Adding a Site Map to your site is one of the easiest and quickest things that you can do to your website in order to help improve it’s SEO, and your visibility with the Search Engines. Reduced down to its simplest form, a sitemap is just a list of URLs. For something so completely basic, it’s incredible how important sitemaps can be when it comes to successful SEO.
To add pages to search engine results, search engines send out what is known as a ‘bot’ or a ‘spider’. These non-human bots scour the internet for web-pages, and whatever they find will eventually be indexed (that is to say they will be included in a search engine results page – then whenever anyone searches the internet via the search engine, your webpages will be displayed if they match the searched-for term or phrase……). However, there are literally millions of websites on the internet, and sometimes waiting for a search engine bot to crawl your page and index it can literally take weeks.
This is where the sitemap comes in. The sitemap is a “heads up” for getting your site indexed, basically calling the search engine’s attention directly to your website. Some site maps can also automatically ‘Ping” the search engines whenever there is fresh content available, or may offer a manual, but relatively fast method of pinging the search engines.
When your website is complete, you will need to build your sitemap (or ideally, build it as you go along). This can be done using a simple Notepad .txt file, with a list of URLs of each page of your site, written on a separate line and then uploaded to your server. Alternatively, if you are using WordPress (self-hosted), you can install a Site-Map plugin such as “XML Google Sitemaps” which automatically generates and updates your sitemap for you as you go along.
Most site-map plugins will generate a URL and an xml file (usually located at www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml). Then whenever Search Engines visit your site they will have a xml file ready for them to quickly retrieve, (plus you can also re-build it again & re-submit it at the click of a button after undertaking any website renovation or major revamp etc). This also ensures that ALL your webpages are indexed, rather than only some…..
If you don’t have a automated plugin then you will need to submit your sitemap manually – this requires that you take the URL of your sitemap and submit it manually to all of the major search engines, using a tool such as Google Webmaster Tools. When submitted, the engine will know to send a bot to crawl the pages you’ve submitted – and will usually do so in a matter of days.
Sitemaps really can make indexing that easy, and are therefore an absolute must.