HOW TO CREATE A SITEMAP

What it is and how to write it effectively

If you’re a marketer, webmaster, SEO specialist, or blogger, you’ve probably heard about sitemaps and wondered what it is and how to create one.

Before understanding how to create a sitemap, it’s essential to know what it is and why it’s important.

This includes how it’s used for SEO purposes, what tools are available to create a sitemap, and most importantly, why search engines need it.

What is a Sitemap?

Before I explain how to create a sitemap, let’s understand what it is. The literal translation of a sitemap is a site map.

It’s a .xml file containing a list of URLs corresponding to the pages on your site, guiding web crawlers on the correct paths to scan.

It also contains information about pages, videos, images, and other components on your site, as well as the relationships between these elements.

In essence, a sitemap is a hierarchical classification of your site’s content, making navigation easier for both users and search engine crawlers.

When done correctly, it aids in your site’s indexing, making it one of the most crucial factors in the realm of SEO. A site map doesn’t merely send the search engine files from your site.

It also provides valuable information like the last modification date, updates to pages including their frequency, and whether there are versions in other languages.  These details are known as metadata.

From these initial lines, you can already deduce that creating a sitemap to submit to search engines is a strategic move in your favor.

 

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When to use a Sitemap

In general, it’s always optimal to create a sitemap, and I highly recommend doing so.

Search engines like it because it simplifies their crawlers’ work in scanning all parts of your site, and it notifies them of site updates without you having to wait for the crawlers to naturally pass through your pages.

This operation could take a long time given the presence of billions of internet addresses to scan.

Also, once you’ve created your site’s map, which informs search engines about its structure, the sitemap.xml file should be inserted into the robots.txt file.

This allows you to establish scanning rules for certain site elements. For example, the robots.txt file enables you to avoid scanning duplicate content, which search engines strongly dislike, or pages created for testing purposes.

The robots.txt file is in the main directory on the server hosting your site. It’s a text file, as you can deduce from the extension, and must be named exactly like this.

So you’ll have a URL like this: www.yoursite.com/robots.txt. Within this file, you need to input a series of rules for search engine bot access.

For its compilation, you can refer to Google’s guidelines, although I’ll explain the basic rules below.

how to create a sitemap in html

In essence, you have two commands at your disposal:

  1. The user-agent command, where you enter the term Googlebot or the symbol * indicating all crawlers (except AdsBot, which must be explicitly specified).
  2. The allow/disallow command, where allow permits and disallow blocks directories.

So, as shown in the example image, you’ll tell the crawler not to scan the specified folder. You’ll instruct user agents to scan the entire site, even though this is a default setting.

Finally, you’ll inform them where the sitemap.xml file is located. Both the user-agent command and the allow/disallow command must be repeated for each instruction you want to give to the crawlers.

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How to create a Sitemap

There are two ways to map your site: you can do it manually or automatically using a tool.

Manually

This path is suitable for those who are quite knowledgeable about computers, such as a webmaster.

If you’re familiar with HTML, Google provides the “Search Console Guide” where it’s explains step-by-step how to create a site map properly.

I mentioned Google because it’s the most commonly used search engine. However, you should know that Bing also provides “Webmaster Tools” for submitting a .xml map.

I advise against improvising your sitemap and recommend following the suggested rules carefully, which you can delve into by reading the guide.

creating sitemap using tool

Automatically

The web offers a variety of tools that allow you to create and automatically send your sitemap to search engines.

You should know that every CMS (Content Management System) has its native tool to generate a site map. Alternatively, you can choose to use a specific plugin.

If you have a very large site, I also recommend considering the possibility of creating multiple sitemaps within the .xml file.

Always make it easier for search engines to work and index as much content as possible on your site.

Tools available based on the used CMS

WordPress

As you may know, WordPress is the most widely used CMS in the world; it originated as a blogging platform and is open source.

From the WordPress control panel, you can easily install a plugin for automatically generating the sitemap and its updates to send to Google.

If you want to delve deeper into how to create a sitemap on WordPress, I recommend reading the dedicated tutorial.

