When approaching SEO many small businesses focus on content creation, keywords, social media, and web design, all of which are important factors in ranking well with search engines.  

However, a sitemap is a critical piece of your website’s search engine optimization strategy, which is often overlooked. In this post, we will examine what a sitemap is, and why it is important for your company’s SEO.

what is a sitemapWhat is a Sitemap?

The first step to understanding why you need a sitemap is understanding what a site map is! A sitemap is a file in which your company lists the different pages on your website. This file allows search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing to understand the organization of your website so that they can better “crawl” it when looking for relevant content.

Your sitemap also provides search engines with valuable information about your website known as metadata. This metadata shows the search engine your website content as well as how often your website is updated, which is important when search engines choose which sites to give preference to.

Why you need a sitemap

Since sitemaps are a critical piece of SEO, it is always a good idea to have a sitemap in place. However, according to Google, there are certain criteria that make it extra important for your business to have a sitemap. These reasons include:

  • If your company has a new website with very few external sources linking to it
  • If your website is very large
  • If your business site utilizes rich media content
  • If your website contains a big content archive that is not well linked internally

In addition to being important for SEO, a sitemap can also be a useful tool for those designing a new website, as it can help your team clarify the purpose and goal of your website, ensuring you are all on the same page before moving forward.

How a sitemap can help your SEO

SEO is the process of optimizing your website or content for search engines. We all know that by now. And while keeping an updated sitemap won’t drastically improve your SEO rankings (although, I guess it could), it is a standard process for implementing the necessary optimizations for your website.

Ensuring that Google, Bing, and other search engines’ crawlers are able to efficiently crawl your website’s pages is very important. When you create a new page and the page never gets linked to (even internally, which is bad!), the page can take a while to get index in search engines.

Search engines aren’t able to magically know when a new page is created, unfortunately. And if a page is not linked to, it may take some time for it to appear in search results. We don’t want that! We want Google and other search engines to know, right away, that we have a new page and we want it indexed pronto! To do this, one of the methods is a sitemap.

Having and maintaining a sitemap will allow Google to know a new page is ready to be crawled. Spiders can then quickly find, read, and process your new page’s information.

How you can generate a sitemapwhat is a sitemap

If you have never created a sitemap, the idea can be intimidating. The good news is that thanks to a number of online tools—with many free and paid options—generating a sitemap is easier than ever!

For the majority of the internet that runs WordPress, this is a painless process. There are countless plugins that will generate a sitemap for you. All you have to do is place it into Google’s Search Console.

If you are looking for a visual sitemap tool, some excellent options include DYNO Mapper, Slickplan, MindMUp, and WriteMaps. Many of these sites offer free trials as well as easy-to-use features for those that are new to site mapping.

For those that prefer sitemap generating tools that are not focused on visual creation, some of the most popular options include XML-sitemaps, Inspyder, and Powermapper. Similarly, many of these sites offer free trials for those new to their services.

Whether you already have a website in place or are just in the initial planning phases, a sitemap is a valuable tool that will help you clarify your vision and boost your SEO rankings. Does your business have a sitemap in place? If so, what tools do you use for generating a sitemap?

Sources: CC Marketing OnlineSEMRush, DynomapperKissmetrics