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5 Easy Steps to Creating a Sitemap For a Website

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When it comes to getting your website ranked, you need to take advantage of as many SEO hacks as possible. Creating a sitemap is one technique that will definitely help improve your SEO strategy.

What is a sitemap?

Some of you may be more familiar with this than others. I’ll give you a quick crash course on the basics of sitemaps before I show you how to build a website sitemap on your own.

Simply put, a sitemap, or XML sitemap, is a list of different pages on a website. XML is short for “extensible markup language,” which is a way to display information on a site.

I’ve consulted with so many website owners who are intimidated by this concept because sitemaps are considered a technical component of SEO. But in all reality, you don’t need to be a tech wizard or have a tech background to create a sitemap. As you’ll learn shortly, it’s really not that difficult.

Why do you need a sitemap?

Search engines like Google are committed to displaying the most relevant results to people for any given search query. In order do this effectively, they use site crawlers to read, organize, and index information on the Internet.

XML sitemaps make it easier for search engine crawlers to read the content on your site and index the pages accordingly. As a result, this increases your chances of boosting the SEO ranking of your website.

Your sitemap will tell search engines the location of a page on your website, when it was updated, the updating frequency, and the importance of the page as it’s related to other pages on your site. Without a proper sitemap, Google bots might think that your site has duplicate content, which will actually hurt your SEO ranking.

If you’re ready for your website to get indexed faster by search engines, just follow these five easy steps to create a sitemap.

Step 1: Review the structure of your pages

The first thing you need to do is look at the existing content on your website and see how everything is structured.

Look at a sitemap template and figure out how your pages would be displayed on the table.

website sitemap template

This is a very basic example that’s easy to follow.

It all starts from the homepage. Then you have to ask yourself where your homepage links to. You likely already have this figured out based on the menu options on your site.

But when it comes to SEO, not all pages are created equal. You have to keep the depth of your website in mind when you’re doing this. Recognize that the pages further away from your site’s homepage will be harder to rank for.

According to Search Engine Journal, you should aim to create a sitemap that has a shallow depth, meaning it only takes three clicks to navigate to any page on your website. That’s much better for SEO purposes.

So you need to create a hierarchy of pages based on importance and how you want them to be indexed. Prioritize your content into tiers that follow a logical hierarchy. Here’s an example to show you what I’m talking about.

page hierarchy

As you can see, the About page links to Our Team as well as Mission & Values. Then the Our Team page links to Management and Contact Us.

The About Us page is the most important, which is why it’s part of the top-level navigation. It wouldn’t make sense to have the management page be prioritized at the same level as Products, Pricing, and Blogs, which is why it falls under third-level content.

Similarly, if the Basic pricing package was positioned above the Compare Packages page, it would throw the logical structure out of whack.

So use these visual sitemap templates to determine the organization of your pages. Some of you may already have a structure that makes sense but just needs some slight tweaking.

Remember, you want to try to set it up so every page can be reached in three clicks.

Step 2: Code your URLs

Now that you’ve gone through and identified the importance of each page and matched that importance in your site structure, it’s time to code those URLs.

The way to do this is by formatting each URL with XML tags. If you have any experience with HTML coding, this will be a breeze for you. As I said earlier, the “ML” in XML stands for markup language, which is the same for HTML.

Even if this is new to you, it’s not that tough to figure it out. Start by getting a text editor where you can create an XML file.

Sublime Text is a great option for you to consider.

sublime text editor

Then add the corresponding code for each URL.

  • location
  • last changed
  • changed frequency
  • priority of page

Here are some examples of how the code will look for each one.

  • http://www.examplesite.com/page1
  • 2019-1-10
  • weekly
  • 2

Take your time and make sure you go through this properly. The text editor makes your life much easier when it comes to adding this code, but it still requires you to be sharp.

Step 3: Validate the code

Any time you code manually, human error is possible. But, for your sitemap to function properly, you can’t have any mistakes in the coding.

