If there’s one thing you need to understand about your website, it’s that Google and Bing can be brutal. They don’t care how many hours your company has invested in its website and they aren’t going to reward you because you think your website is pretty or colourful.
Search engines want data.
They want to know that your website delivers.
And how do they do that? They use bots to crawl your website and then build a picture of what you do – the content you produce, the products you sell, and which other reputable websites link to you.
You know where I’m going with this right?
More than ever, you need to have a well-thought-out Search Engine Optimisation strategy. You need to build your website in a way that ticks all of the boxes that Google and Bing require. Then they’ll recommend your site to their users.
I can give you advice about SEO best practices, including on-page SEO and keyword research and as I wrote here, I can also help to identify and fix broken links that are holding your site back. But there’s another potential big issue that could be killing your website traffic that you need to know about too – the lack of a site map. It’s important for you to not simply assume that when search engines are crawling the web they’ll be able to find all your pages and work out the importance of each one.
That’s where a sitemap becomes crucial to your website’s ranking on Google.
What is an XML Sitemap?
A Sitemap is, as you’d expect, a map of your website. It lists the pages on your website and allows web crawlers to build a picture of how your site is structured and what are your most important pages. The bigger your site becomes, the more important it is for you to help search engines with your website indexing and pointing them to your essential pages.
Your Sitemap is the file that lists your website’s most important pages so search engines can display them in search results.
Why are XML Sitemaps Important?
XML sitemaps are crucial to your SEO strategy because they give search engines the information they need to rank your website. And remember, Google ranks individual pages too. With a good sitemap, you can improve your website’s ranking through its SEO performance.
What are XML Sitemaps Used For?
The structure of your website can be quite complex, particularly when you have pages without any internal links. You’re also likely to have pages that have a very specific purpose that on their own aren’t useful. On the other hand, you’ll have pages that you need the world to see! Creating a sitemap file allows you to list each page on your website that you’d like Google and Bing to display.
And don’t worry if you have a large site – an XML Sitemap file can hold up to 50,000 entries. The information it holds is standardised and includes the page URL and the date the page was last modified. You can opt for multiple smaller sitemap files rather than a single large one, and you can separate pages by type. So all your blog post URLs can be in one file and your video URLs in another. I’m happy to help you determine which pages should be in your XML sitemap.
How to Create an XML Sitemap file
Although the structure of a sitemap file may look daunting, they’re fairly easy to create once you know what to put in them. Your Content Management System (CMS) may even create a sitemap file for you – both Wix and Squarespace do. If not, popular plugins like Yoast SEO can be used in WordPress to generate the file.
How to Install an XML Sitemap File in Bing Webmaster Tools
Although Bing doesn’t generate nearly as much organic traffic as Google, I’d still recommend uploading your sitemap file. The process is straightforward.
Once you’re logged into Bing Webmaster Tools, navigate to the Sitemaps tab. In the upper right-hand corner of the Sitemaps page, you should see the Submit Sitemap button. You’ll then be asked for the URL of your sitemap – enter YourDomainName/sitemap.xml.
How to Install an XML Sitemap File in Google Search Console
Most of your organic traffic will come from Google, so you must give it the most up-to-date information about your site. After creating your file – or confirming the location of an automatically produced file – log in to Google Search Console.
Simply look for the Sitemap tab on the left of the screen and click Add New Sitemap. Copy and paste your URL from YourDomainName/sitemap.xml and then submit.
Along with On-page SEO, keyword research and other factors, having a good sitemap can really help improve your website’s ranking. I’m here to help with any digital marketing queries that you have, so please reach out so we can see how an XML sitemap could improve your site’s performance.