How to Create an SEO-Boosting XML Sitemap in 20 Minutes (or Less)

How to Create an SEO-Boosting XML Sitemap in 20 Minutes (or Less)

When it comes to SEO and marketing, I like quick and easy wins.

Even though I’m committed to the long journey of blogging (10+ years and counting), I’d much rather push a few buttons and pull a few levers to get more traffic.

Low effort. Big wins. That’s where I like to be.

And, thankfully, there are some SEO techniques that deliver high value for low effort.

I want to share with you one of those techniques — creating an XML sitemap.

Now before you run away after reading the term “XML sitemap,” let me give you some good news.

Even though an XML sitemap is on the “technical” side of SEO, it’s not hard to make one. And, really, it’s not that “technical” either.

In fact, in just a few minutes you could create a really good XML sitemap. You don’t have to know how to code. You just have to know how to click.

It’s free. It’s easy. It’s relatively simple, and it can improve your SEO.

Ready to give it a try?

What, Exactly, is an XML Sitemap?

What is an XML sitemap?

In simple terms, it’s a list of a website’s URLs.

That’s why it’s called a sitemap. It maps out how the website is structured and what pages the website includes.

(“XML” stands for “Extensible Markup Language,” a way of displaying information on websites.)

That’s what an XML sitemap is, but why should you even have one? What’s the purpose?

What’s the Purpose of an XML Sitemap?

Search engines use crawlers to organize and index information on the web.

These crawlers can read all kinds of information. But an XML sitemap makes it easy for the crawler to see what’s on your website and index it.

Once it does this, your website has a stronger likelihood of improving its rank quickly.

Essentially, an XML sitemap serves as a table of contents for your website, allowing the crawler to get the essentials and index your site accordingly.

A well-structured sitemap can do even more, however.

Sitemaps tell search engines when a page was updated, the frequency of updates to the page, the relative importance of pages within a website, and how to find and index content that may be found deep within the site’s structure.

Here’s what the information looks like in a sitemap:

  • Where the page is located on the website (its URL): http://www.example.com/mypage
  • When the page was last changed: 2013-10-10
  • How often the page is changed: monthly
  • What priority the page has in relationship to other pages on the site: 1

These features are important, especially considering the amount of unauthorized syndication that takes place with content today.

If you aren’t using a sitemap, your website could be seen as containing duplicate content, which isn’t good for SEO.

More importantly, however, a sitemap is a fast way to get indexed by Google.

With a sitemap, you can tell Google, “Look, this is my site, and here are the pages I want you to index.”

Within minutes (usually), Google will crawl your site and index your content.

What Are the Benefits of an XML Sitemap?

If you’re wondering, “Hmm. Do I really need a sitemap? Should I go to all that trouble?” I want to persuade you to, yes, do it. It only takes a few minutes, and the benefits are enormous.

Consider these benefits of an XML sitemap:

  • It tells Google to crawl and index your website.
  • It tells Google what to crawl on your website.
  • The XML sitemap tells Google what kind of information is on your website.
  • The XML sitemap tells Google when your content was updated (which could result in more favorable or “fresh” rankings).
  • It tells Google how often your content is updated and how important it is.
  • The XML sitemap helps your website instantly gain indexation for dynamically-generated pages.
  • It helps you overcome the limitations of a website with weak internal linking.
  • It helps your site overcome the challenge of not yet having a strong external link profile.
  • It helps huge sites gain better and more organized indexation.
  • The XML sitemap helps Google crawl your website more effectively.
  • It shows Google all the pages on your website, even if they are deep within the architecture and might not otherwise be crawled as quickly.

If you’re ready to get started on creating your own XML sitemap, we’ll follow a three-step process:

  1. Create your XML sitemap.
  2. Add your XML sitemap to your website.
  3. Submit your XML sitemap to Google.

(I’ll also show you how to submit your Sitemap to Bing and Yandex as well)

The remainder of this article will address each of those points, along with one final step, using Ubersuggest to find potential sitemap errors.

Create an XML Sitemap Using Screaming Frog (for any Website)

You can use Screaming Frog to create an XML sitemap for any website. It doesn’t matter what CMS you’re using, what size the website is, or your website’s age.

In fact, you don’t even need to own the website or have login access to it to create the sitemap.

Is there a cost associated with this? Screaming Frog, the tool we’ll use, provides free crawling for up to 500 pages. To crawl websites larger than 500 pages, you will need to purchase a Screaming Frog license.

About Screaming Frog

If you do not have Screaming Frog yet, you need to install it first. You can do so here.

Screaming Frog is a powerful desktop software program that helps with a whole range of SEO activities.