Fortunately, there are tools that will help validate your code to ensure the syntax is correct. There’s software available online that can help you do this. Just run a quick Google search for sitemap validation, and you’ll find something.

I like to use the XML Sitemap Validator tool.

xml sitemap generator

This will point out any errors in your code.

For example, if you forget to add an end tag or something like that, it can quickly be identified and fixed.

Step 4: Add your sitemap to the root and robots.txt

Locate the root folder of your website and add the sitemap file to this folder.

Doing this will actually add the page to your site as well. This is not a problem at all. As a matter of fact, lots of websites have this. Just type in a website and add “/sitemap/” to the URL and see what pops up.

Here’s an example from the Apple website.

apple sitemap

Notice the structure and logical hierarchy of each section. This relates back to what we discussed in the first step.

Now, this can be taken one step further. You can even look at the code on different websites by adding “/sitemap.xml” to the URL.

Here’s what that looks like on the HubSpot website.

hubspot sitemap

In addition to adding the sitemap file to your root folder, you’ll also want to add it to the robots.txt file. You’ll find this in the roots folder as well.

Basically, this to give instructions for any crawlers indexing your website.

There are a couple of different uses for the robots.txt folder. You can set this up to show search engines URLs that you don’t want them to index when they’re crawling on your site.

Let’s go back to Apple and see what their robots.txt page looks like.

robots.txt

As you can see, they have “disallow” for several pages on their site. So crawlers ignore these.

apple sitemap files

However, Apple also includes their sitemap files on here as well.

Not everyone you ask will tell you to add your sitemaps to the robots.txt file. So I’ll let you decide that for yourself.

With that said, I’m definitely a firm believer in following the best practices of successful websites and businesses. If a giant like Apple uses this, it can’t be too bad of an idea for you to consider.

Step 5: Submit your sitemap

Now that your sitemap has been created and added to your site files, it’s time to submit them to search engines.

In order to do this, you need to go through Google Search Console. Some of you may already have this set up. If not, you can get started very easily.

Once you’re on the search console dashboard, navigate to Crawl > Sitemaps.

Google search console

Next, click on Add/Test Sitemap on the top right corner of the screen.

This is a chance for you to test your sitemap again for any errors before you continue. Obviously, you’ll want to fix any mistakes found. Once your sitemap is free of errors, click submit and that’s it. Google will handle everything else from here. Now crawlers will index your site with ease, which will boost your SEO ranking.

Alternative options

While these five steps are pretty simple and straightforward, some of you might be a little uncomfortable manually changing the code on your website. That’s perfectly understandable. Fortunately for you, there are plenty of other solutions that can create a sitemap for you, without having to edit the code yourself.

I’ll go through some of the top options for you to consider.

Yoast plugin

If you have a WordPress website, you can install the Yoast plugin to create a sitemap for your website.

Yoast gives you the option to turn your sitemap on and off with a simple toggle switch. You can find all of your XML sitemap options from the SEO tab via WordPress once the plugin has been installed.

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is desktop software that offers a wide range of SEO tools. It’s free to use and generate a sitemap as long as the website has fewer than 500 pages. For those of you with larger websites, you’ll need to upgrade the paid version.

Screaming Frog allows you to make all of the coding changes that we talked about earlier, but without actually changing the code yourself. Instead, you follow a prompt that’s much more user-friendly, and written in plain English. Then the code for the sitemap file will be changed automatically. Here’s a screenshot to show you what I mean.

screaming frog configuration

Just navigate through the tabs, change your settings, and the sitemap file will be adjusted accordingly.

Slickplan

I really like Slickplan because of the visual sitemap builder feature. You’ll have the opportunity to use a sitemap template, similar to the ones we looked at earlier.

From here, you can drag and drop different pages into the template to organize the structure of your website. Once you’re done, and you’re happy with the way your visual sitemap looks, you can export it as an XML file.

Slickplan is paid software, but they offer a free trial. It’s at least worth trying if you’re on the fence about purchasing a plan.

Conclusion

If you’re ready to take your SEO strategy to the next level, you need to create a sitemap for your website.

