Stripped down into its simplest form, sitemaps are a list of URLS that summarizes what pages are found within one website. For something as basic as this, it is amazing to realize how crucial it can be for SEO success.
What happens when the search engines scour the World Wide Web for results starts with the sending out of ‘spiders’ or ‘bots’. These automated bots will go through all the pages that can be found, which will then be indexed or included in search engine results pages. With millions and millions of websites that make up the entire sphere of the Internet; waiting for search engine bots to crawl through every page of your website to index it can literally take weeks.
This is where the wonders of a sitemap work. When you come right down to it, the sitemap serves as a ‘heads up’ that attracts the attention of the search engine robots to visit and index your site.
A complete website will ideally need a sitemap. This can be done after all the pages have been set-up or can be drafted as the development is in progress. Sitemaps can be encoded by simply using a Notepad for .txt file containing all webpage URLs, which is then uploaded to the server. Alternatively, easily installing a plugin like “XML Google Sitemaps” for self-hosted WordPress sites automatically generates and updates your website’s sitemap.
A URL like www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml will then be auto-generated to serve as your sitemap or you can generate your own URL if you choose to upload the .txt file yourself. Sitemaps should be submitted to all major search engines. For easier submission, tools like Google Webmaster Tools can be used. When received, this signals the search engines to send a robot over to your site and get your pages crawled and indexed. This makes sitemaps an absolute must if you have setup a website.