What is a sitemap?
A sitemap (or ‘site map’) is a dedicated page that contains a list of pages on your site. It is typically presented in text format, and structured in a hierarchy; for example, categories (see our sitemap as an example). It may also contain links to documents, videos, and other important items that may be useful for visitors to find. Think of it as an index at the back of a textbook. It is important to learn how to create a sitemap in WordPress to benefit users to find information quickly and efficiently.
Why do I need a sitemap?
A sitemap is useful as it gives visitors a birds eye view of your entire site, that enables users to find something quickly. It also helps search engine crawlers find your pages more easily, and index them onto search engines.
Other reasons why you should consider implementing a sitemap on your website include:
- If you have many pages on your site, not having a sitemap may increase the risk of visitors and search engine crawlers overlooking something. Thus, having a sitemap will be handy to increase your sites usability and accessibility.
- If some pages on your site are self-contained or in silos and are not linked to other pages. Having these pages listed on your sitemap may benefit both visitors and search engine crawlers by making it easier to find and index content.
- If your site has many levels, sometimes it takes many clicks to get to a specific item due to the structure of the site, which is understandable for large sites. An additional solution may be to implement a search bar to complement your site.
- If your site is brand new and has not been indexed by search engine crawlers yet. Use this opportunity to make a great first impression to your visitors and search engine crawlers by showing them everything your site has to offer.
What should I include in a sitemap?
For best practice, your site should have at least two sitemaps. There are two common types:
- an HTML version made specifically for your visitors, and;
- an XML version made specifically for search engine crawlers.
Referring to Ironbark Marketing’s HTML sitemap, we created ours by listing all our pages and categorised them in order of importance. We made it simple for our visitors to understand; and as our site grows, our sitemap will also be updated, and may look different in the future.
In reality, everyone’s sitemap will look different, but keep in mind as long as it is accessible and usable for your visitors to use as a quick reference tool, then the sitemap is serving its purpose.
Here are a few examples to give you some inspiration about how you could lay out your sitemap:
Tip: upload your sitemap page onto the root of your site server and save it as ‘sitemap.[file extension]‘.Examples: sitemap.html, sitemap.php, etc.
Fortunately, if you have no experience with coding an XML sitemap for search engines, there are XML Sitemap Generators that can help you. Here are a few listed below, which are free to use:
Tip: supply your domain name and let the site generate the XML sitemap for you. Download and upload your ‘sitemap.xml’ page onto the root of your site server.Use Webmaster Tools (such as: Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) and link your XML sitemap so search engine crawlers can make quick reference.
How often should I update my sitemap?
Ideally, you should update your sitemap when you work on the site to provide the best experience possible to your visitors and to let search engine crawlers know what has changed.
Though not everyone may have the time or resources, it may be best to set a schedule: either daily, weekly, fortnightly, or monthly to update, but don’t leave it for too long or you could risk missing opportunities! For example, compromised search engine optimisation of your pages, a user not being able to find what they wanted, etc.
That’s it for this tutorial! If you found this useful, leave a comment below or share this blog. Don’t forget to let us know if you have topics you would like us to cover in the future.
someone can explain why google return “couldn’t fetch” ?
My sitemap address is: [link removed for security / privacy reasons]
Hello Cartomanzia, I found that sometimes when I supply the Sitemap link to Google, you immediately get a “couldn’t fetch” response. If you give it a few minutes and refresh the page, it should say “Success”. If it still says “couldn’t fetch”, it is highly likely you provided the incorrect link to Google. Give this a try and let us know how you go 🙂