There is no reason to be intimidated by this anymore. As you can see from this guide, it’s easy to create a sitemap in just five steps.

  1. Review your pages
  2. Code the URLs
  3. Validate your code
  4. Add the sitemap to the root and robots.txt
  5. Submit the sitemap

That’s it!

For those of you who are still on the fence about manually changing code on your website, there are other options for you to consider. The Internet is full of sitemap resources, but the Yoast plugin, Screaming Frog, and Slickplan are all great choices to start.

Which pages are you going to prioritize for your website’s sitemap?

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No, Content Marketing Is Not a ‘Soft Skill’

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We tend to divide business writers into two types. “Hard” writers are the conversion copywriters. The gangsters, the ones who…

The post No, Content Marketing Is Not a ‘Soft Skill’ appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Why You Should Consider Scrapping This Unoriginal Type of Content

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I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. My personal resolutions always feel contrived, so several years ago I just stopped…

The post Why You Should Consider Scrapping This Unoriginal Type of Content appeared first on Copyblogger.

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The Power of No: How This One Little Word Will Change Your Life

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no

When I started my journey as an entrepreneur, I made a huge mistake. And sadly, it took me years to figure out what I was doing wrong.

The issue with this mistake is that it isn’t obvious. Not just entrepreneurs, but people, in general, make it for the majority of their lives.

Can you guess what that mistake is?

I was a people pleaser. I kept saying “yes.” Especially when it came to business.

The moment I stopped saying yes, things started to change. I started to make more money, my customers were happier, people stopped trying to walk all over me, and my team members were happier with me.

I know what you are thinking… this sounds crazy, right? By telling people what they don’t want to hear everything miraculously gets better?

Sounds too good to be true…

Well, here’s how it works.

Why do you say “yes?”

Well, the reason you say yes is probably the same reason I also said yes.

You want to please people.

And if you keep saying yes, believe it or not, it won’t make them happy. In fact, it will make them more upset.

Of course, there is a time and place to say yes to people, but not always. Sometimes people ask for things that are unrealistic.

A lot of the time it is asking for a drastic discount on your product or service… a discount that will make you lose money.

Or sometimes a boss may ask you to complete a task within a very tight deadline that you know isn’t possible.

Now think about it this way: when you say yes just to please people it will make things worse.

For example, when it comes to reducing the price or your service so much that you’ll lose money, it won’t motivate you to help out your client. And even more important, you won’t be able to spend the time and energy your client will need because you’re losing money.

This means that not only will you regret your decision, but they will be upset with you because of the poor performance.

Same goes with your boss. If he or she asks you to meet a tight deadline that isn’t possible, and you agree to it and miss the deadline, they are going to be upset with you.

In other words, saying yes when you shouldn’t might make people happy with you temporarily, but in the long run, they are going to be disappointed and, in many cases, angry with you.

So, what should you say instead of yes?

No!

It really is that simple. All you have to do is say no.

Of course, you’ll have to explain why, but it’s a very powerful word that won’t make people upset with you as long as you use it right.

For example, with my ad agency, Neil Patel Digital, people ask for discounts all of the time.

Can you guess what my sales team says?

No!

But they say it nicely and usually tell potential customers….

We can’t go down in price. We charge this much because we know what it takes to provide results, and if we went down in price, we won’t be able to provide you with the service you are expecting.

I know it may make you feel a bit uncomfortable to be this direct but you need to. It will do wonders for you and your business.

Even when your boss asks you to complete a task that isn’t realistic, you should say something like…

I want to help you get the task done, and I don’t mind working extra hours, but it won’t be feasible for me to meet your deadline. The reason being is because of X, Y, and Z. If it is more important to complete this task than the current tasks I am working on, I can always push them back if you are open to it. Or if we can reduce the scope of the project, I may be able to get it done within Y timeframe.

When it comes to your boss, you’ll want to be creative.

Instead of just saying “no” you’ll want to come up with possible solutions. Your boss may not like any of the solutions but being proactive and thinking outside of the box at least shows your boss that you are trying to do what’s best for the company.

