What is a Sitemap and How Does it Improve Your SEO?

A sitemap is a text file that you add to your website hosting server. It is comprised of fundamental XML code and enumerates all pages of your site. It holds vital information utilized by search engines to index and rank your website.

Why you can use a sitemap?

Sitemaps are necessary because search engines may not know of every page on your website.

If you consider every page on your website for indexing on search engines, follow the steps below:

Finding  Sitemap Generation Tools

Fortunately for you, sitemap generation tools are plentiful. You can find and use one. To find a sitemap tool perform this Internet search on Google, Bing, or Yahoo: “sitemap generator.”

Explore the top few results to see which ones are best for you. There is no one best sitemap tool, as their effectiveness varies on a case-by-case basis.

Configuring Sitemap Generation Tools using Priority Ratings

There are a few steps to perform to receive your completed sitemap report. You’ll be asked to input your website domain. You may need to configure the priority rating of each page. A priority is how valuable that specific page is to your website.

The home page most often receives the maximum rating of 100. Blog posts get high marks, too.

If your website is for a local business, then any pages that present must have a high priority rating. Especially, your products or services pages.

Low priority pages include pages about

  • Your company,
  • Legal pages,
  • Category or tag pages,
  • Blog archives,
  • Author profiles,
  • Contact pages, and
  • Anything else that is similar.

Essentially, you can determine a priority rating for a page by answering the question:

“How important is this page’s search engine rankings to me?”

While you want to give every page on your site a rating score of 100, that’s not recommended.

Suppose, you have too many pages that share the same priority rating. Then search engines may de-value all of those pages. Because, search engines do not know which are more significant than the others.

Therefore, reserve your high priority scores of 60 or 80 for pages that are supremely valuable to the success.

Determining Update Frequency

Sitemap tools may also ask how often each page is updated. This is because search engines prefer pages that publish updates. This metric is more of a grey area, as it’s not required to be truthful.

For example,

If you update your blog every month, then you may select a scale of “WEEKLY” for this setting.

You might consider re-wording the metric in your mind:

“How often would I like to update this page?” 

Select “WEEKLY” as an update frequency score. You will see that page as possessing content that may change often, whether every week or every day. It does not mean you will absolutely update the content weekly. Consider it a loose term.

Plugins In WordPress

If your website is using the WordPress platform, you’re in luck! There is an innumerable amount of plugins for sitemap generation. However, you don’t have to have a plugin solely for this task.

One of the most popular free SEO plugins on the market is WordPress SEO by Yoast. This plugin contains a wide variety of SEO-boosting functionality and offers you a sitemap generation tool built-in. Most webmasters prefer WordPress SEO for their sitemap generation to any other tool.

However, using another tool such as All-In-One SEO, you may need a stand-alone sitemap generator.

Browse the WordPress Plugin Repository to see what is available. Pay attention to how many downloads the plugin has besides its average rating.

Look for plugins that have 4.5 stars or higher. As they’re more likely to be devoid of critical issues that will cost you time to fix.

Publishing Your Sitemap

If you use a WordPress plugin for your sitemap generation, then it will publish it for you. Just after you input your settings and save.

If you’re manually generating a sitemap, then you must upload it. You can upload that sitemap to your server via FTP. You can perform this through cPanel.

Contact your hosting provider if you encounter any issues.

Sitemaps are always named “sitemap.xml”. You must copy and paste the code into a notepad and save as XML.

After uploading the file to your server, then you’ll use the “Fetch Sitemap” tool in Google Webmaster Tools. This will queue the sitemap for indexing through Google’s “spider bot”.

You may see your website pages ranking within a few hours. Some report pages ranking within minutes. Do not neglect this simple yet powerful method in your SEO efforts!

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