will present a path to increased rating and extra web site visitors when you get them proper.

So on this submit, I’m going to share with you what a sitemap is, why you would possibly want one, and the way to create and submit a sitemap to Google.

Table of contents

A sitemap is a file that lists out the URLs of all of the important pages of your web site. The major function is to assist engines like google perceive your web site and find particular pages with ease. There are additionally sitemaps that assist customers navigate your web site, which we’ll get into later.

Below is an instance of a sitemap.

⚠️ Warning: This goes to look intimidating, nevertheless it gained’t be so scary by the top of this submit.

example of a sitemap

Image source

To perceive the significance of sitemaps in search engine optimization, you’ve gotten to first perceive how engines like google work. In explicit, what the phrases “crawl” and “index” imply.

  • Google has bots (or spiders) that consistently scan the net and stock internet pages. This is crawling.
  • The bots then categorize and retailer every web page it finds in Google’s large index—that is referred to as indexing.
  • This means, whenever you search on Google, Google isn’t really scanning your entire internet in actual time for you. Instead, it’s looking its neatly organized index, which is why it could pull up ends in a fraction of a second.

what is a sitemap - how search engines work

Image source

What this all means is, in case your web page is tough to crawl, it might not make it into Google’s index, and if it’s not in Google’s index, it could’t present up in a Google search. This is the place sitemaps come into play.

Benefits of sitemaps

The higher Google can perceive your web site and the simpler it’s to crawl, the extra effectively you may rank on your goal key phrases and get extra visitors to your web site. With that being stated and with the knowledge above, right here is a deeper dive into the advantages of getting a sitemap:

Get your pages crawled and listed sooner

Google can’t crawl your entire web each single day. Instead, it has totally different crawl “schedules” for various web sites and content material sorts—so typically it could take days, weeks, and even months for Google to uncover new pages in your web site. Sitemaps may help Google to uncover and index new pages sooner.

Keep high-value pages performing nicely

Have you ever up to date a web page in your web site—maybe to refresh your evergreen content material—however not seen the adjustments mirrored within the SERP? That’s as a result of Google hasn’t crawled the web page since your replace. With extra environment friendly crawling and indexing, you may make sure that customers are seeing essentially the most up-to-date model of your highest worth and/or regularly modified pages.

Help search bots find orphan pages

Google’s bots usually uncover pages in your web site very like guests do—by following the hyperlinks on the pages it’s crawling (which is why inside linking is so vital). Orphan pages are pages in your web site that don’t produce other hyperlinks pointing to it, making them exhausting to attain for Google. But with these pages in your sitemap, Google can extra simply find and index them.

what is a sitemap - orphan pages

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Help Google discern duplicate pages

There are a number of eventualities the place a enterprise web site can have duplicate or near-duplicate pages—for instance, on an ecommerce web site you’ll have duplicate product pages with totally different colours of that product. In these circumstances, Google won’t know which model of the web page is the principle model that you really want to rank. With a sitemap, you should use canonical tags to present Google which model is the principle one and which of them are duplicates.

Do I want a sitemap?

In normal, Google does a fairly good job at discovering internet pages on the web by itself, however a sitemap, as we established above, may help improve your SEO—for some sites more than others. According to Google, you want a sitemap if:

  • You have a massive (500+ web page) web site. Thousands of pages means extra probabilities that Google’s crawlers would possibly overlook new or up to date pages.
  • Your inside linking is missing. Aka numerous orphan pages.
  • Your web site is new or has few backlinks. Since internet crawlers uncover web site pages by following hyperlinks from one web site to one other.
  • You have a lot of wealthy media. Aka pictures, movies, or information pages that you really want to present in search outcomes.

Types of sitemaps

There are two varieties of sitemaps. HTML sitemaps (hypertext markup language, geared for people) and XML sitemaps (extensible markup language, geared for bots).

HTML sitemaps

An HTML sitemap is an precise web site web page, seen to guests, with a record of clickable hyperlinks to all the pages in your web site. This is the previous technique for creating a sitemap, however it’s nonetheless beneficial, particularly for big web sites.

Google encourages HTML sitemaps as a result of a hierarchical record of hyperlinks may help Google higher perceive what’s most vital and index accordingly.