Now let me forewarn you when it comes to saying no to your boss…

If you are truly right, there is no issue with saying no. But if you are lazy and a slow worker and other people can get the task done within the time they are proposing, then things aren’t going to work out for you.

In other words, don’t just use the word no because you are lazy and don’t want to do extra work. Use it when it really makes sense.

How does this help with sales?

Have you ever heard the saying… “play hard to get.”

From a psychological standpoint, we have a higher perceived value for things that may be out of reach. In other words, saying no makes you seem more desirable because you are making yourself a bit more out of reach.

To give you an example of this, I was once in a meeting in New York where someone offered me a job.

It didn’t make sense for me to take the job as I have a business that I love. So I said no.

Their response was…

Well, you don’t even know what I am going to offer you… so just hear me out.

They then made me an offer of a million-dollar salary.

I kindly responded with, I appreciate the offer, but I am still going to decline.

And you know what they said next?

They offered me $2,000,000.

I said no, but I offered to help find them someone for free who might be a good fit.

Long story short, they weren’t happy with my response and they offered me all the way up to a $4,500,000 annual base salary plus bonuses.

And of course, I still said no.

You’re probably not going to have the same experience as me (at least not yet if you are starting out), but when you start saying no you’ll have similar experiences.

People will more likely work with you and pay your price if you hold your ground.

See, here’s the big issue with saying yes in sales when people are asking for more or want to pay less:

The moment you say yes, the first thing that goes through their mind is “what else can I get?” And they’ll keep asking more and it won’t stop.

Then you’ll find yourself with a deal that doesn’t make sense for you.

So, do yourself a favor and start saying no, especially when it comes to sales.

Why should you tell your customers no?

Similar to sales, once people join as a customer it’s a slippery slope to keep telling them yes.

The moment your clients sees you move an inch, they’ll take a mile.

So, when they start asking for you to do things out the scope, you should say no. Even when they are small things as it will lead to bigger asks in the future.

Now, I am not saying that you shouldn’t keep your clients happy. You should provide the product or service they paid for. And every once in a while, if you want to go above and beyond for them… you should. But it should be you making that decision and not them asking for you to make it.

Just for a moment, think about what I just said…

If you want to go above and beyond for your customer or client when they aren’t expecting, that’s fine and it will make you look good. But if your customer is asking for you to go above and beyond, it will set a bad precedent.

Why it’s ok to tell your co-workers no

Out of all of them, this is the trickiest one because you don’t want to create a bad work environment and have people hate you.

But if people are having you do stuff that isn’t the best for the business and it doesn’t logically make sense, there is nothing wrong with saying no.

I will warn you though, just saying “no” and providing no explanation or alternative solutions will cause problems for you.

As long as your explanations are reasonable and logical you’ll be fine. Also, the reasons need to be best for the business as well. In addition, you’ll need to provide alternative solutions… this is the key as it shows you are a team player and proactive.

You’ll want to make sure that you are thinking things through before you give your response.

People will respect your decision if it makes sense… maybe not right then and there, but in the long run, they will.

On the flip side, if you keep telling your co-workers no when they are right, or your boss no because you are lazy, you’ll probably get fired. Especially if you don’t give them alternative solutions.

So, you’ll need to be careful with this.

Conclusion

Stop saying yes to everything. All it will do is make your life miserable.

I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s true.

Over the next week, I want you to try something…

When someone asks you for something that is unreasonable, just say no. You should provide an explanation and potentially even provide an alternative solution.

Yes, this sounds crazy, but it works. Just like anything else, it takes practice and you’ll get better at it over time.

So, are you going to start saying “no” now?

The post The Power of No: How This One Little Word Will Change Your Life appeared first on Neil Patel.

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The Best Website Fonts That Go Together in 2019

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There are so many components to a killer website design. But all too often I see people overlook minor details, like typography.

I know what some of you might be thinking. How important can a website’s font really be?

