Sitemap guide

Do you keep having the same issue pop up telling you that you don’t have a ‘sitemap.xml’ but you aren’t sure what this even means or where to begin with fixing it? Well, don’t worry! We’ve got your back.

By the end of this easy guide, you will know exactly what a sitemap is, how to get your hands on your very own and what to do with it once you do have one. But first, let’s get started…

30 mins

Table of Contents

What is a sitemap.xml?

In the simplest terms, a sitemap is just a list of all the different pages on your website. It maps out which pages your website has, and how they all link together, so it’s just a big list of URLs. So if a sitemap is just a long list of the different pages on your website, why is it so important and why do we need one? 

Why do I need a sitemap?

The reason that we need an up-to-date sitemap is so that Google can find its way through your website. Just in the same way that a lot of us rely on Google Maps to get us around, Google needs a map of your website to help it find its way around.

Google uses ‘crawlers’ to look through the pages of your website so that it can catalogue the information and display it on its results pages. Without a sitemap, it is more difficult for these ‘crawlers’ to find their way around your website and therefore Google isn’t going to rank your pages as highly, or even be aware that they exist!

Once you have uploaded your sitemap to search console (more on this later), Google can look through your website with ease, meaning…

  • a) it can find all your pages
  • b) it will start to rank them on their results pages!

It also gives important information like when a page was created or edited, this is so it knows when you have fresh and relevant content, so it will push these pages up the rankings.

How to check if I have a Sitemap already?

Manually check if you have a sitemap

The easiest way to check if you have a sitemap already to is to check a few of the most common URLs for Sitemaps. You just need to head to your website and add one of the following to your URL:

www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml

or

www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap-index.xml

These are the two most common places to find your sitemap.

Check your website builder

Here is how to find your sitemap with some of the most common website builders

Find your sitemap with Wix
Find your sitemap with Squarespace
Find your sitemap with Shopify
Find your sitemap with Duda
Find your sitemap with Weebly
Find your sitemap with Zyro
Find your sitemap with GoDaddy
Find your sitemap with Shopify

How do I get my hands on a sitemap? 

If you can’t find your sitemap, the next step is generating one for your website and getting it uploaded to Google Search Console. Here is how to start. 

How to get a sitemap with WordPress and Yoast

  • Login to your WordPress and make sure to have the Yoast plugin installed – read our guide here if you don’t already have Yoast set up
  • Under the ‘Yoast SEO’ tab in the left hand toolbar, select ‘Settings’ . 

  • Scroll down until you see ‘XML sitemaps’ under ‘APIs’ and move the switch at the bottom to enable (see image below).
  • The last step is uploading your sitemap to Google Search Console, you can skip down to that section now. 

How to generate a sitemap and upload it to your website manually

  • There are loads of applications out there that can help you generate a sitemap for your website, so you can have a look around to find one that suits you. However, if we aren’t using WordPress and Yoast to generate our sitemaps, we usually head to Screaming Frog, which is a free crawler application that can help generate a sitemap for your website.
  • Firstly, download the Screaming Frog application and open it on your computer. The free version of this app allows you to create a sitemap of up to 500 pages, so if your website is larger than this you will either need to upgrade to the paid version or find another app that allows for more pages. 
  • Once you have Screaming Frog open, enter the URL of your website in the search bar at the top and hit start. Screaming Frog will then begin to crawl your website.
  • After a few minutes, the crawl should be complete. You can check the progress by using the status bar in the top right. Once it has finished, click on the ‘Sitemaps’ tab at the top of the window and select ‘XML Sitemap’. You will then get the below box pop up, you should check the PDF’s box, and also the images box under the images tab (both highlighted below). Unless you have an understanding of these settings, the rest of them should be left as they are by default. 
  • Finally, hit the ‘Export’ button in the bottom right corner and find a suitable place on your computer to save your new sitemap!
  • The last thing to do is take your new sitemap.xml file and upload it to your website. This process varies depending on who does your hosting so it is always best to check with your web developer on this one!

Uploading your sitemap to Google Search Console

  • Then, all you need to do is enter the URL where your sitemap is saved into the ‘Enter sitemap URL’ field (if you don’t see your website URL, you will have to enter it manually. It should look like something like this – https://www.thatsherbusiness.co.uk/sitemap_index.xml)
  • The URL name will always end with .xml because the sitemap is an XML file
  • Hit the Submit button and you are all set!
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