Step one when building a website is to create a sitemap. There are two primary types of sitemaps (visual and XML). From a design and usability perspective, visual sitemaps help to organize website navigation and page structure. From a marketing perspective, XML sitemaps help search engines find the information they need to allow your content to appear in search results.
In this post, we’ll have a look at what sitemaps are, why they are important, and 3 free online tools you can use to create either version. None of them require registration or software downloads.
An XML sitemap is a file with a list of all the URLs from your website and additional details like the last time that page was updated, how it related to other pages, and more. XML stands for eXtensible Markup Language.
This XML file isn’t visible to website visitors but are is composed generally for online search engines like Bing or Google. Adding this file to your website helps search engine bots crawl your website and find and catalog information faster.
A Visual sitemap is basically a wireframe sketch of the site’s page hierarchy that provides a clear picture of the content, organization, and navigation. This is usually not presented to website visitors but rather a tool used in the early website building that serves as a guide to designers and developers.
Structure your sitemap like a tree with your homepage as the trunk holding the branches together. This is the foundation of your business. The bigger branches should be the primary pages of your site and have links included in the main navigation. Smaller branches are second-level pages that should connect logically to categories (pages) that make up the large branches.
Before we go over sitemap generator tools, let’s have a look at whether or not your website should have a sitemap.
Do you need a sitemap?
Google says sitemaps are essential for:
- Large websites: If you have a large number of pages, it’s possible that Google’s spiders may ignore new or recently updated pages. Sitemaps help make sure they aren’t missed.
- Poorly organized websites: Sites with pages that are isolated or not well linked to each other.
- New sites or sites with few external links: Web crawlers catalog sites by following links from one page to another. Webpages may not be discovered if other sites don’t link to them.
- Sites with rich media content (video, images): Web crawlers include additional information from sitemaps where appropriate that can help your pages appear in a wider variety of search engine queries.
There is no penalty for not having a sitemap but they do help web crawlers index your site more intelligently and improve search engine optimization.
Each time you redesign your website or make any significant changes you should submit a new sitemap to search engines.
3 Online Sitemap Generation Tools
Search engines have requirements to meet in order for your sitemap to work properly. You can find details here for the top two (Google, Bing). Avoid the hassle of ensuring your sitemaps meet these requirements by using one of these online tools.
Very straightforward with no registration required. Just enter your website URL and it goes to work. There is a Pro version you can register for that will include details about images and video in your sitemap and allow you index over 1 million pages.
Another option that allows you to quickly and easily create a basic sitemap for your website. This service includes a free RSS / Sitemap ping service that will notify search engines about changes or updates. They also provide the ability to save sitemap settings making it easier to recreate sitemaps. There is a request for donations but it is not a requirement to use the service.
This service allows you to create a visual sitemap. It is free with no user account registration required. The tool allows provides 3 views (map, matrix, and outline) and allows you to download your work as a PDF, PNG, or XML file. When you save your work a URL is provided that allows you to revisit your work for up to 14 days.
Sitemaps are an important component in website organization, navigation, and SEO efforts. Without a sitemap, it is challenging for developers and designers to see your overall vision and also for search engines to see all your pages and types of content.
While it may be a tedious task, using one of these online sitemap generator tools can save you time and simplify the work for both XML or visual sitemap generation.
Alternatively, you can have a website built by Qubit Web Solutions to ensure a well planned and designed sitemap is included and submitted to search engines. Avoid all this tedious work and get a top-notch site with a search engine optimization strategy built-in right from the start. Click here to start a project with QWS.