Everyone likes to have easy and quick wins in matters concerning marketing and search engine optimization.
Although I have been actively blogging for more than a decade, I would still want to get more traffic by simply pulling a few levers and pushing one or two buttons. In simple terms, I would want to use minimum effort and win big.
Fortunately, I have learnt about SEO techniques that can provide me maximum value without necessarily using much effort.
Since I’m very generous, I’d like to share one of the secrets with you. The technique involves coming up with an XML sitemap.
The term XML sitemap sounds technical, so you probably want to run away. Before you run, just allow me to share some good news with you.
Although XML sitemaps are thought to be technical aspects of search engine optimization, creating one is quite easy. It’s not really as technical as you think.
As a matter of fact, it’s possible for you or anyone else to create an XML sitemap within a very short period of time. You can do it even if you have absolutely no idea about how coding is done. If you can click using a computer mouse, then you are good to go.
It’s absolutely free, quite simple and most importantly, can enhance your search engine optimization. Anyone can do it, including you. Would you like to try?
Understanding what XML sitemap is:
Most people don’t know what XML sitemaps are.
An XML sitemap can be simply defined as a list of URLs that belong to a particular website. That’s essentially why it’s referred to as a sitemap.
It provides information about contents of a website and how it structured. XML is an acronym for the word Extensible Markup Language. It refers to the way through which information is displayed on websites.
What is the importance of having an XML sitemap?
Are you aware that search engines such as Yahoo and Google make use of crawlers to arrange and also index all info on the internet? Are you also aware that crawlers are capable of reading all types of information?
An XML sitemap enables the crawlers to identify and index the contents on your website. As a result, your website gets a better chance to get highly ranked.
An XML sitemap can be compared to the conventional table of contents. It enables the crawlers to obtain important information about your site and then index it accordingly.
An XML sitemap can also be compared to the blueprint of a house. In this case, your website is the house, whereas site pages are rooms within the house. An XML sitemap is the blueprint for the whole house. Whenever Google, the hypothetical inspector of buildings needs to inspect your house (website), the blueprint (XML sitemap) will enable him/ her to easily and conveniently find all rooms in the house.
A sitemap that is properly structured can do much more than the above-mentioned. It can enable Google and other search engines know when a site page was last updated, how often the page is updated, the least and most important pages and how to get and index information found deep inside the site’s infrastructure as well.
These are extremely important features, especially when you take into account how much and how frequently unauthorised syndication of content occurs every day.
If you are a publisher of content, it’s important for you to appreciate the importance of helping Google and other search engines understand that the content has been originally published on your website. XML sitemaps can play the important role of enabling creators of content to affirm their stake as original sources of that content.
Failure to use a sitemap will create the impression that your website contains duplicate content. This is bad for search engine optimization.
The most important thing that you note is that using a sitemap is the most effective strategy that will enable your website get indexed by search engines. Everyone likes easy wins. An XML sitemap will enable you direct Google where to find your website as well as the pages that you want the search engine to index.
Within less than 5 minutes, Google will respond by crawling your website and also indexing your content. That’s how simple it is.
You may be wondering if having a sitemap is really necessary, and if you really need to exert all that effort. The answer is simple and straightforward. Yes, you must have a sitemap, and you must make that deliberate effort.
Benefits of having an XML sitemap:
Having a sitemap has several advantages. Some of them are explained below.
1. The sitemap will prompt Google to not only crawl your website, but also index it.
2. It points out content on the website that needs to be crawled.
3. The sitemap enables search engines to identify the type of information that is available on your website.
4. The sitemap prompts Google to update your content if and when need arises. The end result would be fresh and better rankings.
5. It enables the search engine know how regularly your website content is updated.
6. The sitemap informs Google about the important of your web content.
7. The sitemap enables your site to instantaneously get indexed for pages that are dynamically created.
8. It helps to surmount the challenges faced by websites that comprise of weak internal links.
9. The sitemap helps to rise above the limitations of lacking tough external link profiles.
10. The sitemap enables very large websites get indexed in more organized and proper ways.
11. It enables the search engine crawl your site more effectively and efficiently.
12. The sitemap points out to Google and other search engines all the web pages, including those found deep inside the architecture.
At this point, you’re probably ready to create an XML sitemap for your website. The process involves three main steps:
i. Creation of an XML sitemap.
ii. Addition of the created sitemap to the website.
iii. Submission of the sitemap to Google.
