How to Use Sitemaps for SEO
One quick way to improve the SEO of your website is to make sure you have a sitemap for the web crawlers to access. This is particularly important if you do not have all of the pages in your site fully mapped to each other through your navigation scheme or content links. The sitemap should contain all of the pages on your website that you would want to have included in the search engines. Any pages or folders that you do not want to be accessed should be included in your robots.txt file.
Creating sitemaps for hand-coded and CMS-generated (such as WordPress) sites is done a bit differently, though the ultimate outcome is the same – you end up with one or more sitemap files that a search engine web crawler can access.
Hand-Coded Web Sites
On a regular, hand-code website, you can create one simply by using a free web-based tool such as:
ROR Sitemap Generator – https://www.rorweb.com/rormap.htm
- This free tool will crawl your website and generate a ROR Sitemap with up to 1,000 URLs.
XML Sitemaps Online – https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
- Create an XML sitemap that can be submitted to Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines to help them crawl your website better.
- Create a Text sitemap to have a plain list of all your pages.
- Create a ROR sitemap, which is an independent XML format for any search engine.
- Generate an HTML site map to allow human visitors to easily navigate your site
- Note: They require a copyright notice on the sitemaps generated with their service.
When manually creating sitemaps, you should create the following formats to upload to your site:
- urlist.txt – a pure text list of the complete URLs on your site
- sitemap.txt – a pure text list of the complete URLs on your site
- sitemap.xml – use a sitemap generator to create the proper XML format
- sitemap.html – a sitemap of the URLs on your site in basic HTML
Once you have them all created, upload them to your site and then submit them to the desired search engines for crawling.
WordPress Web Site
There are a variety of plugins for WordPress that are designed to create sitemaps for you. My personal favorite is the Google XML Sitemaps plugin for WordPress https://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/. Simply download it to your website and then activate the plugin. In the settings, be sure to set it up to notify the search engines of updates and set the content to include the relevant content types.
You will need to check each search engine separately to see which of your pages have been indexed. To do this, simply go to each desired search engine and enter “site:yourdomain.com” and you’ll see all the pages indexed. If you less than a hundred pages, this should be a fairly simple task. However, if you have thousands of pages, your best option is to do a spot-check with this method by using the site: operator naming specific pages in different parts of your site. Note: This will work for subdomains as well.