You've heard the term before, and you understand that it's important, but you may still be asking yourself - what is a sitemap? In this post, I will explain what a sitemap is, why it is essential, and how it can be used.
What Is A Sitemap?
Have you ever wanted to find directions to an unfamiliar place, so you checked the roadmap (probably on your phone)? Well, a sitemap is the 'roadmap' of your site. It is a file that captures all the content and how everything is linked.
Sitemaps allow search engines to 'crawl' your website easier, which hopefully results in more of your content being indexed. From an SEO perspective, this is great, as we want our content indexed and showing in results for relevant search phrases. This will hopefully also increase traffic to our website.
A sitemap is typically an XML file.
Why Is A Sitemap Important?
I touched on it above, but it's important so I will repeat myself. A sitemap allows search engines to understand your website so that they can crawl more of your pages. This will see more of your pages being indexed.
Sitemaps are particularly important for a few categories of websites:
- large websites with lots of pages and content,
- new websites with very few external links to it,
- websites that feature rich media.
It's also important if you are updating old content as search engines would have already crawled your content so any updates will be picked up quicker.
How Can A Sitemap Be Used?
A sitemap can be submitted to Google so that more of your pages and content will be indexed.
How To Create A Sitemap?
We recommend a plugin called Yoast to create your sitemap. Yoast is an SEO plugin that makes many SEO processes much more manageable.
From your WordPress dashboard, navigate to the Yoast SEO option in the menu:
Once there, select the 'General' option. On this page, you will see several options towards the top of the page. Select 'features':
On this page, you will see the 'XML Sitemaps' option about 5 features from the top of the page:
If you haven't enabled this option, enable it now. You can then click the question mark next to the 'XML Sitemap' option to reveal the sitemap link:
Right click on the 'See the XML sitemap' option and select 'Copy Link Address'.
You now have your website's sitemap copied to your clipboard!
Where To Submit To Google?
You will need to log in to your Google Search Console to submit your sitemap to Google. Once logged in, you will see 'Sitemaps' as an option in the 'Index' section of the left menu.
Click through to this section of Google Search Console and add your new sitemap.
Does A Sitemap Help SEO?
Yes, sitemaps help search engines to effectively crawl the pages and content on your site meaning that they will discover your pages and index your content sooner. It is so important that we, as an SEO agency, have a 'check sitemap submissions' task very high in our priorities whenever we onboard a new client. In fact, implementing a sitemap is one way to improve SEO.
If you aren't working with an SEO agency and are wondering whether you have submitted a sitemap, it's best to check your Google Search Console. If you haven't submitted one, follow the steps on this page to grab your sitemap from the Yoast SEO plugin and submit it as soon as possible.
Your rankings will thank you for it!