How To Create a Sitemap (and Why You Should)

All you need to get traffic is a beautiful website with a great homepage and awesome content. 

Right? Wrong. 

You need to do more. 

Due to the increasing size and complexity of websites, search engines can’t keep track of the millions of materials on the internet — including yours. 

It’s possible for fantastic content to be buried deep in your website where search engines can’t find it, especially if you have a larger website.

You created a website to reach your clients and close sales. So you don’t want visitors to leave within seconds when they can’t find what they’re looking for.

That’s why you need a website map to display important pages. 

Learning how to create a sitemap is a crucial step towards a successful website.

If you’ve only heard the term and but haven’t implemented this vital part of website design, read on to learn:

  • What a sitemap is
  • Why you need a sitemap
  • How to create a sitemap

XML vs. HTML Sitemaps

HTML (hypertext markup language) and XML (extensible markup language) are coding languages used to create web pages. When referring to sitemaps, the two types have different functionality on your website.

Sitemap: XML

An XML sitemap is created for search engines and provides a list of pages and URLs representing your website. An XML sitemap reduces the time a search engine like Google or Bing takes to index your website, especially when following internal links.

As a new website owner, you might be wondering whether you need an HTML sitemap if you already have an XML sitemap on the Google Search Console.

You do, and here’s why:

XML and HTML sitemaps complement each other to offer better SEO (search engine optimization) and user experience.

Sitemap: HTML

An HTML sitemap is a central list of every link on your website that helps you keep track of your pages and subpages. Well-crafted HTML sitemaps make it easy for search engine crawlers as well as human visitors to find what they’re looking for anywhere on the website.

HTML sitemaps can give you an excellent basis for creating a complete table of contents that makes navigation simple for your users. As an organized list of clickable URLs, it empowers users to easily navigate to the webpage they want. 

In the HTML sitemap, anchor texts are directly linked to the specific pages they refer to on your website. Visitors can locate topics they wouldn’t find in an average search or on the main menu. 

With an HTML sitemap, your users can spend less time searching and more time on your webpages. That’s a win for your website’s SEO ranking.

Why An HTML Sitemap Is Important For Your Website

Web experts recommend having a sitemap page when you create a new website — we agree.  

But you might find an HTML page sitemap most useful if:

  • Your website is huge and has a lot of content.
  • Your website is new and doesn’t have good backlinking. 
  • Your web content is constantly updated.
  • Your website has archived content that is poorly linked. 

Here are other reasons to add a sitemap to your website.

1. HTML Sitemaps Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

If your website’s main navigation menu doesn’t link to all your webpages, a sitemap is crucial. It will improve your SEO by displaying important URLs on SERPs (search engine results pages) that would otherwise be buried on your website. 

Your webpages will have better visibility and do what they are meant to do — draw visitors to your website. Those visitors will also stay on your website longer as they breezily navigate your webpages, which ultimately boosts your ranking.

2. An HTML Sitemap Page Specifies Your Content’s Purpose

Anchor texts on the website sitemap are a great way to highlight what the website is about before users get to your webpages. Your anchor text should include relevant and unique keywords to any archived content that lacks proper linking. 

An HTML sitemap also reduces the chances of having orphaned pages on your website. 

3. HTML Sitemaps Make a Website More User-Friendly

Any webmaster who wants a successful website needs to ensure users can find content quickly. HTML sitemaps create a better user-experience that won’t frustrate potential customers. If it’s difficult for users to find what they want, they’ll leave — and navigate to your competitor’s website.

4. HTML Sitemaps Solve Content Duplication Issues

Google and most other search engines strive to index and display pages with unique content. When you have a clear sitemap, you can easily identify identical content and make adjustments. 

If you realize your webpages have similar URLs, you can consolidate the URLs on Google. You can choose only what you want your visitors to see when they search your pages.

How To Create a Sitemap

If you want to learn how to create a sitemap, you can do it in two major ways: You can do it manually or use a sitemap generator.

How To Create a Sitemap Manually

Learning how to create a sitemap requires users to have an average to advanced knowledge of the two markup languages — HTML and XML.

You’re looking at a ton of coding if you want to create an XML site map manually. And once you finish, you still need to direct search engines to your sitemap on the Google Search Console for Google users and Bing Webmaster Tools for Bing. 

For this reason, we recommend you let your CMS (content management system)  handle it, or install a plugin, which we will cover in the next section. If you do want to take the time, you can learn how to create an XML site map manually here

It’s far less difficult to create HTML sitemaps manually, especially for small websites without a lot of content. You do this by creating a new page and adding links to all your content.

But a good chunk of website owners — particularly those using WordPress to start a new eCommerce business — don’t know how to create a sitemap. 

Plus as your site grows it becomes impossible to create and manage your HTML sitemap manually. 

That’s why you need to learn how to create sitemaps using sitemap generators.

How To Create a Sitemap With Sitemap Generators

For the DIY webmaster, XML and HTML sitemap generators make the sitemap creation process quick, easy, and highly accurate.

Depending on the CMS you’re using, putting a sitemap in a website might be as simple as installing a plugin. 

If you’re using WordPress, you will find the majority of WordPress SEO plugins have an inbuilt XML sitemap functionality, including:

Yoast SEO is a fantastic option for generating XML sitemaps. 

Among other features, this WordPress plugin empowers you to decide which parts of your website’s content search engines can  index. You may be able to get away with the free version of Yoast SEO for your website. But, for $89 per year the premium option delivers nearly any feature you’ll need.

Simple Sitemap is a free plugin for WordPress that can generate HTML sitemaps. It is quick and easy to use without the need for any coding or configuring.

If your website is large or newly created, you need a sitemap. An HTML sitemap is provides a friendly user-experience with easy website navigation.

Site maps can directly and indirectly impact the search ranking of your pages. An XML sitemap helps search engines understand your website content and minimizes the time it takes to crawl and index your pages. HTML sitemaps encourage visitors to stay on your website longer, reducing your bounce rate.

If you’re looking to improve your website’s SEO, a sitemap is a great place to start. Once you’ve done all you can to optimize your content, ensure you have website hosting that can give you another SEO boost with its speed and reliability. Check out Bluehost’s hosting packages today.

Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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