The basic version is free. The full version (with license purchase) costs £149.00 per year (around $180 USD or €170 euro).

In this section, I’ll walk you through how to create an XML sitemap for any website using the free version of Screaming Frog.

First, open Screaming Frog.

Then, type your URL into the field at the top.

Click “Start.”

Depending on your website’s size, it will take from a few minutes to a few hours to crawl the site.

For a site like NeilPatel.com (6,600+ pages), it takes a while to crawl, but not too long. I’ve worked on some large e-commerce websites with millions of URLs. These take hours to crawl.

When the site has finished crawling, it will display “100” in the status bar.

Now, click “Sitemaps” in the menu bar.

Click “Create XML Sitemap.”

Next, you’ll need to choose which sections of your website you want to include in the XML sitemap.

At first glance, this may seem confusing, especially if you’re not sure what “Noindex” or “canonicalised” means.

Here is a brief explanation of each one:

  • Include Noindex Pages: Noindex pages contain HTML code in the header telling the search engines not to include the page in the search index. If your developer has set certain pages as “Noindex,” it is probably with good cause. When in doubt, do not check this box.
  • Include Canonicalised: There may be more than one URL pointing to the same page of content. If you “include canonicalized,” you are telling the crawl tool to include variations of the URLs that point to the same page. If in doubt, leave this unchecked.
  • Include Paginated URLs: A paginated URL is one that includes rel= attributes (rel=“prev” and “next”) to navigate through a series of content on a website. Unless you’re careful with it, pagination can be a bit dangerous for SEO. I recommend that you do not check this box.
  • Include PDFs: You can choose whether or not you want PDFs included in your XML sitemap. Google indexes all kinds of content, PDFs included. I recommend that you do include PDFs in your XML sitemap, as long as the PDFs on your website are important and relevant to users who might be searching for your content.

Remember this basic idea. A sitemap is for SEO. If you want someone to find the page on your website, you want to include it in the sitemap.

For my purposes, I’m going to include PDFs.

The tabs “Last Modified,” “Priority,” and “Change Frequency” deal with the date and time that website pages were modified and the settings.

Unless you have a knowledge of these settings, please leave them as they are by default.

I think it’s a good idea to include images in a sitemap, so I’m going to add those to my sitemap.

Click the “Images” tab.

Then, click “Include Images.” The third box (“Include only relevant Images with up to 10 inlinks”) will automatically be checked.

Then, click “Next.”

You’ll be prompted to save your XML sitemap on your computer. Find a good place to save it, and click “Save.”

Congratulations! You’ve created an XML sitemap!

You’ll now need to upload this file to your website via FTP. You may already know how to do this.

If you don’t know how to upload the XML sitemap to your website, check with a developer to determine what process you should follow for your specific server and/or CMS.

But creating a sitemap is only the first step. A sitemap means nothing unless you submit it to the search engines.

Skip down to the section “Submit your XML sitemap to Google” to learn how to do it.

Create an XML Sitemap Using Yoast (WordPress Only)

Yoast is one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress. Yoast makes it easy to create and submit an XML sitemap.

I’ll explain how to do it step-by-step, but first, here’s what you need:

  • You must be using a WordPress.org site.
  • You must have the Yoast plugin installed. (It’s free.)
  • Your website must be connected to Google Search Console.

Most websites already have those three things in place. If you’re ready, let’s jump in.

Login to Your WordPress Admin

Note: In the screenshots below, my WordPress admin might look a little bit different from yours. That shouldn’t keep you from being able to follow each step.

What we’re going to do first is make sure that the Yoast plugin is all ready to create a sitemap for you. To do so, we’ll need to turn on Yoast’s advanced settings.

Click on the Yoast Plugin

It has a “Y” icon, and says “SEO.” It should be located in the left sidebar.

Click the “Dashboard” option.

From the Dashboard, click “Features.”

From the Features tab, look for “XML sitemaps” and make sure it is toggled to “On.”

Now, scroll to the bottom and click “Save Changes.”

If you want to customize your sitemap, learn how here. For example, you might want to exclude pages that aren’t public.

In general, however, the sitemap Yoast generates tends to be pretty solid.

Now, it’s time to submit this to Google.

How to Submit Your XML Sitemap to Google

Now it’s time to do something valuable with your sitemap — submit it to Google.

To do this, you’ll need to have Google Search Console connected to your website. Check out this Google guide for instructions on doing so.

First, go to Google Search Console and select your website.

From the dashboard, click “Sitemaps.”

Click “Add a new Sitemap.”

