Before you let the search engines index your website, you should be sure to create not one but two sitemaps. A sitemap is essentially a directory of pages on your website. However not all sitemaps are created equal: you need both a sitemap for the search engine and a sitemap for the user.
Sitemaps for Search Engines (XML)
The most important site map you need is for the “bots” which “crawl” your website: Google and the other search engines send robots around the internet indexing websites so that they can appear in the search results. When you go click on a link in google, that page has been “indexed,” i.e. put in Google’s giant directory. It makes it a lot easier for Google to index your site (put it in Google’s directory) if you provide Google your own website directory. This is called a sitemap.
Sitemaps for the search engine robots use a language called XML so these sitemaps are called “XML sitemaps.” Depending upon what type of site builder you are using, there are different ways of creating one such xml sitemap:
- If you are using an out-of-the-box site creator, such as Jimdo, Squarespace, Weebly or Wix, the sitemap should be created for you
- If you are using WordPress, there are lots of plugin options! Just type “plugin” into the “Add New” search feature
- If you are using Drupal, there are lots of modules
- If you have had your site built from scratch, you will need to pay your webmaster to do it or you can use a sitemap generator such as this one.
If you have a particularly large website, you will need sub-sitemaps (i.e. sub-directories) so that the sitemap itself isn’t too large.
Once you have an xml sitemap, this is only half the battle. Users need a sitemap too.
The average person does not want to read an xml sitemap. Here’s my highest level sitemap. It’s not exactly user-friendly. You should have one for your visitors. It’s unlikely many people will use this sitemap these days, as Google does such a good job of indexing, but it’s considered a basic courtesy. If you don’t have a user sitemap, all other things being equal the search engines will treat your site worse. At this point, having a user sitemap is just standard practice.
To create one,
- Just open up your XML sitemap and make a list of all the pages.
- Create a new webpage with this list on it
- Link each page on your site to your list.
That’s it! You’re done. Now you have sitemaps for the indexing robots and your users. You’re one step closer to launching your website.