The Roaring PJ - A Social Media Blog

Your Website Needs an XML Sitemap: Here’s Why and How to Set Yours Up

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

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At Roaring Pajamas, an XML sitemap is one of the first items on our SEO audit checklist. Why? Because every website needs one—at least, every website needs one if they want to make it easy for search engine crawlers to find and index the right pages on their site.

In this post, I explain exactly what XML sitemaps are, explain why you need one and walk you through the steps to set yours up correctly.

What is an XML Sitemap?

Let’s start with what an XML sitemap is not. You may have an HTML sitemap—the user-friendly list of each published page on your site; the one that helps visitors quickly find what they need.

XML sitemaps are different.

XML sitemaps are not made for users; they’re made for search engines. So while an XML sitemap also contains a list of links to pages on your website, this sitemap is not user-friendly, and does not visibly appear on your site.

An XML sitemap may be a single file containing up to 10,000 links to pages; or a sitemap may be an index linking to multiple other XML files, each containing groups of pages. For example, a sitemap for a very large website may be organized into multiple files such as:

Sitemap_index.xml
Sitemap_articles.xml
Sitemap_categories.xml
Sitemap_images.xml
Sitemap_blog.xml

Your sitemap doesn’t require this complexity unless your site includes thousands of pages (like Amazon or Huffington Post or another large content site). Keeping it simple makes it easier on the search engines. The pages in your sitemap simply need to include the pages you wish to see in Google or Bing’s search engine index—the “landing pages” that you want to show up in search results. We keep our clients’ sitemaps (and our own!) simple and clean, as much as possible.

Why Do I Need One?

A well-constructed sitemap makes finding and sharing your website content easier for search engines—and eventually, those potential customers, too!

How? An up-to-date sitemap helps a search engine crawler find the pages on your website that should be indexed and included in search results. Your sitemap doesn’t need to (and actually shouldn’t) include every page associated with your site—you should exclude login pages, duplicate pages, admin files and Javascript, for example. Leave out any page that you don’t want visitors to find in a Google search.

How Do I Set Up My XML Sitemap?

There are a couple of different ways to set up your sitemap—and, of course, there are pros and cons to each approach.

Hire Help

One of the easiest ways to set up a sitemap is to hire an expert to help. At Roaring Pajamas, we consider a lot of variables when creating an XML sitemap as part of SEO services we offer, and we advise our clients to continue updating their sitemaps long after we’re done (more on that later). The pro to hiring help with your sitemap is that the setup is done for you and (hopefully!) done right. But if the cost of hiring help is too much of a con, you have other options, too.

Try a Plugin

Content Management Systems (CMS) like WordPress have plugins that will generate your sitemap for you. Ideally, these plugins will also keep your sitemap up-to-date when you add or delete pages from your CMS—or they will update the sitemap at the frequency you designate. You can also add “excluded pages” to the plugin; ensuring that they are not included in future updates to your sitemap. Again, this seemingly simple, done-for-you solution is a definite pro! But on the con side, you still need to customize the plugin to ensure your sitemap is built to work effectively. In the end, getting the job done right is doable on your own with a plugin, but not quite as simple as hiring someone to handle the setup for you.

Use a Tool

There are other helpful tools you can use to set up your sitemap if you’re CMS doesn’t offer a plugin solution. We recommend (and use) Screaming Frog, but a quick Google search will bring up several other viable options. Much like a CMS plugin, these tools will do the work of building your sitemap for you. We don’t recommend that you rely solely on a third-party tool for setup though. Again, you should customize the setup to ensure your sitemap includes (and excludes) the appropriate pages, and continue to use the tool for each additional update to your sitemap. Though the additional customization and updates could be considered a downside, there is added value in having much of the work done for you!

DIY: Do It Yourself

Finally, you could manually build your XML sitemap yourself! As with most DIY projects, you’ll likely save money using this option. But this approach will also probably cost you time and energy. If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and found that DIY is the way to go, keep a few things in mind:

  1. Every page in your sitemap should be live and current. Ensure that there are no dead links or 404 error pages.
  2. Remember: you don’t have to list every page associated with your website. Leave out any page you don’t want the search engine crawler to find (e.g., administrator pages, javascript files).
  3. You can have a separate sitemap just for images! This allows Google to review and index images on your site. Optimize your images for search by including an alt text attribute with an image description. Also include keywords in your image file names separated by dashes (no underscores).

What’s Next?

You’re not quite done yet—sitemaps require regular maintenance, too. But this is the easiest step of all.

To start, after you’ve constructed your sitemap, you still need to let search engines know that you have one! You can add your sitemap in Google’s Search Console and in Bing’s Webmaster Tools. The process is relatively simple and, once your sitemap is submitted, both search engines will start crawling your site.

