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January 06, 2016

Create an XML Sitemap

A sitemap is essential to your company’s website. It helps control how search engines see and share your content, it creates a guide for everyone working on the creation of the website and it helps you design an effective website. It can also make it easier for your team to change the website over time, since you can easily see what you already have, what’s missing and the flow of the content.

When you’re creating your sitemap, these are some mistakes to avoid in the process:

1. Not Submitting It to Google

Making your sitemap is not enough. You also need to submit it to Google, which allows you to guide Google in indexing the pages of your site. This way, you’re not leaving it to the search engine to figure out the flow of your website by itself. The submission process is easy to carry out through Google Search Console. Once Google crawls and indexes your site’s pages, you should start to see your content more often in search results – and that’s what you really want, right?

2. Creating a Sitemap After the Fact

So you’ve created lots of content and worked on design, and now you’re getting around to creating a sitemap. We’re here to tell you that if you haven’t started yet, start with the sitemap and go from there. The reason is that a sitemap can act as an outline for your site. It is much easier to work with this guide than to fumble around trying to figure out how pages fit together.

3. Not Following Sitemap Guidelines

You need to create a sitemap using certain guidelines and techniques. For example, your URL syntax should be consistent and you should make your files UTF-8 encoded. Google provides resources for building a sitemap, and you can also find sitemap creation tools to guide you.

If you’re using WordPress, there are countless XML sitemap plugins, we recommend using the sitemap feature that comes with the Yoast SEO plugin. If you’re not using WordPress, you can easily generate a sitemap with software like Screaming Frog, click here for more info.

4. Not Using the Sitemap to Check Your Content and Design Ideas

When you create your sitemap, it’s important to look it over with a fine-toothed comb before moving forward with the creation of your site, especially if you have a large number of pages. Think about whether the setup actually works. Make sure that you’re not bogging down your site or making it confusing with unnecessary or duplicated pages. Ensure that it’s easy for the visitor to find what he’s looking for and that the design will help your company reach its goals. Take out parts that aren’t working, and add in parts that create cohesion.

5. Indexing Too Many Pages Too Fast

If you happen to be indexing hundreds of thousands of pages very quickly, this process will most likely flag your site for spam with Panda. To avoid this, you could index the pages at a slower pace or use numerous sitemaps to split up the pages into limited groupings.

6. Making Your Sitemap Public

If you submit an XML sitemap to Google, it sometimes ends up public in search results. This allows your competitors to gain a glimpse of your sitemap. If you would prefer to avoid this, you have an option available to you: gzip the sitemap and submit this version to Google instead. Along with that step, avoid putting this URL on your robots.txt file or calling it “sitemap.xml”.

7. Submitting a Sitemap with Errors

Of course, a sitemap that contains errors won’t give you the desired results. To avoid this pitfall, fortunately Google Search Console helps you test the sitemap and tells you if it has errors that need to be fixed. For example, it could have an invalid URL, a path mismatch or a size error. Go ahead and fix the errors, and then resubmit the sitemap.

You don’t need specialty or design skills to create a sitemap. Anyone can do it, as long as you know what is needed for the site. It’s best to include the people who will be working on the website in the sitemap creation process, and don’t forget that resources are available to help you create and submit your sitemap. Having a sitemap and creating it wisely can help you have a more effective website that gets results. Just make sure you avoid these seven pitfalls so your sitemap can actually accomplish your goals, and you can have a well-designed, intuitive website.

Are there other mistakes you can think of to avoid when crafting your sitemap? Have any tips to share for creating an effective sitemap?

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