How To Create A SEO XML Sitemap For Your Website And Submit It To Google

Brandon LazovicJanuary 4, 2021

Looking to get your website ranked on Google? Whether you’re a content publisher or an e-commerce website, having a XML sitemap is a great way to ensure that Google is discovering all of your pages, which helps to get them indexed in the search results. 

Read our latest article to learn how to create a XML sitemap for your website and submit it to search engines like Google and Bing. 

What Is A XML Sitemap? 

A sitemap, or a XML sitemap, is a list of various pages on a site. XML is short for "extensible markup language," which is a way to view content on a website. 

In a nutshell, a XML sitemap maps out how your website is structured and all of the pages your website includes. 

Benefits Of Having A Sitemap For Your Website

Search engines like Bing and Google use crawl bots to index and organize content on the internet. 

A lot of information can be gleaned by crawl bots, but XML sitemaps makes it easier for crawlers to see and index what's on your website. An XML sitemap serves a content table, allowing crawlers to understand the basics of your page, but you can include additional information for these search crawlers, such as: 

  • When a web page has been updated
  • How much a page has changed since last crawled 
  • The value or importance of pages within a site
  • Locating and filtering material that’s found deep within your website.

When this is completed, the website is more likely to rise in ranking positions.

Looking to learn more about search engine optimization? Read our SEO beginner’s guide for everything you need to know about SEO and how to drive business results through search engines like Google and Bing.  

How Do XML Sitemaps Affect SEO?

XML Sitemaps are good for SEO because it helps Google more easily identify what pages exist on your website. Google has what’s known as a crawl budget - its crawl bots will only crawl a specific amount of your web page before moving onto the next website in its crawl of the web. 

Sitemaps ensure that your crawl budget is utilized efficiently and that your priority pages are being discovered. 

Below are several other SEO benefits associated with having a XML sitemap for your website: 

  • It signals Google’s spiders to crawl and index the website. 
  • It tells Google what should be crawled. 
  • The XML sitemap informs Google when the content has been updated (which may result in more desirable rankings due to Google’s “freshness factor”). 
  • It tells Google how much and how important it is to update your stuff. 
  • The XML sitemap lets your website automatically obtain indexation for dynamically generated pages. 
  • It lets you solve the shortcomings of a website with a poor internal linking structure. 
  • It allows big sites to gain a more structured indexation. 
  • The XML sitemap allows Google to crawl your website more efficiently by optimizing crawl budget. 
  • It shows Google all the sites on your website, even if they're deep inside the architecture and may not be crawled as fast otherwise.

What Types Of Websites Benefit From Having A XML Sitemap? 

While all websites benefit, below are a few examples that may benefit the most from having a XML sitemap: 

  • New websites - a sitemap will help Google discover your content and get it indexed faster
  • Large Websites - for sites that have thousands or millions of pages, a sitemap will help organize your site so it’s crawled and indexed more effectively
  • Content Publishers - for sites that publish content frequently, a dynamic XML sitemap can help Google index and rank that content more quickly

How Do I Find A XML Sitemap For My Website? 

In most cases, your sitemap URL will typically be example.com/sitemap.xml. You can also use SEO Site Checkup’s sitemap testing tool to discover any existing sitemaps for your website. 

Creating And Submitting Your XML Sitemap To Google

Below are several different ways you can create a XML sitemap for your site. 

Option 1: Use A XML Sitemap Generator

The first option is to use a XML sitemap generator, which is ideal for static pages that aren’t updated with new content daily or weekly. Our top recommendations are to either use Screaming Frog, or XML-Sitemaps. 

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is a free and paid crawler tool that every SEO webmaster should have in their arsenal. For smaller sites, Screaming Frog is the perfect option for generating a sitemap, as it provides free crawling for websites up to 500 pages. 

If your website is larger than 500 pages, you’ll need to purchase the paid version - a license costs $180 USD. 

First, open Screaming Frog, enter your URL, and click Start. Note: It may take some time to fully crawl your website if it’s large. 

Once Screaming Frog has finished crawling your website, click on Sitemaps in the top bar on your screen and select Create XML Sitemap.

Screaming Frog will ask you what kinds of pages you want to include in the sitemap: 

  • Include Noindex Pages: Noindex pages contain an HTML directive that advises search engines not to include, or noindex, a page in the search results. 
  • Include Canonicalized URLs: There could be more than one URL leading to the same content. If you "include canonicalized," you are asking the crawling tool to include URL variants that point to the same page. 
  • Include Paginated URLs: A paginated URL is one that uses rel= attributes (rel="prev" and "next") to pass through a sequence of pages on your website. 
  • Include PDFs: You can choose whether or not you want PDFs to be added to your XML sitemap. 