Believe it or not, something as simple as choosing the right font can have a major impact on conversion. Plus, website fonts affect the overall appearance of your site.

Now it’s unlikely that you’ve been on a website and thought, “Wow! I absolutely love this font!”

This just isn’t something that our minds are trained to look for and I’m not expecting you to find a font that’s going to “wow” your website visitors. But, I can guarantee that you’ve been on websites that have fonts that were generic, unappealing, difficult to read, or felt out of place. You obviously don’t want people to have that impression of your website.

Why your website font matters

Here’s something to consider: different website fonts can change the reader’s perception of a particular topic.

Errol Morris conducted a survey in an article published in The New York Times in 2012. He included a passage from a book that claimed we live in an ear of unprecedented safety, and followed the passage up with two questions:

  1. Is the claim true? (yes or no)
  2. How confident are you with the answer? (slightly, moderately, very)

As it turns out, Morris didn’t care about anyone’s opinion. He just wanted to know if the font could influence their answers. Forty thousand people unknowingly participated in this experiment. While everyone read the same passage; they did not all see it in the same typography.

Check out these results.

Weighted Agreement

This graph shows all of the respondents who agreed to the first question. Morris took their levels of confidence in the second question and assigned a weighted value to each response.

In doing so, it’s clear that there was a difference between how confident people were in agreeing with the claims being made based on the font they were presented in. Now let’s look and see the results of respondents who disagreed with the passage.

Weighted Disagreement

Compare the two graphs. Do you notice any similarities?

As you can see, the Baskerville font was ranked highest for weighted agreement and lowest for weighted disagreement. Comic Sans font ranked lowest for weighted agreement, and ranked high for weighted disagreement.

Based on this data, Morris was able to conclude that fonts can influence the way people perceive information. Basically, the typeface can actually affect the credibility of your website.

In short — yes, website fonts matter.

The best Google Font pairings for 2019

You don’t want to have the same font everywhere on your site; that’s too boring. Mix it up! But make sure you pick fonts that go well together. I created this guide to help you do just that.

There are plenty of platforms for finding free fonts, but Google Fonts is my favorite. I identified the top Google Fonts pairings for 2019. So check out my list, and pick out a combination that works best for your website.

Open Sans and Roboto

Open Sans and Roboto Font

The header of this screenshot is Open Sans semi-bold. The paragraph below it is Roboto regular. I think the semi-bold header just ads a bit more punch than the regular weight of Open Sans, but it’s fine if you go with that option as well.

The reason why these fonts work so well together is because they are both crisp and extremely legible.

You’ve got lots of different options here to consider for your website design. This combination could be used to convey the value proposition on your homepage. Use the Open Sans header as a point of emphasis, and then elaborate on the subject using Roboto.

These fonts work well together if you swap them as well. You could use Roboto as the header, and Open Sans for the paragraph. In this case, I’d recommend going with Roboto medium, and Open Sans regular.

Playfair Display and Montserrat

Playfair Display and Montserrat Font

This font combination works best for shorter text on your website. I wouldn’t necessarily use it on a blog post or something like that.

However, this pairing is perfect for a product title and product description, especially for ecommerce shops in the fashion industry. The lighter weight font, like Montserrat light, gives the text a certain level of elegance that fits with a luxury brand persona.

Interestingly enough, if you swap the two and use Montserrat as the header, the persona changes to something that feels futuristic or techy. That combination can work well for some of you who are promoting a game, or even on a landing page to download your mobile gaming app.

Either way, these two fonts work well together. It depends on the theme and overall message that you’re going for on your website.

Lora and Alegreya

Lora and Alegreya Font

Lora bold is strong and legible, which is why it’s perfect for title pages. While the typography is powerful, it’s still friendly and inviting.

Alegreya regular compliments Lora really well, especially when used for captioning images.

While Alegreya is definitely legible, it can be challenging to read for long stretches, which is why it’s better for short text like captions or quick descriptions. I would not recommend experimenting with any other variations of Alegreya. Adding weight or italics to this font loses the legibility.