Then, make sure you’re keeping your sitemap up-to-date. At Roaring Pajamas, we update our sitemap often—every time we make a change to our site. In the same way, you should update your sitemap at the same frequency that you’re making updates to your website! Following that, re-submit your sitemap to Google and Bing regularly—keeping in mind that submitting more than once per week is not recommended (even if your sitemap is updated daily).

I know that constructing and managing an XML sitemap seems like a lot of work! And that’s because . . . to be honest, it can be a lot of work. But your sitemap is a vital aspect of your website’s SEO and a key part of your marketing strategy. Hopefully, these tips will give you the clarity and direction you need to get yours set up ASAP!

Have you set up an XML sitemap for your website? Share your questions with us in the comments below!

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Social Media Trends to Tap in 2018

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

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We’re only one month into 2018, but already the top social media trends of the year are clear. I’m not a psychic, of course—the social media landscape is constantly evolving, and I can’t predict what will come out on top. But, as always, our Roaring Pajamas team has been paying close attention to what captured audiences’ attention last year—and what’s on their radar in the months to come.

So which social media trends should you be paying attention to—and taking advantage of—in 2018? Here are five of the top social media #trendingtopics to keep your eye (and marketing strategy) on this year:

Instagram Stories

Sure, Instagram Stories have been around for awhile. The feature quickly garnered buzz after launching in August 2016—and Stories’ popularity has only grown from there. Though similar in design and features to its predecessor, Snapchat, Instagram Stories has rightfully earned the status as leader of the pack. And with over 300 million active daily users—more than half of Instagram’s total users—brands clearly have an extraordinary opportunity to connect with an active audience on the platform. So, how do you make that connection? Get personal! Instagram Stories offer a fun opportunity to share behind-the-scenes information, share exclusive updates, offer sneak peeks and so much more. Instagram Stories is also one of few platforms where brands can still (somewhat) easily connect to consumers without spending money. Take advantage of this up-close-and-personal medium sooner rather than later!

Live Video

Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Youtube Live—seemingly every social media platform is jumping on the opportunity to broadcast in real-time to their followers. And jumping on that bandwagon makes sense! Users are loving the authentic connection to their favorite friends and fan pages. You can take advantage of this new trend by researching when your target audience is most likely to be on Facebook (or Instagram or YouTube) and going live then. You could pick a regular day and time to go Live every week, schedule Live sessions intermittently or simply surprise your followers by showing up Live on their feed. Use the feature to answer questions, to announce contests or giveaways, to interview people on your team or in your industry—and so much more! As with all of your content, create Live videos that are interesting, valuable and authentic (which they often are by default because they’re live). No matter what you do, don’t miss out on this opportunity for true and immediate connection.

Higher Ad Spend

I know this may not be what you want to hear, but somebody has to say it! Ad spend is no longer “something to consider”; social media advertising dollars are a “must have” marketing line item if you want to have significant reach and engagement on social media in 2018. With social media algorithms changing seemingly every other day (ahem, Facebook), many brands are finding that showing up in the social media feeds of even their most fervent fans is harder and harder to do. And while you could easily just grumble at the changes and the increase to your bottom line, this is what marketing budgets (and strategy) are for. As a business, working hard—and perhaps paying—for your customer’s attention will always be necessary. So yes, one of the top 2018 social media trends is to prioritize the targeted and personal connection you get to your audience through social media advertising, while also continuing to post engaging, quality content that your favorite fans will want to engage with . . . with ad spend or without.

Taking a Stand

As you know, social media platforms are often the best and most immediate way to connect with your audience. But, of course, that makes standing out harder and harder to do—because every other brand knows that, too. When social media users see post after post from different companies—even those they’ve chosen to follow—they need a way to differentiate one company from the next. And, according to a recent study, one of the best ways to stand out is by standing up for what you believe in. Users want to know: where do you stand on the important issues that are showing up on their news feeds every single day? There’s risk of alienating customers, of course—those who may not agree with your stance or those who disagree with brands having an “opinion” on anything other than their product or service. But clearly, two-thirds of customers think taking a stand is important. You don’t have to comment on everything, of course—just consider what does and does not align with your company’s mission and values. Taking a stand is not about being controversial or inauthentic; this is about aligning with what’s most important to you. The right customers will feel that’s important, too.

Generation Z vs Millennials

Who is Generation Z, you ask? Don’t worry—I did, too. They are millennials’ younger siblings; those born after 1998. And while millennials tended to make purchases based on promotions and discounts, Generation Z are 2-3 times more likely to be influenced simply by engaging social media content (not just a good sale). That’s what makes this singular generation one of the top social media trends of 2018. The oldest of this newest generation are still quite young—around 20-22 years old—but they’re nearly out of school and about to enter the workforce. They have money to spend (whether theirs or their parents’) and, as the first generation of true “digital natives”, they’re going online to find out where they should. Focus your marketing efforts where Generation Z spends their time—Instagram and Snapchat are a great start—and focus on how they’re spending their time. Taking action on every one of the trends we’ve mentioned in this article will help you do just that.

