How to Find a Sitemap of a Website: 5 Simple Steps
- 1 What is a Sitemap?
- 2 Why are Sitemaps Important for SEO?
- 3 Why Would You Need to Get a Sitemap of a Website?
- 4 How to Find a Sitemap?
- 5 What if a Site Doesn’t Have a Sitemap?
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
- 7 Final Thoughts
Just like a map helps someone explore an unknown territory, a sitemap helps Google crawlers navigate your website and identify new pages.
Whether you’re a web developer or SEO specialist, there are multiple reasons why you would want to get the sitemap of a website.
The goal of this article is to break down how to find a sitemap and then explain what you can do with that information once you have it.
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is the blueprint or structure of your website’s pages and content. It’s like a roadmap that contains an overview of all the pages on your site broken down into a hierarchical manner from parent pages to child pages.
It provides essential information about the relationships between different pages, their relative importance, and how they are interconnected. This hierarchical structure helps both users and search engines comprehend the website’s content organization, making navigation more intuitive and efficient.
This image is an example of an XML sitemap. If I click into the “technical SEO” sitemap for example, it’ll bring up this page.
So, think of that first page as the overall sitemap. Then if I click technical SEO, it brings up all the pages that are nested under that category. This is that hierarchical structure I keep referencing.
Why are Sitemaps Important for SEO?
Why does this matter and why should a website have a sitemap?
It provides the website with structure. Think of the sitemap like the framing of a house. You can’t have a kitchen or a living room without a frame built around it. Just like you can’t have a kitchen or living room with just a frame and nothing in it.
The frame is the sitemap and the walls, flooring, and furniture are the content.
By providing a clear and organized structure on your site, it helps both search engines and users navigate and find relevant information that they’re looking for.
Sitemaps also play a significant role in the indexing of your site. Search engine bots utilize sitemaps to discover and crawl all the pages on a website, ensuring that they are included in search engine results. This helps improve a website’s visibility and ensures that its content is appropriately indexed by search engines.
Why Would You Need to Get a Sitemap of a Website?
If you stumbled upon this article and are wondering why someone would need to access a sitemap when they can just go on the website the normal way, don’t worry. There are a couple of reasons.
First, you might want to learn how to access your own sitemap. If you have a website, you likely followed the instructions of some guru telling you the importance of setting one up and you did, and then forgot about it.
To check the overall structure of your site and make sure everything was created properly, you’ll need to know how to access it.
Another main reason people use sitemaps is to spy on their competitors. If you’re trying to rank a piece of content about keyword research and you’re looking for topic ideas. You can use your competitors’ sitemap to see what they’re publishing.
If we wanted to outrank this website, we’d go to their sitemap and find keyword research related topics. Once we open that up we’ll see the articles they’ve published on that subject.
Pay extra attention to the “last modified” date because this will tell you which topics they’re updating most frequently based on indexing.
In this case, it might make sense to do an article about free keyword research tools because those two articles have been recently indexed.
This is a great way to get ideas and see firsthand what your competitors are doing.
How to Find a Sitemap?
Now that we understand the importance of sitemaps and why you may want to find one, let’s talk about the actionable steps you can take to find competitor sitemaps right now.
If you’ve read ahead, don’t be alarmed by all the technical jargon. This process is extremely simple and takes less than 30 seconds to do.
1. Search for XML Sitemaps
The first and simplest way to find a sitemap is by searching for an XML sitemap. This requires certain search operators and the name of the URL you want to find.
I’ll continue with the example I’ve been using of Search Engine Journal. Here is how you do it:
- Enter the complete URL in the search bar (www.searchenginejournal.com)
- Add /sitemap.xml to the end (it should look like www.searchenginejournal.com/sitemap.xml)
- Hit enter
If it didn’t work, there are a handful of variations such as:
In fact, when you search the URL I entered above, it automatically brings you to the variation. If that doesn’t work, here are some other options:
Make sure when you do this, you enter the full url including www.websitename.com.
2. Robots.txt Files
If for some reason you are unable to find the sitemap using XML, you have another option. Robots.txt is a text file used to communicate directives to the crawlers. This is a fancy way of saying the file tells the search engine which pages it can access and which it cannot.
This is similar to nofollow vs follow. Many websites have this but some do not. If you can’t access the sitemap using XML, try this:
- Enter the complete URL in the search bar (www.searchenginejournal.com)
- Add /robots.txt to the end (it should look like: www.searchenginejournal.com/robots.txt)
- Hit enter
Here’s what you should see:
You can see all of the categories that the website does not want to index and right at the bottom is the link to the sitemap. Highlight that link, insert it into the search bar, and you’re good to go!
3. Google Search Console
If you’re looking for your own sitemap and you haven’t had any luck with the previous two methods, here’s another.
Google Search Console makes it easy to find your sitemap as long as you’re the owner of the website or you’ve been given access.
Log in to GSC and look for “sitemaps” on the left side.
Once you click that you’ll get a list of any sitemaps as well as the URL to look them up. The page also tells you the last time the sitemap was read and when it was originally submitted.
Again, this only works if you have access to the website in Google Search Console so you’re either the owner or have been given access for SEO or development purposes.
4. Google Search Operators
Another interesting way to find a sitemaps website is by using unique Google search commands and looking for specific file types or keywords.
One example of this is “site: [URL] filetype.xml”
When you enter this in the search bar, it’s going to display all the results from that URL that have to do with sitemaps.
You can do the same for robots.txt too!
5. Bing Webmaster Tools
You can find a sitemap using Bing the same way you use Google Search Console. If you want to find a sitemap on Bing or see if your site is indexed on this search engine, you’ll go to bing.com/webmasters and look for the sitemaps section under your URL.
What if a Site Doesn’t Have a Sitemap?
What about if the site you’re trying to find information on doesn’t have a sitemap? Well, you’re sort of out of luck. If you use an SEO research tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush, you can use that just as well for competitor research.
Another way to do research without any of these tools is through the “site:” on Google. By entering:
- Site: [URL] [Keyword]
Doing this allows you to find pieces of content from your competitors based on the keyword you provide.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about how to find a sitemap:
Does Google Sites create a sitemap?
Google Sites does not automatically create a sitemap for you. This is the case with most website builders. You need to either manually create one or use a third-party tool like I mentioned above.
Where are HTML sitemaps?
HTML sitemaps, unlike XML sitemaps that are specifically designed for search engines, are created primarily for human users to facilitate website navigation. An HTML sitemap is essentially a webpage that lists the links to various pages and sections of a website in a structured format.
You can generally find them around the footer of on a resources or help page. A simple way to think about an HTML sitemap is that it’s usually designed around the “search” function of a site. If the website has a search bar that allows you to enter a keyword, that’s the HTML sitemap.
Should every website have a sitemap?
From an SEO perspective, every website should have a sitemap. A sitemap provides a clear overview of the site’s organization, making it easier for visitors and search engines to navigate and discover content.
The sitemap also provides the search engines with the necessary structure to crawl and index new pages efficiently because it makes them easier to find.
Now you know how to find a sitemap of a website and I hope you see how simple this is. It’s not as complicated as it sounds and it’s useful whether you’re spying on your competitors or simply trying to check out your own sitemap.
The importance of website structure doesn’t end there. Having proper internal linking structure to marry all of your content together is just as important. Link Whisper can help you by providing AI generated suggestions for internal links as well as relevant anchor text. Now get to work!