Web Hosting: Sitemaps

Modified on Tue, 30 Jan 2024 at 12:32 PM

What is A Sitemap

A sitemap is a file that lists all the URL's on a website. Sitemaps are XML files that typically contain the following metadata:

  • URL's
  • Last Modification: When the file was last updated / modified (optional but recommended)
  • Change Frequency: How often the file usually changes (optional)
  • Priority: How important the file is, relative to other URLs in the site (optional)

Note: Google's official stance is that it ignores both the change frequency and priority tags, so those are less important.

Note: Sitemaps list webpage URL's, but can also include images and videos. Some sitemap generators or WordPress plugin sitemap managers may include the ability to list images and videos, but not all do. This article will only be talking about sitemaps for webpage URL's, not images and videos. For information about adding images and videos to a sitemap see this external article: Include Images and Videos in Sitemaps.

Sitemaps make it easier for search engines like Google to crawl, find, and index a website's content, which may improve the ranking of website pages on search results.

Generating A Sitemap

You can create a sitemap manually, but there are also user friendly online tools, WordPress plugins, and downloadable software available to help create your sitemap.

If you have an HTML website, you can quickly create and download an XML sitemap by using the free online tool here: https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/

If you have a WordPress website, since WordPress version 5.5 (released in August 2020), the core WordPress software has included a built-in feature to automatically create an XML sitemap by default. However, you can still install a dedicated sitemap plugin to better be able to manage your sitemap. Here is a list of 8 sitemap generator tools, which includes WordPress plugins: https://www.semrush.com/blog/sitemap-generator-tools/

No matter what kind of website you have, you can create sitemaps using downloadable software, such as:

If you have generated a XML sitemap file via a tool, you can edit and add additional URL's manually by using the below example format for new URL's (add this after the last </url> tag, and before the </urlset> tag at the bottom of the XML file, using a text editor like "Notepad" on Windows or "TextEdit" on Mac):







Note: Information about formatting new sitemap URL entries can be found here: https://www.sitemaps.org/protocol.html

Note: Sitemap priority values range from 0.0 to 1.0, with 1.0 being the most important. The default value is 0.5

Placing The Sitemap On Your Website

If you have an HTML website, you can go to the cPanel File Manager to upload the XML sitemap file to the root folder of your website. See the HelpDesk article: Web Hosting: Access File Manager in cPanel

If you have a WordPress website and used a plugin, then everything will be managed within that plugin and there is no need to manually upload the file to the website's root folder. If you have a WordPress website and used an online tool or downloadable software to generate an XML file sitemap, you can go to the cPanel File Manager to upload the XML sitemap file to the root folder of your website. See the HelpDesk article: Web Hosting: Access File Manager in cPanel

Submitting Your Sitemap To Google and/or Bing

You do not need to submit your sitemap to search engines, but doing so can help search engines discover your website faster and more efficiently.

To submit your sitemap (which is already located in your website's root file folder) to Google and/or Bing, see the external article here: How to Submit an XML Sitemap 

Note: When submitting the sitemap's URL to a search engine, the URL will usually be in the format of YourDomain.com/sitemap.xml, but can be in other formats. See the external article: How to find your sitemap

Note: If you have already submitted your sitemap to Google and/or Bing, and then you edit the sitemap file that's on your website, you don't need to manually resubmit your sitemap unless you make significant changes. Both search engines periodically check your submitted sitemap for updates, so you only need to submit it once. However, if you make big changes to your sitemap, you may want to resubmit it with a new request.

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