Here’s an instance of an HTML sitemap of homedepot.com.

html sitemap example by home depot

XML sitemaps

An XML sitemap is a textual content file that gives a record of URLs in your web site. You can often discover any web site’s sitemap by going to: domainname.com/sitemap.xml, however you may change it for web site safety functions. But whilst you can see a web site’s XML sitemap, they’re not meant to be a navigational instruments for guests—only for engines like google.

Here’s what our XML sitemap seems like.

xml sitemap example

XML sitemaps enable you to use tags to present details about the URLs in it, comparable to date final modified. You may use sitemap extensions to present details about video, picture, and information article content material.

Sitemaps.org offers a helpful list of XML tag definitions here.

Other varieties of sitemaps

There are another varieties of sitemaps to concentrate on:

  • RSS feeds: For information websites or blogs that publish a number of articles every day, they will submit an RSS, mRSS (media RSS) or Atom 1.0 feed as their sitemap URL. But it’s vital to notice that these sitemaps will solely present info on latest URLs.
  • Text sitemaps: This is the only sitemap appropriate for small web sites with fewer internet pages.

How to create a sitemap

The course of for creating a sitemap is definitely fairly easy, thanks to the instruments accessible to us. Basically, you want to generate your sitemap, verify it in opposition to finest practices, after which submit it to Google. Here’s how to do it:

1. Use a sitemap generator to create your sitemap

Sitemap turbines are plugins and softwares that supply a no-code course of for creating sitemaps. Here are among the finest sitemap turbines to select from:

  • Yoast: This is a free WordPress plugin that may generate a sitemap for you without cost.
  • WordPress 5.5: If you utilize WordPress 5.5 or later, you don’t want exterior plugins for creating sitemaps. Here’s how to check your WordPress version.
  • XML-Sitemaps.com: This instrument provides each paid and free packages. All you want is to paste your web site URL into the search subject and hit the beginning button.
  • Screaming Frog: Create XML and picture XML sitemaps with superior configurations like “last modified” tags.
  • Slickplan: A visible sitemap planner, as a part of a bigger web site planning providing, that permits you to create textual content, XML or vector sitemaps. It’s paid, however provides a free 30-day trial.
  • Dynomapper: Another paid visible sitemap planner that additionally provides a free trial.

2. Follow sitemap finest practices

Google provides extensive sitemap best practices here, however listed here are some easy tips to get began:

  • Break up massive sitemaps. If you’ve gotten a lengthy record of URLs, break your sitemap into a number of and thens submit a sitemap index file (type of like a sitemap of your sitemaps).
  • List solely your canonical URLs. If you’ve gotten duplicate or near-duplicate pages (as talked about above), record solely the principle URL in your sitemap that you really want to seem in search outcomes (the canonical model). For the opposite variations, use the rel=canonical tag.
  • Use UTF-8 encoding. All sitemap information can solely include ASCII characters—which suggests numbers 0-9, English letters A-Z, and just some particular characters. Characters just like the ampersand, citation marks, or higher/lower than want to get replaced with escape codes:sitemap escape codes
  • Don’t focus an excessive amount of on precedence tags. You can use precedence tags in your sitemap to point out which pages are vital relative to each other (for instance, assigning values starting from 0.1 to 1.0), however these are solely preferences. At the top of the day, Google will crawl and index in accordance to its personal guidelines.
  • Never record your NoIndex URLs. A sitemap is for telling Google which URLs to crawl and index, not which of them to ignore

3. Submit your sitemap to Google 

Once you generate your sitemap, there are a few other ways to submit it to Google. 

  • Google Search Console. This might be the best means to submit your sitemap. Once you’re in Google Search Console, discover sitemaps within the panel on the left:how to submit a sitemap to google search consoleThen add your sitemap URL and hit submit. Easy peasy.
  • The ping instrument. You can submit a request proper in your browser by typing within the following:


  • Robots.txt file: You may submit a sitemap by inserting your sitemap hyperlink in your robots.txt file
  • WebSub. WebSub is advisable if you’re utilizing an RSS feed as your sitemap.
  • X(ML) marks the spot

    To wrap all of it up for you, there are not any Google penalties for not having a sitemap, however there are advantages to be had in case your web site matches the invoice. And ideally, it solely matches the invoice as a result of you’ve gotten a massive web site, and never since you’ve been slacking in your inside or backlink constructing. Just take into account that a sitemap just isn’t a rule that Google should obey—it’s extra of a set of preferences and tips that may assist it in its crawling and indexing endeavors.

    Creating a sitemap is free and doesn’t require a lot technical talent to construct, so get began on yours immediately!