9 Tips On Creating A Website Sitemap
Sitemaps aren’t required for websites to be found by every search engine. However, they’re highly encouraged for websites, regardless of the niche. A sitemap is like a blueprint or a map that enables search engines to crawl and index your website pages more efficiently, no matter the size. It tells search engines which of your web pages are the most important and how they relate to one another.
Ideally, sitemaps are created before a website is built. It can help make the web development process easier since the sitemap outlines the structure more clearly. However, sitemaps are often overlooked and ignored. Don’t make that mistake. A thorough sitemap will help your website rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs). Its reports are also useful in web analytics and in streamlining sales funnels.
If you’re yet to start creating a sitemap design for your website, now is the time. Here are the best tips to help you get started:
1. Plan The Hierarchy
A sitemap’s structure should look like branches from a tree, with your home page as the trunk. The top level should include your primary pages, which should be composed of the main navigation menu. This might include the About Us page, Support page, Blog page, and Product page, if there’s one.
Your secondary pages are more specific branches or pages aside from the primary ones. For example, the secondary pages under About Us could be the History, Mission, and Contact pages.
2. Start From The Homepage
When crawling sites, search engine bots typically start from the homepage. So, it only makes sense to add your sitemap link on your homepage. This helps to make sure that all the web pages listed on your sitemap will be indexed by search engines.
Besides, most visitors will also be navigating from your homepage. Having your sitemap there will not only make navigation easier for them, but it will also help you direct them to the most important pages of your website.
3. Prioritize High-Quality Pages
If you have pages with high-quality content, they should be placed higher on your sitemap links. These are the web pages you’ll want search engines to index and rank on the results pages. For blog sites, these are pillar posts and popular articles that provide value to readers. Also, remember that you don’t need to add links to pages that don’t really contain anything, like the search page, if you have one.
4. Use A Sitemap Generator
If you have the right tools, it’s easier to create a sitemap. You have two options to create a sitemap: either manually or with the help of a sitemap generator.
The latter can make things much easier, especially for complex sites with many pages. The good news is most sitemap generators are free. There are tools that come with them built-in, like auditing software tools. But if your site is on WordPress, you’ll find dozens of free plugins that can generate a sitemap for free.
5. Keep It Consistent
Just like how you merge your content and design, your sitemap’s design should be consistent with the rest of your website’s design. This creates a cohesive look, so none of the pages look out of place like they’re just randomly added.
The same goes for the URL structure, which is an important element of on-page SEO. Follow the same format for all your links so they look consistent. A good practice is to use the title of the page on the URL, which helps readers know what the link is all about before they even click on it.
6. Check For Page Errors
When you’re done creating a sitemap, you have to make sure all links on the list are working. You don’t need to click on every link manually though. There are tools that can easily do this job for you. There are plugins and online tools that can check for website errors in just a few minutes, which can help you save time.
Lastly, make sure to fix all page errors first before finalizing your sitemap. If there are ones you cannot fix or would take a longer time to address, remove them from your sitemap while they’re being fixed.
7. Test Before Submitting
It’s always exciting once you finish a part of the web development process. But as with any other part of the process, testing is important before you make anything public. So before you submit your sitemap to Google and other search engines, test it first for any errors that may cause problems in indexing. You can do this on Google Search Console’s dashboard, and check to see if the number of pages indexed matches the number of pages you submitted.
8. Leave Room For Growth
If you’re planning to add more web pages in the near future, make sure the structure of your sitemap will have room for them. You can do this by my making sure the first and second level hierarchy of your sitemap are structured correctly so inserting tertiary pages will be quick and easy.
9. Optimize Continuously
Once you’ve built your sitemap, it’s important to keep it updated and optimized, especially as your website grows and changes. Check your sitemap analytics reports regularly so you can quickly address issues when they occur.
Creating a sitemap is a straightforward process. But while planning initially takes time, with the right tools and some research, you can save time and even money. Once it’s built, test it before submitting it, and make it a point to maintain and optimize it continuously especially as your website expands.