Joomla

Joomla is another CMS created for building large-scale websites; it is also open source and, like WordPress, is written in PHP.

The easiest and fastest way to generate a sitemap with Joomla is to use one of the available extensions.

The most famous and downloaded one is JSitemap. Go to Joomla’s backend, download, install, activate, and you’re done!

The only downside might be that it’s a paid extension but at a relatively affordable price of $49.

JSitemap

JSitemap is officially integrated with Google’s Search Console and allows you to monitor indexing, average SERP position for each page, organic searches, keywords, clicks, and impressions of your website.

But that’s not all! Following the mobile-first trend that search engines have been focusing on in recent years, the JAmp version has been released to enhance the user experience on mobile devices.

In fact, AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages: websites are optimized and lightened to load much faster on mobile devices. This way, it promotes user engagement on the site and reduces the bounce rate.

Another extension, among the most downloaded for creating a sitemap on Joomla, is OSMap. This time the extension is free!

jsitemap interface

OSMap

It’s also easy to install from the backend. It will build an SEO-friendly XML sitemap for you to send to Google and other search engines. It will also create an HTML sitemap for your visitors.

In addition to the free version, which is somewhat limited compared to the JSitemap extension, there is a Pro version, for a fee, that provides some additional options.

osmap version interface

Magento

Entering the world of e-commerce, Magento is the most widely used CMS for online commerce.

How to create an XML sitemap with Magento? Unlike the actual use of the platform, famous for its steep learning curve, generating the map is quite simple.

After logging into the administrative section of your online store, navigate to the “Catalog” menu. Scroll down the list, and you’ll locate the “Google Sitemap” option at the bottom.

This action will take you to the next page where you can click on the “add sitemap” option and from there set the name and path.

If you’ve done the procedure correctly, Magento will return messages of successful sitemap creation. You can also choose to place the sitemap in a dedicated directory.

In this case, you need to access the server hosting your virtual store, create the sitemap folder in the Magento root, and give it 777 permissions so that the CMS can access the folder.

sitemap in magento set up

For configuration, go to the “System” menu and from the “Catalog-Site Map” section, you will arrive at the tab to set preferences for categories, products, pages, and sitemap generation settings.

In this last tab, you’ll need to select “Yes” from the drop-down menu of the “Enabled” entry.

It will only work after configuring the Cron Job, an automatic operation to schedule various types of actions.

site map configure

Magento 2

In Magento 2, configuring the sitemap is quite simple. Go to the “Marketing” section and select “SEO & Search” from the menu, then choose “Sitemap” and click on the “Add Sitemap” button.

Once done, fill out the required fields, click the “Save and Generate Sitemap” button and your site map will be generated automatically.

For configuration, go to the “Stores” menu and under “Configuration,” find “Catalog” and select “XML Sitemap.” Here, you can set your scanning preferences.

There are several online video tutorials available to guide you through this process. I’ve selected one for you in English:

PrestaShop

In the world of online stores, the e-commerce CMS PrestaShop is the true rival of Magento. It’s much simpler to use but also more limited in features. Its added value is the active and responsive community through the forum.

To create a sitemap with PrestaShop, simply go to the control panel, and from the “Modules” tab, enter “Google Sitemap” in the search field.

Once you’ve searched, you’ll see the pre-installed module where you can select “Configure” and proceed to check the options you desire for scanning your online shop.

 

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Static HTML

If you have a static HTML site, meaning a site made up of hand-written HTML pages, you can use one of the free services available online.

These services will scan all the pages of your site, create a list, and generate an XML file to submit to search engines. One of the best sites to rely on for generating your sitemap is www.xml-sitemaps.com.

Enter your static site’s URL in the bar, select options from the two menus below, and get your site map.  Once the sitemap is created, you can download it and place it in the main root of your site.

This service has a limit of scanning up to 500 pages maximum. If you have more pages, you can switch to the paid version.

Well, we’ve come to the end of this topic, which, as daunting as it may seem, is necessary to address if you want your site to stand out in search engines.

Now, I recommend a couple of courses that might be suitable for you to delve deeper into some of the topics covered:

 

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