A quick tip for WordPress users is Rank Math SEO plugin will create and submit your sitemap automatically and immediately for you.
What is a sitemap in SEO?
A sitemap is a resource located on the web that has organized links or text links to every page and URL on your website. The sitemap is made specifically for robots and search engines to make it easier for them to find existing pages on your website.
That’s it really. It’s just an organized (kind of) list of links for search engine robots to read.
A great idea is to link to your sitemap from your footer navigation menu as an option called sitemap and the Google bot will follow this link and find every page, image, and video on your website (that you allow).
A sitemap is supported as an.XML file XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language and functions very similar to HTML. XML just contains information and does not really DO anything in particular. When you open your sitemap.xml file on the web it can look like a normal website page when formatted correctly.
Sitemaps are also supported as regular text files, and I’ve included an example below.
You can also use RSS and some other options for sitemaps, but I’m not going to get into those here, the easiest option is XML or text. Most blog software has an option to create sitemaps for you, or you can use a free sitemap generator.
You can also submit your sitemap to Google through the Google Search Console.
Sitemaps usually start with your domain name followed by some version of sitemap.xml or similar depending on how it’s created.
I have attached some pictures as to what a sitemap file looks like for an existing website of mine that I just started. Or you can follow this link to check out a sitemap example.
This is the index of the sitemap, so think of this as the homepage of your sitemap that shows the search engine a differentiation between posts, category pages, images, and videos.
I used Rank Math SEO WordPress plugin to create this sitemap. It does the whole thing automatically and provides you with some options to turn things on or off. For example, you can omit category pages or pages that have no content on them by default. This helps the robots crawl your site easier.
Here is a sitemap example of the post sitemap for Tooldigg. Which can be found at https://tooldigg.com/post-sitemap.xml.
It’s honestly as simple as that. If you don’t use WordPress than the other website builders, like Webflow, have their own sitemap systems in place. Below is a sitemap example from Webflow website builder.
The reason I want to show an example of this sitemap is that it populates as a list of text URLs.
Can sitemaps just be text? Yes, sitemaps can just be text URLs without the actual links. See below:
There are plenty of sitemap generators on the web. Most blog software and website builders have these built-in, or you can add the functionality with a simple plugin. For example, WordPress plugins that create sitemaps are:
- Rank Math SEO
- Yoast SEO
- All in one SEO
And many more.
If your content management system like Wix or WordPress do not create your sitemap for you (most will) then you will need to manually generate one and submit it to Google through the Google Search Console.
Some of the best sitemap generators are:
XML Sitemaps Tool
You can go to https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ and generate a free sitemap by entering your URL.
It will then spit out your sitemap results, and you can choose to download from several different versions of the sitemap file.
What goes in a sitemap?
You can put a number of things in a sitemap. And the sitemap will pass along information about the URL to the robots. For example, the sitemap can tell Google if the image or video is age-appropriate and the file type, etc.
You can have a sitemap for:
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Submit a sitemap to Google
Normally your CMS will have created a sitemap for you automatically (A CMS is a content management system like WordPress, Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace).
The best way to check if Google has a copy is by checking the Google Search Console. And if it’s not there, you can submit a sitemap to Google from the tools themselves.
You just go to Google Search Console > Sitemaps.
Here, it will tell you if your sitemap has already been successfully submitted or not.
How to find a sitemap of a website?
One common way find the sitemap of a website is to use the most common URLs associated with that CMS or plugin.
Rank Math SEO uses: your domain.com/sitemap_index.xml
Many of the most common sitemaps are located at yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.
I would try these first before digging into the website folders and code. This will happen rarely, feel free to drop me a message if you’re having trouble finding it.