The purpose of a site map is to help both human visitors search engines to more efficiently find and navigate through information on your website. Originally, HTML sitemaps helped users find their way around a website much like a street map guides you to your destination. Over time, sitemaps became a useful tool to help search engines crawl and index your site.
The Benefits of a Sitemap
Sitemaps will result in a fully indexed site. Helping search engines index your site increases your chances of being included in a search engine result. Instead of making the search engine hunt around your site for links to other pages, you can clearly lead the crawlers along through your sitemap. When you utilize a well-planned XML sitemap, you take control to ensure your website is fully indexed by the search engines.
When you make a change or update to your web pages, XML sitemaps will alert search engines quickly, and your new or changed content will be indexed that much faster.
XML sitemaps are also a helpful tool that can help establish you as a content originator if you have content that is “curated” by another site. According to Search Engine Land, Google’s Panda algorithm update excludes duplicate content from search engine results, and if you don’t have a sitemap establishing you as the originator, you could be excluded from the results altogether.
Creating and submitting a Sitemap is easy
There are many XML sitemap generator tools available online that will create the .xml file for you. Upload the file to the root directory of your website (e.g. www. website.com/sitemap.xml). You will want to update your .xml file at least once a month so search engines have your updated and new content to index.
WordPress does not have a built in sitemap generation feature, but users can use plugins such as the Yoast SEO Plugin. If you are using a plugin, it will automatically update your sitemap as content is added or changed.
Once your sitemap has been created, you can register it through Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools. Submitting your RSS feed at the same time is an additional step that can help establish you as the originator of your content.
Registering your sitemaps with search engines will also allow you to catch any sitemap errors. Google Webmaster Tools will report critical sitemap errors, and offer warnings about potentially problematic issues.
Helping search engines effectively crawl and index your site will improve your chances of being found on the search engine results page, and ensure that are established as the originator of your content. Create a sitemap, keep it updated, and check for errors regularly.