You can’t succeed on the web if Google doesn’t know about your site. Learn how to fix that with a sitemap
It’s the biggest search engine out there with over 3.5 billion searches daily. People rely on it to bring them everything from movie schedules to explanations of brain surgery.
Google needs to know your site exists before it can rank it. Wait long enough, and Google will find it, but why wait?
You can submit a sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools – (or Google Search Console as it is called now) and speed up the process.
How do you do that? Let’s dig into the process.
Before you submit, you need to make a sitemap. While they can be HTML-based, XML files are standard and most tools default to that format.
If you use WordPress (and why wouldn’t you?), you can use a plugin to make the sitemap. It is much easier to automatically create a sitemap – although a manually created HTML sitemap will always be more efficient.
The sitemap needs to be added to your site if you build it offline. Most hosting companies include an FTP option in the control panel. A standalone FTP application will also let you upload a file to the site.
Be sure to make a note of the sitemap’s URL and then it’s time to head to Google.
Submitting a site to Google is easy
You send the sitemap to the Google Search Console. You’ll need a Google account to sign into the system.
If you haven’t already, add your website by entering the URL into the box. Next, you verify ownership of the site.
There are multiple verification methods available, such as adding an HTML file or tag to your site. An alternate method logs you in with your domain registrar.
After verification, you need to look for the crawl menu and click on it. Select the sitemaps option.
You should see any previously submitted sitemaps and the add/test button. Select the test/add button.
Enter the URL of your sitemap into the box and click on submit. Assuming the submit sitemap to Google was successful, it should start indexing almost immediately. It may require some time for Google to complete the indexing process.
Submissions do sometimes fail. If Google doesn’t identify a particular problem, validate the sitemap again. Recheck that you have the right URL for the sitemap before you try to submit.
Check out the video here for a quick walkthrough:
Google limits the size of sitemap files to 10 MB and limits them to 50,000 URLs. If you have a large site, such as a retailer with an extensive catalog, you’ll need to break up the sitemap into several files. Google permits multiple sitemaps.
XML also provides media type extensions you can apply to images, videos, and news. Some website owners choose to create separate sitemaps to handle these specific media types.
Submitting your sitemap to Google requires minimal work, but puts you on a global stage. Anyone in the world searching for your keywords can find your site.
Now, submitting your sitemap is a nice help, but you should not rely on it entirely. When you submit it is like sending in a map with all the spots marked. This means if there are some of your pages on your website that is not properly linked, they will not get any traffic but still show up as indexed in Google.
Google will not rank pages very highly or at all if they are not linked to by the site itself. This means that if your sitemap is read the pages are indexed, but you will not see traffic to them. In some cases, it is better if you do not use a sitemap and thereby can discover what pages are not properly linked internally.
Remember, keeping your SEO in order is more than just working on your sitemap. I like and use WordPress plugin Yoast SEO and All In One SEO Pack, both of which have XML sitemap functionality – Check out the article When It’s Yoast vs All in One SEO Pack, Who Wins? A new contender is SEOPress which is a kickass fast and flexible plugin for a very low price.
There are also times when you should NOT use a sitemap, but as long as you are aware of when and why you are still fine.