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.
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.
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 this is completed, the website is more likely to rise in ranking positions.
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:
While all websites benefit, below are a few examples that may benefit the most from having a XML sitemap:
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.
Below are several different ways you can create a XML sitemap for your site.
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 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:
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 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.
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.
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.
You’ll also follow a similar process for All-In-One SEO, which is another powerful SEO plugin for WordPress.
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.
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.
Like Squarespace, Shopify automatically creates a sitemap for you under example.com/sitemap.xml.
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.
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.
Now that you’ve submitted your sitemap to Google, you’ll now want to add it to Bing & Yandex, which we’ll cover below.
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.
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.
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.