Enter the URL where you’ve saved your sitemap. It should end with “.xml” since it’s an XML file.

Click “Submit.”

Then use the Sitemaps report to make sure there are no errors. (I’ll also cover another method below.)

Once that’s completed, Google takes care of the rest. Your sitemap allows Google to quickly and seamlessly index your site, helping to boost your rankings.

How to Submit Your XML Sitemap to Bing & Yandex

Google is the largest search engine — but it isn’t the only one. To get the most mileage out of your XML sitemap, I suggest submitting it to Bing and Yandex. Here’s how:

Submit Sitemap to Bing

Bing is Microsoft’s answer to Google. It has a much smaller market share (just over 6%). However, more than 900 million unique users visit Bing a month. Submitting a sitemap to Bing is a breeze, so it’s worth the few minutes to reach their audience.

To submit your sitemap to Bing, login to your Dashboard in Webmaster tools. Find the Sitemaps widget and click “Submit a Sitemap.”

Enter the URL location of your file, and click “Submit.” That’s it!

Submit a Sitemap to Yandex

Yandex is Russia’s version of Google. In Russia, Yandex dominates more than 55% of the search market. It also provides email, streaming music, and online payment services. Like Bing, submitting a sitemap only takes a few minutes, so it’s worth the effort to reach a wider audience.

Here’s how to submit your sitemap to Yandex:

Head to to Sitemaps files page, and choose your site from the list.

Add the URL of your sitemap.

Click add.

It will take about two weeks for your sitemap to load. You’ll want to check back and make sure it is uploaded properly; if it says “OK,” then you are good to go. If you see “Redirect,” try uploading the file again.

If you see “error” or “not indexed”, you’ll need to troubleshoot. Use this guide from Yandex to figure out what is going on.

Use Ubersuggest to Check Your XML Sitemap Errors

If you follow the steps above, you shouldn’t have any sitemap errors. But just because you shouldn’t, doesn’t mean you won’t.

Here’s how you can use Ubersuggest to check for sitemap errors:

Step #1: Enter your domain name and click “Search.”

Step #2: Click site audit in the left sidebar.

Step #3: Review the results.

To find issues with your sitemap, review the data associated with the health check, critical errors, warnings, and recommendations.

For example, when you click on Critical Errors, here’s what you see for my website:

There are no issues with my sitemap, but if there were, here’s where you’d find more information. In addition to the issues itself, there’s a learn more button that takes you to:

You can then follow the prompts for more guidance on how to fix the error.

Use Ubersuggest to check the health of your sitemap regularly. Doing so once or twice a month will only take a few minutes out of your schedule, but it can go a long way in improving your website’s SEO.

Conclusion

A lot of small business owners and web entrepreneurs get afraid when they hear the term “XML sitemap.”

It sounds jargony and code-like. If you’re not an SEO nerd or a computer geek, how do you figure out how to create and submit an XML sitemap?

As it turns out, it’s not that hard.

Creating a sitemap using a program like Screaming Frog or Yoast takes ten minutes or less.

If you know nothing about sitemaps, and need to go through the whole process for the first time, no problem. Walking through the entire process from start to finish may take, at most, twenty minutes.

The SEO benefits, however, will be enormous.

If you’ve never created an XML sitemap for your website, my advice is simple: Get one made today.

Then, perform a technical SEO audit to see what other issues might be lurking on your site.

You can do it. I’ve got your back.

What’s your experience creating an XML sitemap? How has it helped your site’s SEO?

Create a Privacy Policy in Minutes with Website Policies

Create a Privacy Policy in Minutes with Website Policies

Having a website is a lot like having a business. It’s something you own, build with time and care for like it was your only child. At the same time, a website can also come with the liabilities and frustrations of a real business — especially if you are selling products or services through your site or making money.

Just like many businesses have policies in place, you site should have them as well. However, most site owners have no idea what policies they need, how to create them and how to make sure they match with the content and purpose of their site. Another frustration is that if you want to hire a lawyer to create a professional iron clad and customized policy written up for your site. This in itself could cost thousands of dollars!

Good news! There are better alternatives when it comes to creating necessary policies for your site, and I’m not talking about going to your favorite site and stealing theirs! While this may work for some sites and never become an issue, should anything arise in the future you will want to make sure your policies line up with the same practices that are happening when someone visits your site.

Website Policies is an easy to use service that creates free and customized policies for your site. Best of all, you can set one up for your site in just a few minutes time and it’s dead simple/

Website Policies – How to Create a Site Policy in Minutes

Rarely do we find websites or online services that actually back up their statements and offer what they say they will, or come with the ease that anyone can use it. That is what you will get with Website Policies, as it’s a simple series of questions built around the structure of your site and how user information is accessed. After pulling all of this information together, Website Policies will then provide you with a downloadable site policy that you can post to your site right away.

