Writing by Brick Marketing in Internet Marketing
This might not be the most confusing/abstract SEO term you’ve come across—then again maybe it is, depending on your familiarity with SEO and web design—but it is a critical (and the final!) step towards having a fully optimized website.
Usually noted as www.examplewebsite.com/sitemap.xml, the XML Sitemap is basically a directory that allows search spiders to find and index every single page of your website. It’s kind of like a one-stop-shop for search engines. It helps them find the pages they might have otherwise missed. If you’ve taken the time to optimize each page, you don’t want all your hard work to be negated because the search spider overlooked it! To human eyes, it just looks like jibberish (also known as code), but search spiders can see the keywords and understand the complete layout of your site.
Note: There is no need to create an internal link to the Sitemap for users to find. It doesn’t help the site visitor in any way. It is purely for the search engines and their crawlers.
You should create an XML Sitemap at the very end of your website optimization because it is going to be created off of your internal linking structure. If you try to create it while you are still developing pages and content, the Sitemap may not include them. There are plenty of online Sitemap generators available if you don’t have a web designer to do the work for you.
Once you’ve created and published the XML Sitemap, you should submit it through the Google Webmaster Tools. All you need is a free Google account. (Having the Google account also gets you access to the other Google Webmaster Tools like AdSense and Analytics). The same file should also work if you want to index your site with Bing and Yahoo! Now your site is fully indexed.
Before you can really begin any other forms of SEO, you have to take the time and complete a full on-site optimization of your website. Creating and submitting an XML Sitemap is the last step in that process.
For more information, check out the Google Webmaster page about Sitemaps.