October 31, 2014

Build A Sitemap In Minutes: The How And Why

I’m a business girl. Leads, negotiating, sales… those are the things I do. Technology? I try to leave most of that stuff to my business partner, Laura, but I’m willing to learn when it means better business.

Fortunately, one of my first lessons, years ago, was in the importance of creating a Sitemap. Like many business owners, I didn’t think I needed a Sitemap. After all, aren’t those just for hyper-organized tech junkies? No, actually. No, they are not.

build a sitemap

Sitemap: Nuts And Bolts

Let’s keep it simple, and go to the Google support pages for a definition. Google defines Sitemaps as “a list of the pages on your website.” Why is that important? Three reasons. It tells Google:

  • How your website is organized.
  • How your website functions.
  • How to sort and categorize your traffic.

For small online businesses, those are three pretty important things. Basically, you provide Google with this information, and Google has a better idea of what to do with you on the Internet (i.e. how to get you traffic that actually matters).

Two Types of Site Maps

Of course, the one you give to Google looks totally different than the one that a normal human can read.  Google receives an XML sitemap from you. (Yes, really: you. It’s not that hard!) But, your website visitors might want to poke around on a readable site index to get a better idea of what is going on with your website.

How to Build Your XML Sitemap

Let’s talk about the XML Sitemap first. Google offers a thorough list of Sitemap generators that can walk you through the creation process. But, I recommend XML-Sitemaps or GSiteCrawler.

All you have to do is plug in your URL and fiddle around with some settings. For beginners, the only setting I would recommend adjusting is the “Change Frequency” setting. If you blog daily – especially if you blog multiple times a day – then you should adjust your frequency to “Hourly.”

build a sitemap

Click “Start,” sit back, and wait. Save the .xml file once it’s finished, and plug it in.

How to Plug In Your .xml File

Plugging in your .xml file is easy. Open up your web server, and copy and paste your file into the top-most directory above everything else. Next time Google crawlers pass through your site for indexing, they’ll pick up your XML Sitemap, meaning you’re in business.

To submit it to Google, go to Google’s Webmaster Tools, click the ‘Optimization’ tab, and then click ‘Sitemaps.’ Other search engines have their own XML Sitemap submission methods, which are just as (or almost as) easy.

build a sitemap

Not too hard, is it? Have questions? Feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

This is one basic tech skill your online business can’t afford to miss out on.

Sitemap Photo via Shutterstock

8 Comments ▼

Amie Marse


Amie Marse Amie Marse is the founder of Content Equals Money, a small content generation firm based in Lexington, KY. She’s been a passionate freelance writer turned business owner for over 7 years. Her philosophy is that the essentials of content marketing do not change from the small business to the Fortune 500 level, and that creativity trumps budget every time.

8 Reactions

  1. Good advise Amie. Many small business webmasters overlook this. If you’re using WordPress as the platform for your web development (recommended) creating sitemaps is as easy as installing a few plugins. Then everytime you add or edit pages your sitemaps are updated accordingly.

  2. Great resource here. Site maps are definitely useful to make your content easier to locate and consume. Thanks for sharing this with our community.

    Ti

  3. Thanks, I have had this site for almost a year and never knowing or understanding what a sitemap was until I read this article. thanks again…

  4. Hi Amie, Liked your blog. Joe Wozny, author of The Digital Dollar

  5. Thanks Amie! I followed your directions and submitted my sitemap, and it was easier to do with your help! Do I need to “update” the xml file or is just submitting once going to be enough?
    Thank you!

    • Great question! It will depend on your settings with the plugin. In general you don’t want to change the structure of your site or sitemap too often. The point is to give the webcrawlers the info they need to find your stuff so if you are constantly providing new directions it can cause a problem for you. Imagine visiting a friend who moves every week :)
      But as long as you aren’t changing the structure of your site or sitemap, you won’t need to resubmit over and over. The directions have been given and you let Google know how often to come by :)

      • Thanks for your response! I’m in the process of changing my site structure, and I plan to add more pages explaining new services as time goes on. Guess I’ll update once I’m done with the bulk of it. Thanks again!

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