As mentioned earlier, it’s easy to visit one of your top competitor sites and steal their policies. Theoretically, all you would need to do is replace their site name and information with yours. However, as I also mentioned, this really isn’t going to work if you want to protect your site should an issue arise in the future. Every site collects and uses user data differently, which is why most policies are created in the first place.

With Website Policies it’s easy to create a policy for your site that matches up with your site practices because each user is walked through a questionnaire, which breaks down the fine details of your site. Depending on the policy you are creating, these questions will vary. The important thing is that you answer them all to your best of knowledge so you policy well repents your site.

To get started, let’s cover each of the policies offered through WebsitePolicies.com.

Privacy Policy

A privacy policy is one of the most common policies that you will need to have on your site. Such policies are required on any website or blog that “gathers, uses, discloses and manages a customer or client’s data.”. Not only does Google look at your site want to see a privacy policy in place, most sites are also required by law to protect the privacy of your customer or client. Even if your site isn’t selling anything, a site visitor still falls under the same guidelines.

To get started with the process of creating a privacy policy, all you need to do is visit the Website Policies site, click Privacy Policy and start walking through their site policy questionnaire.

The beginning process of each policy wizard will start off with your basic site information (such as location, site name and URL) and if your site is used for commercial purposes

The next set of questions to create your privacy policy will be more focused on the content and data collection on your site, such as if users can create accounts, which advertisers are on your site, how cookie data is collected… and more.

The good news is that the process will only take a few minutes time and once you are done with the process, you likely won’t need to create or update your policies for quite a while.

After finishing the questionnaire, you will then be able to create an account with Website Policies and download your policy for use on your own site. The policy can be downloaded in HTML code, plain text or even hosted through WebsitePolicies.com for a quick reference.

Terms of Service Policy

Terms of Service policies are in place to describe the rules a site visitor much follow should they wish to continue using your site. Nearly every website you visit will have one of these policies in place, and by continuing to use that website, you are in agreement with their TOS policy. A Terms of Service policy is also in place to legally protect both the website and the website user by clearly outlining those rules.

As for creating a Terms of Service policy, the process is nearly identical to the one above. The main difference is that you will have a unique set of questions to answer to help create a TOS policy to match your site.

Such questions asking during the Terms of Service policy creation process are whether users are allowed to create and publish content to your site or if your content has an age restriction. Another difference is the ability to add multiple disclaimers within your policy. This option might be used if you have different areas to your site or if you want to include statements about indemnification, dispute resolution, intellectual property rights and prohibited uses.

Refund Policy

A Refund policy should be in place for all e-commerce driven site or if you sell any products or service. This would also be true for online marketers and bloggers who might be selling consulting services, ebooks, guides, courses or anything where a transaction takes place. Even if your “transaction provider” (like Paypal) has policies on their sites, you will still want to have these for your own site as well.

Not only will having a Refund policy on your site keep it legally compliant, it will also allow your audiences and customers to better understand how, why and when a customer may request a refund. For example, most online stores have a 30 or 60-day money back guarantee, however, without a Refund policy in place you would never know that. Within the Refund policy you will also find information about money back guarantees, transaction fees, shipping costs and customer service.

Again, Website Policies makes the process amazingly simple, as they provide all of the questions and you simply need to select the right answer that matches your site.

The Cost to Create a Website Policy

Every website needs to have a privacy, terms of service and refund policy (if selling) in place. The only question is how each site will generate a policy to represent their site.

For websites that are for informational or personal use, you can create your website policies through WebsitePolicies.com for free. Visit their site, walk through the policy creation process, add it to your site and then you are done! Each policy comes with a free license and all that’s required of you is to leave the credit backlink to WebsitePolicies.com in place.

For commercial websites there is a $14.95 one-time fee for creating site policies and obtaining a commercial license. Any site that sells products or services would fall under being commercial. If you are unsure if your site is commercial, the policy wizard on the site will let you know.

You never know when an unexpected disaster may strike! Take the time to create a professional policy for your site today.

Create Stunning Instagram Stories in 3 Minutes with StoryBoost

Create Stunning Instagram Stories in 3 Minutes with StoryBoost

Create Stunning Instagram Stories in 3 Minutes with StoryBoost

Written by Zac Johnson

Instagram is all about engagement and the content value perceived by the end user. However, as more influencers and brands are catching in on the latest and greatest ways to create amazing content for their audience, it’s also getting harder to stand out from the crowd.

