Recently I covered how a little document known as an XML sitemap can help protect your search visibility. The sitemap tells search engines what pages you have and when you last updated them, establishing you as the original creator of your content. That helps keep you in the search results, even if a larger website has syndicated or reblogged your work.
So how do you get an XML sitemap? It’s not hard. There are several ways you can do it:
- Use a platform that gives you one automatically
- Install a plugin to create one for you
- Create it yourself
The first two of these are preferred, because you can do them just once and they keep your sitemap up to date automatically. Let’s look at each method in detail.
Platforms with Automatic Sitemaps
Depending on what content management system (CMS) or blogging platform you use, you may already have sitemap functionality built in. For example, LightCMS automatically updates your sitemap every time you post something. This is true of most higher end CMS’s designed for business use. If your CMS has a suite of SEO tools built in then chances are the XML sitemap is among them. Check with your CMS support team to be sure.
Note that even if your CMS does this, you will still have to register your sitemap with the search engines (directions below).
Using a Plugin
One of the most popular CMS’s, WordPress, does not offer a built-in sitemap tool. You can still get this functionality if you use WordPress, however. A number of plugins offer it, including the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin will automatically update your sitemap just like the built-in functionality of other platforms. And, once again, you will still need to register it with the search engines yourself.
Creating Your Own Sitemap
Creating your own sitemap does not requiring coding knowledge. Any business owner can do it. The only drawback is that you will have to do it again periodically, because it doesn’t update on its own. If possible, use the automatic methods above.
To create your own sitemap you’re going to this free online tool. It will take four steps:
- Fill in the form with basic info about your website. “Change frequency” refers to how often you update the site, such as how often you publish new blog posts. Be honest, but err on the side of higher frequency; if you post 3-4 times per week, for example, choose “daily,” not “weekly.”
- Press start. The sitemap generator is going to crawl your website exactly like a search engine would, and compile what it finds into your sitemap. This can take a few moments or longer.
- Download the sitemap file using the link once it’s done crawling.
- Upload that link to the root folder of your domain. This involves logging into your hosting account (such as GoDaddy, HostGator, InMotion Hosting, etc.). Most of these services offer a tool to upload files that does not involve any technical knowledge, but if you’ve never done it before you should seek assistance from the hosting company or your own web developer.
Now your sitemap is live and you’re ready to tell Google you have it.
Registering Your Sitemap
Having a sitemap only helps if Google and Bing know about it. You can make sure of that by registering with them. Both sites make this easy:
- In Google Webmaster Tools, go to Crawl > Sitemaps
- In Bing Webmaster Tools, go to Configure My Site > Sitemaps
Remember, Yahoo search results are delivered by Bing. You’ve now registered your sitemap with the three biggest search engines in the western world.
No Need to DIY
Getting your sitemap setup is only the tip of the SEO iceberg. EverSpark Interactive offers complete SEO services that start with a technical audit of your site so we know exactly what is and isn’t working. To learn how we can help your site gain more visibility in the search results, schedule your free consultation today.