Source: Neil Patel When it comes to SEO and marketing, I like quick and easy wins. Even though I’m committed to the long journey of blogging (10+ y
When it comes to SEO and marketing, I like quick and easy wins.
Even though I’m committed to the long journey of blogging (10+ years and counting), I’d much rather push a few buttons and pull a few levers to get more traffic.
Low effort. Big wins. That’s where I like to be.
And, thankfully, there are some SEO techniques that deliver high value for low effort.
I want to share with you one of those techniques — creating an XML sitemap.
Now before you run away after reading the term “XML sitemap,” let me give you some good news.
Even though an XML sitemap is considered a “technical” side of SEO, it’s not hard to make one. And, really, it’s not “technical” either.
In fact, in just a few minutes you could create a really good XML sitemap. You don’t have to know how to code. You just have to know how to click.
It’s free. It’s easy. It’s relatively simple, and it can improve your SEO.
Ready to give it a try?
Let’s make sure we understand what an XML sitemap is.
What is an XML sitemap?
In simple terms, it’s a list of a website’s URLs.
That’s why it’s called a sitemap. It maps out how the website is structured and what the website includes.
(“XML” stands for “Extensible Markup Language,” a way of displaying information on websites.)
That’s what an XML sitemap is, but why should you even have one? What’s the purpose?
So, what’s the point of an XML Sitemap?
Search engines use crawlers to organize and index information on the web.
These crawlers can read all kinds of information. But an XML sitemap makes it easy for the crawler to see what’s on your website and index it.
Once it does this, your website has a stronger likelihood of improving its rank quickly.
An XML sitemap works, essentially, as a table of contents for your website, allowing the crawler to get the essentials and index your site accordingly.
Another writer uses the analogy of a house blueprint:
Think of your website as a house and each page of your site as a room. You can think of an XML Sitemap like a blueprint for your house and each web page were a room, your XML Sitemap would be a blueprint—making it easy for Google, the proverbial home inspector of the web—to quickly and easily find all the rooms within your house
A well-structured sitemap can do even more, however.
Sitemaps can tell search engines when a page was updated, the frequency of updates to the page, the relative importance of pages within a website, and how to find and index content that may be found deep within the site’s structure.
Here’s what the information looks like in a sitemap:
- Where the page is located on the website (its URL): <loc>http://www.example.com/mypage</loc>
- When the page was last changed: <lastmod>2013-10-10</lastmod>
- How often the page is changed: <changefreq>monthly</changefreq>
- What priority the page has in relationship to other pages on the site: <priority>1</priority>
These features are important, especially considering the amount of unauthorized syndication that takes place with content today.
One columnist for Search Engine Land explains why this is important for SEO:
For content publishers, it’s become critical to help Google specifically understand if your site is the original publisher of content….XML sitemaps are just one tool that can help content creators establish their stake as the content originator.
If you aren’t using a sitemap, your website could be seen as containing duplicate content, which isn’t good for SEO.
More importantly, however, a sitemap is a fast way to get indexed by Google.
Like I said at the beginning of the article, I like easy wins. With a sitemap, you can tell Google, “Look, this is my site, and here are the pages I want you to index.”
Within minutes, Google will respond to your submission, crawl your site, and index your content.
It’s that simple.
If you’re wondering, “Hmm. Do I really need a sitemap? Should I go to all that trouble?”
I would like to persuade you to, yes, do it.
Consider these benefits of an XML sitemap.
- The XML sitemap tells Google to crawl and index your website.
- The XML sitemap tells Google what to crawl on your website.
- The XML sitemap tells Google what kind of information is on your website.
- The XML sitemap tells Google when your content was updated (which could result in more favorable or “fresh” rankings).
- The XML sitemap tells Google how often your content is updated.
- The XML sitemap tells Google how important your content is.
- The XML sitemap helps your website instantly gain indexation for dynamically-generated pages.
- The XML sitemap helps to overcome the limitations of a website with weak internal linking.
- The XML sitemap helps to overcome the challenge of not yet having a strong external link profile.
- The XML sitemap helps extremely large sites gain better and more organized indexation.
- The XML sitemap helps Google crawl your website in a more effective way.
- The XML sitemap shows Google all the pages on your website, even if they are deep within the architecture and might not otherwise be crawled as quickly.
If you’re ready to get started on creating your own XML sitemap, we’ll follow a three-step process:
There are three things you have to do:
- Create your XML sitemap.
- Add your XML sitemap to your website.
- Submit your XML sitemap to Google.
The remainder of this article will address each of those points:
- First, I’ll explain how to create an XML sitemap for any website, regardless of its size or the CMS you’re using.
- Second, I’ll explain how to create an XML sitemap for a WordPress website.
- Third, I’ll explain how to submit your XML sitemap to Google.
Create an XML sitemap using Screaming Frog (for any website)
You can use Screaming Frog to create an XML sitemap for any website. It doesn’t matter what CMS you’re using, what size the website is, how old the website is, or anything.
In fact, you don’t even need to own the website or have login access to it in order to create the sitemap.
Is there a cost associated with this? Screaming Frog, the tool we’ll use, provides free crawling for up to 500 pages. To crawl websites larger than 500 pages, you will need to purchase a Screaming Frog license.
About Screaming Frog
If you do not have Screaming Frog yet, please install it. You can do so here.
Screaming Frog is a powerful piece of desktop software that helps you with a whole range of SEO activities.
The basic version is free. The full version (with license purchase) costs £149.00 per year (around $180 USD or €170 euro).
In this section, I’ll walk you through how to create an XML sitemap for any website using the free version of Screaming Frog.
First, open Screaming Frog.
Second, type your URL into the field at the top.
Depending on the size of your website, it will take from a few minutes to a few hours to crawl the site.
For a site like NeilPatel.com (2,700+ pages), it only takes about a minute. I’ve worked on some large ecommerce websites with millions of URLs. These have taken hours to crawl.