Search Engine Optimization is one of the most discussed topics when it comes to web hosting. It is one of the ways that leads to a good search engine ranking.
Sitemaps are one of the most effective search engine optimization techniques. Spiders or bots index pages on the web. When a search is performed, on any search engine whether Yahoo, Google, Bing or any other, the search is run on the indexed pages. You can use sitemaps to to have search engines index your website.
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap can be described as a number of pages on a website. They are responsible for showing the similarities or relationships that exist between the site components and the pages in the website. They also have more metadata about each page such as update frequency, update date and content types. A sitemap provides the following information to a search engine:
- Types of content in pages;
- A website’s structure with the pages it has;
- Extra information such as image type, description etc on the content type.
When indexing and scanning a page, search engine crawlers go through links in a site. It is therefore very important to make sure that you do not have any links that are broken (which normally leads to 404 errors). A link that is not working makes a bot to stop in its tracks, even if your other pages not been indexed. This will in turn deny you organic traffic. In WordPress, you can use a plugin called broken link checker to solve the problem with broken links.
Generating a Sitemap
It is very possible to manually create sitemaps, you just need a little XML knowledge. However it’s a laborious process when a website has a lot of pages, as is the case with a blog. Instead, it’s far simpler to use online generators for sitemaps, downloadable software, or WordPress plugins.
xml-sitemaps.com is a free site and it allows you to do the following:
- Get XML sitemaps that you can submit to search engines such as Yahoo, Google, Bing among others;
- Be able to generate a text sitemap that has page URLs;
- Generate an HTML sitemap which you can use to show to your visitors to see the pages and structure of your website.
xmlsitemapgenerator.org is also a free online generator that you can use to get sitemaps for your website. Some of its features include:
- You can generate RSS, HTML and Google XML sitemaps;
- It allows generating up to two thousand pages;
- It provides search engines with information on when pages are changed and updated.
Sitemap Generator for Windows
This is free software that can be downloaded and installed on windows operating system.
It can be found here: https://xmlsitemapgenerator.org/sitemap-generator-download.aspx
The following are among the best plugins that can be used to generate sitemaps on WordPress websites:
- Google XML Sitemap Generator. This is one of the best available plugins. It is free to download and use, allows one to generate Google XML, HTML and RSS sitemaps, lists all posts, tags, categories, pages, archives and authors, supports custom posts and taxonomy, can be automated to notify search engines when there are changes or updates. We will use this generator in our example.
- Yoast SEO, Google XML Sitemaps, SEO XML Sitemap, Simple WP Sitemaps among others are also available for download.
To use the Google XML Sitemap Generator plugin, you can follow the steps below.
Step 1: Installation
The first step would be to log in to the dashboard of your WordPress installation then select plugins on the left hand side menu and then click on Add New. Search for the plugin to install, the Google XML Sitemap Generator and click on the Install Now button on the first one show below. Activate it after the download completes.
Step 2: Configuration
We will now configure the plugin so that we can be able to use it. To do so, click on the Plugins button on your WordPress dashboard, then head over to the plugin we have just installed and click on settings. This opens the options available.
On the right hand side of the screen, there is an XML Sitemap link that shows you the sitemaps that have been generated for your site. We are also able to choose whether or not we want to include posts, pages, authors, archives or taxonomies and the frequency of updating. Do not forget to save the changes after you are done.
The benefits of generating a sitemap for your website are worth the work, especially as automation simplifies the process considerably. One of the major advantages is the fact that we help search engines easily index your pages, leading to a higher search engine ranking.