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Navigating the SEO world can be daunting, especially when creating a sitemap from scratch. 

But don’t panic, this guide is here to simplify the process. 

As an integral part of SEO strategy, a well-structured sitemap can significantly improve your website’s visibility to search engines. 

This expert guide will walk you through the four key steps on how to create a sitemap from scratch, equipping you with the knowledge to enhance your website’s performance and user experience.

Let’s delve in now!

How to Create a Sitemap With a Website Builder?

Creating a sitemap with a website builder is critical in developing any website. 

A sitemap acts as a roadmap of your site, outlining the structure and organization of all your pages. It helps both users and search engines navigate your site effectively. 

Here’s a guide on creating a sitemap with various popular website builders:

Wix

Wix automatically creates an XML sitemap and submits it to Google once you connect your site to Wix SEO Wiz. 

Wix
Using Wix to update and submit your sitemap.

If you make subsequent site changes, such as page title or URL updates, you must resubmit your sitemap to Google. 

Remember, before submitting your sitemap, you must verify that you own your Wix site’s domain with Google Search Console.

Squarespace

Squarespace includes an XML sitemap as standard for all its websites. 

The sitemap automatically updates as you add, remove, or modify content. It includes all the URLs on your site and image metadata, which aids in SEO-friendly indexing.

Squarespace
Add your Squarespace to Google Search Console to track your sitemap.

Shopify

Shopify, a famous ecommerce website builder, automatically generates and updates an XML sitemap for your online store. 

You won’t have to create one, saving time and effort.

Creating a sitemap using a website builder is a straightforward process, thanks to the automated tools these platforms provide. The sitemap helps improve your site’s SEO and enhances the user experience by providing a clear roadmap of your website’s content.

Shopify
Add a HTML sitemap to your Shopify Store.

Remember, each time you make significant changes to your site, you must update and resubmit your sitemap. This ensures that search engines are always aware of your website’s most current structure and content.

Read more on How to submit a sitemap to Google!

How to Create a Sitemap With a CMS?

Creating a sitemap with a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Django, Drupal, or HubSpot can be straightforward, especially if you’re familiar with plugins. 

These third-party tools can extend your site’s functionality and in this case, help generate and manage your sitemap. Here are some top plugin options to consider:

Yoast

Yoast is a viral SEO plugin for WordPress and other CMS platforms. It automatically generates and updates your sitemap once installed. 

What makes Yoast stand out is its ability to let you choose the types of posts you want Google to index, giving you control over your site’s discoverable content. 

Upgrading to Yoast SEO Premium provides additional features like content filters and an internal linking tool to enhance your site structure2.

All-in-One SEO

All in One SEO is another reputable plugin trusted by over two million WordPress sites. 

All-in-One-SEO
Creating HTLM sitemap by AIOSEO.

It automatically generates a sitemap for your site. 

After installation, you can access your sitemap by clicking on the “All in One SEO” tab in the sidebar and then hitting the “Open Sitemap” button.

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is an advanced SEO tool designed to improve your site’s SEO by auditing issues and pulling crucial data. 

It uses a “website crawler” approach that mimics Google’s spiders. If you’re familiar with Screaming Frog, you can use it to create a sitemap.

Screaming-Frog-1
Generating XML sitemap with Screaming Frog. 

You can select which pages to include or exclude in the sitemap, showcase the date your pages were last modified, set the priority of the URLs in your sitemap, and even decide whether or not to include images in your sitemap.

If you don’t want to add a plugin to your site, you can use online sitemap generators such as XML-Sitemaps.com. 

It’s free to use for sites with fewer than 500 pages. 

After entering your site’s URL and hitting “Start,” you can download your XML sitemap file directly or email it. However, this method requires you to upload the file to your site’s root directory, which may not be convenient for everyone.

Remember, once your sitemap is ready, submit it to Google through the Webmaster Tools and add the following URL – yoursitename/sitemap.xml – into your robots.txt file. 

This will let search engines know about the existence of your sitemap.

Creating a sitemap with a CMS can be straightforward if you utilize the right tools. 

Whether you choose to use a plugin like Yoast, All in One SEO, or Screaming Frog or opt for an online sitemap generator, these tools can make the process of creating and managing your sitemap much easier.

How to Create a Sitemap Manually? 

Creating a sitemap from scratch can be more complex than using a website builder or CMS platform. 

However, it’s achievable, especially if you have the technical know-how to build your website. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on creating a sitemap from scratch:

Step #1: Evaluate Your Site Structure

The initial step is to analyze your website’s structure. This includes understanding the relationship between all your website’s pages and their relation to the homepage.

For instance, if you own a pool cues site:

Try to maintain a shallow site architecture, meaning that users should be able to reach any page on your site within three clicks from the homepage. Organize your site’s pages into a clear hierarchy before you start coding.

Step #2: Code Your URLs and Validate the Code

Next, encode your URLs to reflect their priority, modification date, frequency of changes, and location. 

You’ll need some HTML knowledge to do this. Create an XML file in a text editor and assemble your sitemap’s code.

For instance:

This process can be time-consuming but is reliable for creating a sitemap from scratch. Use an online sitemap validation tool to ensure no errors in your code.

Step #3: Add Your Sitemap to the Robots.txt File and Root Folder

Before submitting your sitemap to search engines, add it to your website’s root folder. This task should ideally be performed by a developer or someone with technical expertise.

