If you have any kind of website, you probably need an XML sitemap. This will help your search engine optimization (SEO). But you might be wondering what an XML sitemap is, and even if you knew how would you create an XML sitemap?
The good news is that creating an XML sitemap is easier than understanding what it is. And understanding XML sitemaps is pretty easy too. Can you do it.
What is an XML sitemap?
Let’s take a look at the XML part first. XML stands for Extensible Markup Language. It’s not really a programming language. It is a flexible way to tell web browsers and other programs about the data contained in an XML document.
For example, we can tell someone that we live at 123 Main Street and they will understand. But programs don’t do that.
XML tags, placed on either side of the address data, help tell the program what the data means. Tags are always paired with one
Thus, we could use XML tags to tell programs what the data means. It might look like this:
A program that recognizes these tags will know that this is a complete address. The program can then use this information for something useful.
The expandable part means that these tags can be anything! If the program understood that the
Let’s go to the sitemap. This is roughly what it looks like. This is a map where you can find various information on our website.
Search engines like Google need specific information so they know how to classify and rate our site. An XML sitemap can provide this information.
This is an example XML sitemap for a single web page.
Xml version = "1.0" encoding = "UTF-8"?>
< priority> 0.8
Here’s what these tags mean:
Xml version = "1.0" encoding = "UTF-8"?>
It tells the search engine that we are using XML version 1.0 and the text is encoded in UTF-8. This is the encoding specification that the sitemap should be in.
This tells the search engine what sitemap standard is used in our sitemap. Remember, our XML must use the same tags as the program that needs to read it in order for it to understand it.
This tells the search engine that the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) information will be as follows. The URL is also known as a web address or link.
This identifies the data in the tag as the actual location or the specific URL of the page that will be indexed.
It tells the search engine when this page was last modified.
This allows the search engine to know how often this page is changed. Available values: hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, never.
This tells the search engine how important we think this page is in comparison to other pages on our sitemap. Valid values ??range from 0 to 1, where 1 is maximum and 0.5 is average.
Please note that these commands are not search engine specific. They will read this information and process it however they want.
Why create an XML sitemap?
A well-designed XML sitemap will give us the best chance of presenting our site to the people we want to see it. It will tell the search engine what information we provide it, where to access the information and when it was last updated.
Since this is a map, it doesn’t have to accurately represent the landscape. We choose what it includes so that search engines get the pages they need. For example, our Privacy and Acceptable Use pages will not be very different from any other sites on the Internet. Instead of displaying them, match pages that direct the user to good content, such as our top blog posts or product pages.
For blog posts, we may need a sitemap that lists all of your posts, but later posts will have higher priority. This shows the buyer and the search engine that our site is fresh.
Do we need to create a sitemap for images? Pictures are important. Visualization is the first thing that satisfies the client’s desires. But there will already be pictures on each page, and they will be indexed. So having a sitemap with only images is not that important.
Now we present the essence of our site to search engines. They do not need to spend time crawling and indexing large, necessary, but not so important parts of our site.
Having a good sitemap, we partner with the search engines and this will help our site get the best rankings it deserves.
How do I create an XML sitemap?
Fortunately, there are several automated tools to help us do this. If we’re using WordPress, install the Yoast SEO plugin. It is a great SEO tool, and creating a sitemap for us is just one of its functions. Take some time to really learn how to use the Yoast SEO plugin for all of its features.
Create a sitemap with Yoast
- On our WordPress admin page, we will install the Yoast SEO plugin. After installation, we will check if XML Sitemaps feature is enabled. This should be the default.
- Click on Yoast SEO on the left. Then go to the Features tab.
- Scroll down and make sure the XML Sitemap slider is set to On.
- From here we can see what the sitemap looks like. Click the question mark icon next to XML Sitemaps, and then click the View XML Sitemap link.
- Yoast will open the sitemap in a web browser. It will not look like the XML we looked at earlier. Nothing wrong.
- If we want to view the XML, right-click this page and select View Source. Then XML opens.
This is the fastest way to create an XML sitemap in WordPress using the Yoast SEO plugin. Explore the plugin to find ways to hone your sitemap and make it exactly the way you want it.
Generate XML Sitemap with Screaming Frog SEO
If we are not using WordPress for our site, we may use various online and offline tools.
Perhaps the most commonly used desktop SEO program is the Screaming Frog SEO Spider There are free and paid versions. To create a sitemap in XML format, we need a free version.
- Once it’s downloaded and installed, open the program. Before we can create an XML sitemap, we need to crawl the site. Crawling is the process of going from page to page on a site and collecting data about each part.
- At the top we see a place to enter your website URL. Do this. Then click the “Start” button. Screaming Frog will start crawling the site.
- The main window starts to populate with the URLs of things on the site. When the progress bar in the upper right corner of the screen is 100%, the scan is complete.
- On the toolbar, click Sitemaps, then XML Sitemap. The Sitemap export configuration window will open.
- In the “Sitemap Export Configuration” window, we can customize our sitemap details like changefreq, lastmod and others. Browse the tabs to see what’s there. The default settings are fine for now. Click Next to start exporting.
- It will ask us where to save the sitemap.xml file. Be sure to remember where it is saved. To be useful, you must upload it to our website.
Once saved, upload the sitemap.xml file to the root of the website. We can now register the sitemap with Google and other search engines.
How do I get Google to see my sitemap?
We’re talking about search engines, but really only Google is the most worried about. So how do we get Google to see our sitemap?
We hope this helps improve your site’s ranking, but it only helps if Google knows it’s there. We need Google Search Console