“It’s like deja vu all over again.” ~Yogi Berra
When working with small business websites, I find common issues coming up again and again, just as in Yogi Berra’s famous quote. One of the most common – and easily fixable – problems that I see is that they often don’t have a Sitemap.
What is a Sitemap?
A Sitemap is simply a list of the pages on your website. Here’s what Google has to say about sitemaps:
Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover. In its simplest terms, a XML Sitemap—usually called Sitemap, with a capital S—is a list of the pages on your website. Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process.
In short, a Sitemap is important because it tells the search engines about the content that you have on your site and how often it’s updated. This helps with search engine optimization because it makes it easier for Google to find out about the content on your site so that they can serve it up in the search results.
To illustrate how critical this is for your SEO, take a look at the image below. It’s from the Google Webmaster Tools account of a client I worked with. In this case, the client had hired a web developer to redesign their site, but the developer had not bothered to submit a Sitemap. As a result, the website was online for months before Google indexed the pages on their site; as you can imagine, the site traffic was extremely low during that time.
One of the first things that I did when working with this client was to submit a Sitemap for them. The image below shows how quickly Google was able to index hundreds of pages on their site once this was done. This helped to increase traffic to their website because of one simple fix that took just a few minutes. Unfortunately, many web developers will not necessarily do this, which does a great disservice to you as a small business owner!
How Do I Set One Up?
Fortunately, setting up a Sitemap is easy! With a WordPress website, all you need to do is install a plugin. There are two plugins that you can use:
- WordPress SEO by Yoast: This is widely considered the best SEO plugin, and I’ve written a detailed post about how to optimize your posts with this SEO plugin. One of the features of the plugin is that it allows you to easily create a Sitemap for your website. However, there have been glitches with this feature (if you’re interested, you can see some of the WordPress support threads for more).
- Google XML Sitemap: The second option that you can use is the Google XML Sitemap plugin. This plugin has been downloaded over 10 million times and is extremely easy to use and set up.
Once you have the plugin installed, be sure that your Sitemap has been submitted to Google. You can easily do this through Google Webmaster Tools. WPBeginner has a great post that walks you through the process of submitting your Sitemap to the search engines.
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