You’ll also need to add your sitemap to the robots.txt file in your site’s root folder. This step directs Google’s crawler bots to your sitemap when they scan your site.

Step #4: Submit Your Sitemap

Lastly, submit your sitemap to search engines. Go to Google Search Console, navigate to the “Crawl” section, select “Sitemaps,” and click on the “Add/Test Sitemap” button. 

If your sitemap is free of errors, click “Submit.”

Creating a sitemap from scratch might seem daunting, but with the right approach and tools, you can successfully generate one, enhancing your site’s SEO and user experience.

5 Strategies to Optimize Your Sitemap for Search Engines 

Great job on creating your sitemap! 

Now, it’s time to optimize it to ensure maximum visibility and understanding by search engines. 

This process involves arranging your sitemap to highlight its efficacy and assist search engines in comprehending your website’s content structure and hierarchy.

Here are some strategies:

  • Use the XML Format: The preferred format for sitemaps is eXtensible Markup Language (XML). It’s specifically designed for data exchange and is easily readable by search engines. Hence, make sure your sitemap is saved and presented in this format.
  • Incorporate All Key Pages: Your sitemap should encompass all relevant pages of your site, particularly the important ones. Typically, these include your main content pages, product pages, category pages, blog posts, and other significant sections.
  • Establish a Hierarchical Structure: Your sitemap should mirror the organisation of your website, with related pages grouped under appropriate parent categories or sections. This hierarchical arrangement aids search engines in understanding the logical progression and relationships among your site’s various pages.
  • Adhere to Proper URL Syntax: It’s crucial to ensure that the URLs in your sitemap are accurate and follow the right syntax. Utilize canonical URLs (the preferred versions of a page) to avoid issues with duplicate content and to indicate to search engines like Google the preferred version of each page.
  • Include Relevant Metadata: Add pertinent metadata to each URL in your sitemap, such as the last modification date, change frequency, and priority level. This information guides search engines in determining the freshness and significance of your pages, influencing how they crawl and index your site.

By optimizing your sitemap, you’re making it easier for search engines to:

  • Understand your website’s content structure.
  • Enhance your site’s visibility.
  • Improve your site’s ranking in search engine results.

In the intricate world of SEO and digital marketing, ROI Digitally stands out with its robust suite of services to enhance your website’s performance. From managing website content to optimizing SEO strategies, ROI Digitally has the tools and expertise to elevate your online presence. Their proficiency ensures the creation of effective sitemaps and the resolution of potential errors, improving your site’s visibility and ranking. Remember, a well-optimized website is key to reaching your target audience and achieving your digital marketing goals.

6 Tips to Troubleshoot Common Sitemap Errors

The journey towards a flawless sitemap is seldom without its challenges. 

Encountering errors with your sitemap is a common occurrence. 

Still, it’s crucial to swiftly identify and rectify these issues to ensure search engines can continue to crawl and index your website effectively.

Here’s a look at some common sitemap errors and tips on resolving them:

  • Incorrect XML Syntax: Search engines might struggle to parse your sitemap with an invalid XML syntax. Ensure your sitemap complies with XML format rules, including properly closing tags, correct encoding, and avoiding special characters. Use XML validators or online tools to detect and fix XML syntax errors.
  • Non-functioning Links: If your sitemap contains broken or inaccessible links, search engines won’t be able to reach those pages. Verify each URL in your sitemap to ensure they’re accurate and fully functional.
  • Outdated or Missing Pages: Some pages may be removed or renamed as your website evolves. If your sitemap still includes URLs of non-existent or obsolete pages, it can confuse search engines. Regularly review your sitemap and remove any URLs that are no longer relevant or valid.
  • Sitemap Submission Errors: When submitting your sitemap to search engines, follow the correct submission process and use each search engine’s appropriate tools. Ensure you’ve submitted the correct sitemap URL and that search engine crawlers can access it.
  • Infrequent Sitemap Updates: If your sitemap isn’t updated regularly, search engines may overlook new or updated pages on your website. Update your sitemap whenever you add new content or modify existing pages. Set up automatic sitemap generation or manually update it for your routine website maintenance.
  • Sitemap Location and Accessibility: Ensure your sitemap is located in the correct directory of your website and is easily accessible to search engines. Check your website’s robots.txt file to confirm that it allows Google’s crawlers to access your sitemap.

After addressing common sitemap errors, focusing on the broader scope of website optimization is essential. 

At ROI Digitally, we are committed to ensuring your website performs at its peak. 

Our website optimization services include improving UX/UI design, monitoring all website systems to ensure our clients have essential features, and enhancing their website’s structure, filters, categories, and product pages. 

Additionally, we offer off-page SEO services with a guarantee of increased ROI, providing a transparent roadmap, agile project management, and clear OKRs. 

We believe in educating and informing through SEO and Content Marketing, which has helped us optimize numerous websites and SEO strategies. 

Embrace the future-proof digital marketing solutions ROI Digitally offers and ensure your website runs at its best.

Final Thoughts

In this digital age, having a sitemap is no longer optional but a necessity for any successful website. 

This guide provides a simple definition of how to create a site map. Though it seems like a complex task, with these four steps, it becomes manageable.

Remember, maintaining your sitemap isn’t a one-time task but an ongoing iteration, repetition, and optimization process.

It’s well worth the effort as it can significantly benefit your website, content creators, and ranking on Google’s search engine results pages.