Think for a moment about the best speakers in the world today. Famous names like Tony Robbins, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King and Oprah likely all come to mind — and the reason for this is that they are all great storytellers.

Now, think about some of the best brands and influencers you might be following on Instagram. They are likely great at creating content that tells a story as well.

With more than 500 million active users on Instagram, it’s now more important than ever to create content that grabs the attention of your audience.

The problem is, not everybody knows how to market their product on social media. Have you been listening to what’s going on out there? I mean, is it just me or is it getting crazier out there (Yes, I watched Joker, and I loved it!)

There are so many “best practices” to keep up with that you don’t even know if what you’re doing is right.

StoryBoost: Story Editor

StoryBoost is a mobile application that makes the process of creating content for Instagram easier, and more effective than ever before — and best of all, in just a few minutes time.

After downloading the app, users will have access to more than 1000+ templates to choose from, while also being able to add in unique animations, stickers and filters, animated text and more.

Within a few moments time you will start to see how easy it is to create new and engaging content for your Instagram feed, while also using the tools and features offered through StoryBoost to make your content stand out.

Best of all, you will be able to tell your story and build a brand that you’re proud of — while also impressing your fans, followers, and customers!

It’s also important to note that StoryBoost is part of the suite of apps called ‘BoostApps‘ — which is also accessible through the App Store. The other two applications that make up the complete bundle are VideoBoost and PosterBoost, which are both focusing on providing users and brands with the best tools and features to create video and image content that stands out from the crowd.

The BoostApps suite has set out on a mission to make their users’ lives a lot easier, by implementing into their app all of today’s best practices in digital marketing. That way, their users can rest assured that the content they create is aligned with the latest trends in social media marketing.

So without further ado, let’s dive in.

How StoryBoost Works

As powerful and effective as StoryBoost is, the process to create amazing and engaging content through the app is quite simple.

It can literally be broken down in the following four steps:

Pick the Perfect Template

First thing first, you will need to choose a template from the 1,000+ designs that are pre-built into the application. Go for one that best represents your brand, or choose a stylish one that best exemplifies whatever it is you might be trying to sell or promote.

Add Photos, Videos, Text and Stickers

Now it’s time to add some original content into the mix. Tap the + icons inside the template placements to add in your own photos or videos.

Add some stickers or GIFs. 

You can also add unique and call to action headlines in this step as well.

Add Filters to Your Photos

If there’s anything we know about Instagram, it’s that we can’t live without filters! Once you add your photos to the Story templates, tap the photo and click the edit icon and choose your preferred filter.

Add Animations and Transitions

Make your latest engagement and photos pop with the addition of unique and fun animations that will act as transitions between your Stories! Tap the icon that connects the steps of your Story and just pick one of the transitions in the animation library!

This is one of StoryBoost’s most appealing features, as it helps your followers experience your brand as a professional content creator, which channels authority and strengthens your brand.

Share with Your Audience

The last step of the process is to take a moment and be amazed with the awesome new content you’ve created through the mobile application. Oh yea… you also now get to share it with your Instagram audience as well, and get to see how much they love it!

Tap the upload/share icon on the top right corner of the screen to share your post or simply save the story in your video library.

Now… let’s put all of this in motion.

Once your content has been posted to your social profile, be sure to keep an eye on what type of templates and animations get the most engagement. Not only is this great for split testing and tracking user preference, it’s also great for future planning as well. Analyze which posts are getting the most likes, shares, and comments and then use this data to influence new ideas on what type of content to create for your audience in the coming weeks months.

Bring Your Content and Story to Life with StoryBoost

Now that you’ve seen what’s possible through the use of StoryBoost, it’s time to see what type of content you can create for your own site, brand, or online business.

To get started, all you need to do is head over to the iOS mobile app store, or search for “StoryBoost” on your mobile device or tablet.

With over a hundred reviews, thousands of downloads and a Product Hunt badge, the application is already listed amongst the top apps in the Photo & Video category, and currently has a 4.2 star rating out of 5 along with the app store’s “Editors’ Choice” award.

Pricing

StoryBoost is free to download and has in-app purchases for even more features to improve how your content looks and feels when posted to the Instagram platform.

You can subscribe to StoryBoost Premium, which offers unlimited access to all templates and page-to-page animations. Three payment options are available, which are monthly, annually, and lifetime.

Be sure to try the StoryBoost app out for free to see what features you like best, then decide on an access plan that works best for you and your brand.

Download the StoryBoost app today, and see what type of creative content you can start creating for your social audience.

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