For any webmaster, one of the biggest concerns is to make the website visible to search engines. If a website is not visible to search engines, it is as good as non existent, except,, maybe when it is your personal blog or an exclusive membership website. Search engine optimization take a lot of effort, and is dependent on a lot of factors, some of which pertain to the website itself (called ‘onsite’ or ‘on page’ factors), while most of the SEO factors are ‘offsite’ or ‘off page’.
A sitemap is an on page SEO factor, and is one of the best and most reliable ways to make the website easily ‘crawlable’ by the search engine bots.
What is a Sitemap?
Consider a map – a normal map. Now, what does a map do – it tells you where you are at present, and then shows all the areas and locations that you may want to visit, and the best path to reach there.
Similarly, a sitemap is a list of the web pages in a website, which helps the search engines (and visitors to) to find the pages in a website. The site map is thus a list or document, where all the web pages are arranged in a hierarchical manner. A sitemap is created as an XML file, which can also include other instructions or tags such as the relative importance or priority of the individual web pages, when are the pages updated and the frequency of such updating (see figure below – click to enlarge). Sitemaps are used in conjunction with the robots.txt files for the indexing of web pages by search engine bots.
When we use the term “sitemap”, it is used in the sense of XML sitemaps that are prepared for the benefit of search engines, and that is the context used in this article. However, a sitemap may also be created in other formats, such as an HTML site map or a Text site map for human visitors to the website.
How to Create a Sitemap?
A site map can be created either -
- Manually – by using the Sitemap protocol. This will require at least a basic to intermediate level of XML coding knowledge.
- Using Sitemap Generators – This is really a big relief for most of the webmasters- now you can easily cerate XML sitemaps in minutes using a number of sitemap generator. These XML sitemap generators are available online, and most of them are free to use, at least till a decent page number limit (500 or so, sufficient for even medium sized web sites). Some have no page limit at all – so you can create all the sitemaps that you want.
The major search engines also have their own versions of sitemap generators, and they also accept sitemaps generated by other generators. You can easily create a sitemap using a sitemap generator online, and then submit the sitemap to all the major search engines – Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask etc – as they all accept a common sitemap protocol.
List Of Online Sitemap Generators
The following is a brief list of some leading online sitemap generators. You can go to the individual sites by clicking the links -