Now if you swap their positions, Alegreya bold works fine for title and header text. Lora regular is legible, so you could consider using it for longer text. I think this combination would be perfect for something like a customer testimonial or short case study.

Merriweather and Lato

Merriweather and Lato Font

Merriweather light and Lato regular is a very clean and professional combination.

It’s a popular choice because the options are so versatile. Merriweather light is modern, tasteful, and appealing. When it’s followed up with text written in Lato, the pairing feels trustworthy.

I’d recommend using this combination on your homepage. For those of you who have a design that involves scrolling to learn more information, this text combination will work perfectly. I’m picturing a website visitor scrolling down your home screen, seeing an image on the left side of the page and this font combination on the right. When they continue scrolling, the next image will be on the right, and the text will be on the left.

If this sounds like your current design, definitely consider using this combination to add a touch of professionalism to your content.

Amatic SC and Josefin Slab

Amatic SC and Josefin Slab Font

The font combination of Amatic SC bold and Josefin Slab italic is definitely not for everyone. I can’t say that I would recommend it to the majority of websites, but it’s an ideal combination for artsy websites. If you’re a musician, painter, or photographer, these fonts can be used sparingly on your pages.

The key here is to make sure that the text has plenty of space to breathe. I’d recommend using it against white or very light backgrounds. So check out my post on the top trending website color schemes of 2019 as well.

If you sell ceramics or sculptures, this font can be very appealing to your audience and fit nicely with the overall theme of your business.

Just make sure you don’t go overboard. Using too much of this on the screen is unappealing and challenging to read. So pick something else for longer blocks of text, such as your biography or about me pages.

Cinzel and Raleway

Cinzel and Raleway Font

Cinzel is a bold font (no pun intended). It’s all capital letters, which makes it more suitable for short text as opposed to long blog posts or things of that nature.

It’s complemented really by a font that’s a bit more traditional, like Raleway. These two fonts are perfect for websites in the food and drink industry.

You could consider using this to spice up your online menu. Have the menu categories in Cinzel black, the meal titles in Cinzel bold, and the description of the item written in Raleway regular.

If you really want to be unique, you can swap the two and use Raleway for headings and Cinzel for the body text. This could work well for local coffee shops that update their website with daily specials or weekly brews.

PT Sans Narrow and PT Sans

PT Sans Narrow and PT Sans

PT Sans Narrow and PT Sans is a classic combination. This versatile choice will work well for nearly any website in 2019.

Since both fonts are so legible, you can use it for text in short-form, as well as long-form content such as blog posts.

I like these fonts because they are easy to read, but not too generic and boring. PT Sans Narrow and PT Sans are inviting, so consider using them on home screens and landing pages.

How to pick the best website fonts

Now that you’ve seen some of the best Google Fonts combinations of 2019, how can you decide which one is best for your website?

The first thing you need to do is determine what type of content the font will be used for. Decide if the fonts are for your blog, homepage, landing page, product description, or navigation menu.

You’ll also want to consider the type of business you have, as well as the audience you’re targeting. Does the font need to be professional? Or do you have some room to be a bit unique?

The key to pairing two fonts together is contrast. The fonts should be different enough that each is distinguishable, but not so different that the reader is distracted.

You may want to use a few font combinations on your website, but don’t go overboard. Keep it simple. Each page should just have two fonts; three at most. If you want to use more, consider using variations of the fonts already on the page (light, italic, medium, bold, etc.) instead.

Conclusion

Fonts are important, so it time to get rid of the default. Google Fonts is one of the best resources for free website fonts. The platform has some of the top site fonts that go together.

  • Open Sans and Roboto
  • Playfair Display and Montserrat
  • Lora and Alegreya
  • Merriweather and Lato
  • Amatic SC and Josefin Slab
  • Cinzel and Raleway
  • PT Sans Narrow and PT Sans

I tried to provide a little bit of something for everyone. Keep in mind, not all of these fonts will work for every website. So go through these and see which fonts fit best for your business, industry, audience, and theme.

Which website font pairings are you using in 2019?

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