How to Create a SitemapOne of the first things you should do once your website’s content is ready to be submitted to the search engines is create a sitemap.

A sitemap is an XML document — basically a file containing a set of website rules — that helps search engines easily find the pages you want your readers to see.

Think of it this way. If you’re on a road trip going somewhere you’ve never been, wouldn’t it be easier to find all the best destinations by using a good road map? Well, search engines use your sitemap to find the best “destinations,” or pages, on your website. A properly formatted sitemap ensures that search engines will find your best, most pertinent information and that nothing gets overlooked.

Now that you know what a sitemap is, follow these simple steps to create your own.

Using a WordPress Sitemap Plugin

If your site is on a self-hosted domain using the WordPress platform, you’re in luck. There are several plugins that will automatically create a sitemap for you and update it as you add new pages or articles to your site.

WordPress XML Sitemap Plugin

One of the more popular sitemap plugins is Google XML Sitemaps. To install this plugin by go to your Admin Dashboard > Plugins > Add New and search for “Google XML Sitemaps.” There will be several versions to choose from but the one by Arne Brachhold is recommended. Click the “Install Now” link and then “Activate the Plugin” when ready.

Next, go to your Admin Dashboard > Settings > XML-Sitemap. To set up your sitemap, you will need to do the following quick steps.

Build the Sitemap

Build your XML Sitemap

At the very top of the page you should see the sentence “The sitemap wasn’t built yet. Click here to build it the first time.” Simply click on that link and your sitemap will be created based on the current pages and articles on your site.

When completed, it will change to something like “Your sitemap was last built on June 29, 2011 3:29 am.” You can click on the link to see your sitemap. Copy the URL of your sitemap to use when submitting your site to search engines.

Get a Yahoo Application ID

Under the Basic Options, you will see that the default is set to notify the search engines Google, Ask, and Bing when your sitemap gets updated.

To notify Yahoo, however, you have to enter an Application ID. If you don’t already have one, you will need to sign in or sign up for a Yahoo account, then go to the link provided by the plugin to request one. From here, you simply choose “Generic” and enter your name, your website name, a contact email address, and a description of your application, then press “continue.” On the next screen, just copy the Application ID and paste it into your sitemap settings.

Choose Content for Your Sitemap

You can select whether the sitemap will update itself with your homepage, static pages, articles, or categories. It’s a good idea to include content in your sitemap that changes frequently because search engines like fresh content.

You can also exclude specific content from your sitemap. This might be a good option if you have private, member only areas on your site or pages that simply do not need to be indexed.

Assign Priority to Your Pages

Set XML Sitemap Priority

If your site is a blog, you can set the priority of articles based on the number of comments they receive. Higher priority articles will be listed higher on the sitemap and make them more likely to be noticed by search engines each time they come by your site.

You can also assign a numerical priority to the most important page on your website. For example, if Google could only check out the top page of your website, what would it be? Assign the most important page a numerical value of “1” with the rest of your pages set to “0.”

Add Additional Pages

If you have additional pages that are on your website but not created by WordPress, you can add those links here along with the frequency at which the sitemap should check for changes and the date the pages last changed.

Set Frequency

You can specify how often your sitemap should look at your homepage, static pages, and articles for changes, and how often to alert search engines that these pages have been modified. Here’s what a typical sitemap should look like.

Example XML SitemapOnce created, your sitemap will continue to be updated by the plugin as necessary and reported to search engines as often as you update your site.

Other Alternatives for Creating a Sitemap

Other XML Sitemap Options

If you’re using a platform other than WordPress for your website or blog, here’s a partial list of applications you can use to generate a sitemap for your site.

If you’re more of a “do-it-yourselfer,” you can learn more about sitemaps by visiting’s protocol page which breaks down the coding and technicalities for those who like to figure things out on their own.

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