Creating a Website Sitemap (free template download)
Creating a sitemap for your B2B website doesn't have to be as complicated as you think. Find out about types of sitemap here, and download a free template!
Published: 04 Feb 2021
5 minutes read
A sitemap is essential for your B2B website - throughout the design and development stage, it can help you to order and understand your page hierarchy, and it has an SEO impact in the long term. However, many are unsure what a sitemap actually is, and what it really has to offer your website. We’ve covered the basics of what types of sitemap are most beneficial to you, and how to get the most out of them. There’s also a free template to get you started, and save time in developing your own sitemap!
Table of contents:
Types of Sitemap
A sitemap, at its core, is a breakdown of the pages that are present on your website. Some sitemaps, such as XML sitemaps, can give further details, such as when the pages were last updated, order of importance, and more (we’ll cover this in a moment).
There are also sitemaps that are more useful for presenting your pages visually - these are useful for website planning. Other types of sitemap include HTML sitemaps, which help visitors navigate your site. However, these seem to be slowly phasing out, so we’ll focus on the main ones for now.
A visual sitemap is the first thing you should consider in any website redesign or development project. Intended as a guide, this establishes which pages you want on your site, and in which order they should appear. Sounds simple, but once you get started, it can be complex to order your pages into the correct categories. You should use a visual sitemap as a planning tool, and consistently refer to it throughout your website project to make sure that you are working in the correct way.
An XML sitemap carries out a slightly different function. Rather than working as a planning tool for your website design process, your XML sitemap should be something that is planned into your project. It is a physical file that needs to be added to the site, and is used by search engines to correctly understand and index your website pages. This helps to boost your SEO, and improve rankings.
You can see XML sitemaps by typing ‘/sitemap.xml’ after any URL. Check on your own website - if you don’t see anything, you need to create one!
Creating a visual sitemap
Where do I start?
To create your visual sitemap, you should first decide which pages you actually need to include in your website. Most B2B websites include an ‘About Us’ or ‘Company’ page, and then a page for categories of products or services. You should speak to your team about what needs to be included, and start breaking down your pages into a hierarchical structure, like so:
If you’re taking a growth-driven design (or GDD) approach to your website development project, it’s a good idea at this point to think about the pages that you actually need. Your visual sitemap should include all of the pages that you ultimately want on your website, but it’s a good idea to mark at this point your high priority pages.
How do I decide where the pages go?
You should be able to sort your pages into a structure that makes sense. This means categorising them in a way that works with your intended user journey. You wouldn’t put a company history page under services, and you wouldn’t put your product or service into the contact section. In this way, organising your pages is based mostly on common sense, but it can become complicated. Speak to other members of your team and work as a group to decide upon site structure. It isn’t a job for one person!
Creating an XML sitemap
Using a CMS plugin
If you’re working within a CMS, there are often add-ons or plugins that you can use to amend your website sitemap. One example for WordPress is the ‘Yoast’ plugin, which adds a series of sitemaps for each page, category (using the blog tagging system) and posts. This method is simple if you are using a CMS that allows this, as often the plugin or add-on does the work for you. However, as with all CMS additions, make sure that you have backed up your site and checked compatibility before installing anything.
Using your website code
If your CMS won’t allow for a plugin to add a sitemap, you may have to do it manually. This is unlikely, but sometimes necessary! Adding your sitemap using code is a little more complicated, so it’s best that your web developer does this for you.
You can code your sitemap, save it as an XML file, and then add it to the root folder of your website files. If you choose to manually code your sitemap, however, you will need to amend it every time that you add a page or a blog post. This can be time-consuming if you plan to publish new content often, but it’s worthwhile to make sure that your content is found.
Using a converter
If you’re looking for the fastest way to add a useful XML sitemap to your website, there are some tools that can generate one for you quickly and easily. One that we love is Siteliner - this is a great tool for scanning your website for duplicate content, as well as broken links, page speed and other issues. It also has a handy sitemap generator, where you can quickly download a full XML sitemap of all your pages. If you do this, it’s a good idea to edit it once downloaded, as the programme automatically assigns a page priority which may not align with your vision of the site.
Once you have downloaded your sitemap, you just upload it to the root file of your website and it should be immediately visible.
Having a sitemap only gets you so far. In order to get the most from your sitemap, you need to be checking on it regularly, and ensuring that it is being read by the correct people (or bots). If you have created a visual sitemap for a website project, it should be at the centre of everything you do, used as your greatest tool to keep your website straightforward and easy to use.
If you have created an XML sitemap, you can ensure that it is Google crawls it by submitting the sitemap via Search Console. This allows you to direct the Google crawlers to pages, and point out the priority of each. If your sitemap updates automatically, Google can then pick up recently changed pages, and crawl them more often. If you have chosen to code in your sitemap, you must keep it manually updated - this is important! Search engines will still find your pages if you have internal links, but they are much more likely to index your pages if they are submitted via sitemap, rather than hoping for the best.
Find out more about the common SEO issues we come across and how to resolve them.
Creating a sitemap can seem daunting, but there are plenty of tips and tricks to make sure that you do it the right way. If you’re planning a brand new website, or even just redesigning your current one, the sitemap should be in your mind from the planning stages right up until going live. It can help you to figure out which pages are the most important to you, and can also add great SEO value long after your site has gone live. Our free sitemap template should help you build the basics for your project - download it below!