With a heads up on what’s happening in 2018, take some time to tweak your social media marketing strategy and take advantage of these trends! Because regardless of how social media evolves this year, the brands that win with their customers are the ones that stay on top of that evolution.

Which social media trends will you add to your marketing strategy in 2018? Share your favorite ideas in the comments below!

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Goal-Setting to Set Your Business Up for Social Media Success

Posted on by Melanie Yunk

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This year at Roaring Pajamas, our only resolution is to eschew New Year’s resolutions! Instead, we’re starting 2018 in favor of goal-setting. Studies (and personal experience) show that most resolutions have been long forgotten in a few months (if not weeks!). And it makes sense—resolutions are usually just general aspirations, often inspired by feelings of inadequacy and bolstered by the brief momentum of a shiny new year.

Resolutions aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but they’re not usually a recipe for real transformation and lasting positive change either. That’s why our team is setting personal and professional goals (not resolutions) this year—and that’s why I’m sharing our process for social media goal-setting with you!

But first, here’s some inspiration from our team:

Our social media consultant, Kelly, wants to make more videos to use on social media (perhaps inspired by our recent post on how to use Facebook Stories?). Our resident copywriter, Jenna, is determined to write a blog post for her website once a week. And my partner, Kent, has simply made it a goal to have more fun this year! (I’m with him—I’d also like to have more fun this year!) Additionally, I have set a few goals to help me become even more efficient and effective in my work and in my life. Those goals include getting more sleep, drinking more water, exercising more, and eating better, amongst other things. I’ll keep you posted!

Our list of goals for Roaring Pajamas includes Google Certification for our SEO strategists and analysts, identifying and implementing new and improved tools for SEO analysis and increasing the number of amazing, long-term clients with whom we get to work—just to name a few.

What about you? Are you inspired to do some goal-setting of your own? I hope so! We’re only two weeks into a fresh new year, and this is the perfect time to create a list of goals to support the social media success of your business in 2018.

Here’s how to get started:

Start With the End In Mind

Whether you’ve been using social media to market your business for years or you’re just getting started, it’s important to start this new year asking yourself: What do I want to accomplish with social media? What are your goals for your business and how can using social media help you get there faster? What worked last year and what didn’t? You may want to build brand awareness, increase revenue, grow your community—or all of the above! Get really clear on your ultimate end goal, so you can build the right actions to help you get there.

Break It Down

Okay, so you know you want to build brand awareness (or increase revenue or create community) through social media this year. But what does that mean exactly? The next step in your smart goal-setting process is to break. it. down. It may be helpful to ask yourself: What does success look like? Is it 5,000 new Facebook fans? Is it new leads from Instagram? Does success mean a 20% increase in engagement? Once you have clarity on the metrics you want to meet, you can work backwards and create mini-goals to help you get there.

Create a Plan

Now it’s time to create a plan that will help you achieve each of your mini-goals—and eventually the ultimate goal you have in mind! Start considering strategies specific to your list of goals: You could start a weekly Instagram Live series or create a “Brand Ambassador” Facebook Group for your superfans or use ads or run contests. The sky is the limit! But while your options are limitless, your plan should not be. Get really clear on the strategies you will implement to reach your goals, keeping in mind that you can (and should!) be flexible, tweak your plan and shift gears, as necessary.

Take Regular Action

Goal-setting isn’t just about setting the right goals—it’s about actually taking the action to reach them, too! Consider the daily, weekly and monthly actions you may need to take to execute the strategies in your plan. It might be checking in and engaging with the community in your Facebook group, planning your next Instagram Live interview or setting up an ad. And each of these actions has their own mini-actions, too! Get clear on each small step that needs to be accomplished—perhaps on a consistent basis—to help you put your plan in place and get on the path to reaching your goals.

Schedule Time to Review

Remember when I said you should be flexible with your plan? That’s where the review comes in! Set a recurring date to review your goals and your plan—it might be every week, once a month or every quarter. The frequency of your review is up to you, but it is important to be proactive about reviewing what’s working and what’s not. You may even find that you need to change goals altogether or at least adjust them! Regularly reviewing your goals, your plan and your actions also ensures that you stay connected and committed to the social media success you set out to achieve. Don’t let these goals be like all those long-forgotten New Year’s resolutions. Keep your goals—and your progress—top of mind and you’ll find the social media success you seek in no time!

See? It pays to be smart about your social media goal-setting! Setting the right goals can not only improve your business’ bottom line; the process can improve your personal happiness and well-being, too! And there’s no better goal than that.

What is your list of social media goals for 2018? Share what you’re excited to accomplish with us in the comments below.

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