My recommendation is to leave all of these boxes unchecked. The purpose of a sitemap is to enhance the SEO of your website - you don’t want Google to crawl pages that are being excluded from the SERPs via a noindex tag, or duplicate canonicals that point to a master page. 

Next, you can ask Screaming Frog to include “Last Modified”, “Priority”, and “Change Frequency” Fields in your XML sitemap. Google typically doesn’t hold much weight for these, so if you aren’t sure what pages you want weighted, I wouldn’t change these settings. 

You can also include image URLs as part of your XML sitemap. I typically avoid including them, as image pages aren’t SEO valuable on their own and they tend to eat up crawl budget. 

After you’ve adjusted your settings, you can click Next and save the sitemap file to your computer. 

XML-Sitemaps

XML-Sitemaps is another option for generating a XML sitemap for your website. While free, it will only crawl up to 500 pages, so for larger websites I would recommend buying a Screaming Frog license. 

All you have to do is enter your website’s URL and it will return a list of all your pages that it found while indexing your site.

Option 2: Use a SEO Plugin (WordPress Only)

If you have a WordPress website, you can use a SEO plugin to automatically generate a XML sitemap. Two popular options include Yoast and All-In-One SEO.

Yoast

First, you’ll want to install Yoast and enter the plugin via your WordPress dashboard. 

Select Features, make sure the XML sitemaps option is toggled on, and save your changes. 

All-In-One SEO

You’ll also follow a similar process for All-In-One SEO, which is another powerful SEO plugin for WordPress. 

Option 3: Creating A Sitemap In Wix

If you own a Wix website, it’s fairly simple to set up a XML sitemap. While you may not have a lot of control over what pages do and don’t get included, head to the SEO (Google) tab in your Wix dashboard and turn on the Show this page in the search results toggle. 

Option 4: Creating A Sitemap In Squarespace

Similar to Wix, it’s also relatively painless to create a sitemap in Squarespace. Most Squarespace websites will already have a sitemap auto generated, which is usually found in example.com/sitemap.xml. 

If your Squarespace site doesn’t already have a sitemap, enter your dashboard, select SEO under the page settings tab, and make sure that the Hide Page From Search Results is toggled off.

Option 5: Creating A Sitemap In Shopify

Like Squarespace, Shopify automatically creates a sitemap for you under example.com/sitemap.xml.

Where To Submit XML Sitemap For Your Website

You’ll need to add the sitemap to your website either through your web providers cPanel or via FTP, so work with your developer if you aren’t familiar with these.Some CMS’s will also allow you to add a XML sitemap file for your website, so check your CMS settings and see if it’s eligible. 

Submitting Your Sitemap To Google

Now that you’ve created a sitemap and implemented it for your website, the next step is to submit it to search engines to help them crawl/discover your site content. 

First, you’ll need to know what your sitemap URL is - it’s typically example.com/sitemap.xml, but sometimes it can have a different naming convention. 

Enter Google Search Console, select Sitemaps under the Index tab in the left-hand column of the screen and paste your URL into the required field. Google will show whether the submission was a success or not or if there are any errors associated with the sitemap submission, such as pages being blocked by your robots.txt file. 

Speaking of Google Search Console, it’s best practice to include your sitemap in your website’s robots.txt file as well. 

Note: if you don’t have Google Search Console set up for your website, read our latest guide to get started on setting one up. 

Submitting Your Sitemap To Bing & Yandex

Now that you’ve submitted your sitemap to Google, you’ll now want to add it to Bing & Yandex, which we’ll cover below. 

Submit XML Sitemap To Bing

To submit your sitemap to Bing, you’ll want to enter your Bing Webmaster Tools dashboard. Find the Sitemaps widget, click Submit A Sitemap and enter your sitemap URL. 

Note: if you don’t have Bing Webmaster Tools set up for your website, read our latest guide to get started on setting one up. 

Submit XML Sitemap To Yandex

Yandex is Russia’s search engine that dominates a significant portion of the search engine market in Russia. 

Similar to Bing and Google, simply enter the Sitemaps file page and enter your sitemap URL. 

Creating A HTML Sitemap

Now that we’ve created a XML sitemap, we’ll quickly run through creating a HTML sitemap. 

Creating an HTML sitemap is something you'd do to help your website users navigate their way around – it's typically only seen on big sites with a lot of content, such as Rocket Homes or Zillow. If your site is smaller (less than 100 pages) I would instead focus on internal linking via menu and footer navigation. 

You’ll need to create a new page and include your page hyperlinks. One method to do this is via check-domains.com - select HTML sitemap, enter your website URL, and copy the HTML sitemap onto your new page. 

If you’re using WordPress, you can simply install a plugin to do the work. Here are two plugin options: 

For the new page, you’ll want to also include the HTML sitemap URL in your website’s footer section and robots.txt for indexation.

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