This article will teach you how to come up with a sitemap for your website, irrespective of how big or small the CMS you’ll use is.
It will also teach you how to come up with a sitemap for your WordPress website.
Additionally, this article will enable you understand how the XML sitemap can be submitted t Google.
Using Screaming Frog to create a sitemap
It’s possible to create a sitemap for any type of website using a Screaming Frog, irrespective of how small or big the CMS is, how small or big the website is or how old it is.
As a matter of fact, you can create the sitemap even if the website doesn’t belong to you, or if you can’t log into it.
You’re probably wondering how much this will cost you. Screaming Frog is a tool that allows crawling for a maximum of 500 pages, at absolutely no cost. If you purchase a Screaming-Frog license, crawling can go beyond 500 pages.
What is Screaming Frog?
This is an extremely powerful computer software that allows you to carry out numerous SEO activities.
Cost of the full version is 149 Pounds (about 180 USD) annually. The basic version doesn’t cost anything.
The paid version allows you to find broken links, redirects and errors, discover duplicate pages, analyse Meta data and page titles; audit hreflang attributes and review Meta data and page titles as well.
The first important step is to open Screaming Frog. Go to the top field of the page and key in your URL. Click Start.
Crawling the site may either take a few hours or minutes, depending on how large the website is. I tried this on a website that comprised of about 3,000 pages, and guess how long it took? Just one minute. I have also tried this on large websites consisting of millions of URLs, and crawling took just a few hours.
The notice 100% will be displayed when crawling is complete.
When you see this notice, scroll to the menu bar and click on sitemaps.
Choose the option Create XML Sitemap. Select sections of the site that you want the XML sitemap to comprise of.
This may confuse you, particularly if you aren’t certain what canonicalized and No-index mean.
It’s important to find out what Include No-index Pages, PDFs, Canonicalized and Paginated URLs refer to.
You must remember that a sitemap is specifically for search engine optimization. If you want to make it easy for people to find that page on your site, ensure it’s included in the sitemap.
I’ll give an illustration using Include PDF. The tabs named Last Modified, Change Frequency and Priority represent the priority settings, time as well as date when modifications were last conducted on the website pages.
Avoid altering these settings, unless you know precisely what you are doing.
Images should also be included in a site map. To successfully achieve this objective, scroll to the Images tab and click on it.
The sentence Include Images will automatically pop up. Choose that option. The third box will be ticked automatically. Click Next.
The system will ask if you want to save XML sitemap on the computer. Click Save.
That’s it! You have successfully created a sitemap.
The next action that you should take is to upload the file through FTP to your website. You probably know how this can be done. If you have no idea, then you don’t need to worry. Just consult a good developer.
Creating a sitemap isn’t enough. The XML sitemap only becomes beneficial when it’s submitted to Google.
Submission of the sitemap to Google
Submission of the XML sitemap to Google a very important step that must be carefully executed.
First, ensure that your website is connected to a Google search console.
Scroll to the search console and then choose your website. On the dashboard, you’ll see the option Crawl. Click on it.
Choose the option Sitemaps by clicking on it.
Test/ Add the sitemap.
Key in the URL where you had previously saved the sitemap.
Given that it is a typical XML file, ensure xml appears at the end.
You can view the XML sitemap’s details by clicking on Test.
Ensure that there are absolutely no errors.
If you suspect that there may be errors, submit the XML sitemap to Google. Again, choose the option Test Sitemap. However, you should click Submit instead of Test.
Google will take care of all the other details. Google will use your XML sitemap to index your website/ as a result, your rankings will be significantly boosted.
I have discovered that XML sitemap is a term that frightens many web entrepreneurs as well as owners of small businesses. It sounds very technical.
Most people who aren’t computer wizards or SEO experts falsely believe that creation and submission of XML sitemaps is a very difficult task that can only be done by experts.
If you have carefully read this article, then you have learnt that creation and submission of XML sitemaps is not as complex as it sounds.
In fact, if you make use of Screaming Frog, you can successful achieve this in less than a minute.
If you have no idea what sitemaps are, and you would like to know, that’s great. You can follow the steps outlined in this article. It won’t take much of your time. In fact, you shouldn’t be surprised if takes you 20 minutes only, from the beginning to the end.
However, the SEO benefits that you will get cannot be counted or measured.