Creating a sitemap is one technical SEO improvement that’s easy to make. SEO, or search engine optimization, hinges on search engines’ abilities to crawl your website. Creating and submitting a sitemap to Google is a vital step to complete if you want Google to crawl (read) and rank your website.
What Is A Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file that provides information about the pages and files on your website and the relationships between them. A sitemap can be used to indicate content hubs and internal links between pages.
Search engines such as Google read this file to crawl your site more efficiently, and index it accordingly. A sitemap tells search engines which pages and files are most important. It also provides information such as when a page was last updated.
Why Is A Sitemap Important For SEO?
Submitting a sitemap helps search engine crawl bots index your site, understand its relevance for various search terms, and determine your website’s rank.
If your site is new and doesn’t have many external links to it, search engines may not discover your pages without a sitemap present. For large or complex websites, or more specialized files, a sitemap is even more important.
Even if your website’s pages are properly linked, meaning they can be reached through the navigation or other links, a sitemap can still improve the crawlability of your website.
Google supports several sitemap formats:
- RSS, mRss, and Atom 1.0
Regardless of format, a single sitemap may only be 50MB and 50,000 URLs. If you have a larger file or more URLs, you can have multiple sitemaps. You can create a sitemap index file that points to a list of all sitemaps. You can submit multiple sitemaps and/or a sitemap index file to Google.
Reference Google’s documentation here for more specific information on how to decide which format you should use.
How To Create A Sitemap
When you create a sitemap, you’re letting search engines know which URLs you want to show in search results. These are canonical URLs. A canonical URL is the URL of the page that Google thinks is most representative from a set of duplicate pages on your site.
Once you’ve determined which URLs to include in your sitemap with SEO in mind, select one of the following ways to create your sitemap. This will largely depend on your site’s architecture and size:
Let your CMS generate your sitemap.
If you’re using a CMS such as WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, or Blogger, your CMS may already have a sitemap available to search engines.
Manually create your sitemap.
For small websites, perhaps with page counts less than 20 or so, you may be able to manually create a sitemap. Simply use a text editor and follow a syntax Google specifies.
Automatically generate your sitemap.
For sitemaps with more than 20 or so URLs, you’ll need to generate a sitemap automatically. There are various tools that can generate a sitemap. The archived Google Code project has a list of tools you might use to generate Sitemap files.
How To Submit Your Sitemap To Google For SEO
While submitting a sitemap to Google doesn’t guarantee that Google will download and use the sitemap, it is a key signal Google may use to index your site. Google would crawl your site eventually, but submitting a sitemap speeds up the process.
Use Google Search Console To Submit A Sitemap
The easiest way to submit your sitemap to Google is through Google Search Console. This tool helps you track your website’s indexing status and improve its visibility.
Start by navigating to Google Search Console: https://search.google.com/search-console
Select the property you’re working on, or add it in the top left corner.
Then, navigate to Sitemaps in the left navigation:
Remove any outdated or invalid sitemaps, and add your new sitemap URL.
Use The Ping Tool To Submit A Sitemap To Google
Send a GET request in your browser or the command line to this address, specifying the full URL of the sitemap. Be sure that the sitemap file is accessible:
Use robots.txt File To Submit A Sitemap To Google
Insert the following line anywhere in your robots.txt file, specifying the path to your sitemap. Google will find it the next time they crawl your robots.txt file:
Use WebSub If You Use Atom/RSS For A Sitemap
Use WebSub if you use Atom/RSS for your sitemap and want to broadcast your changes to other search engines in addition to Google.
There are a few different formats and methods to choose from in creating and submitting your sitemap. Regardless of which format and methods you choose, submitting your sitemap is a must-have for SEO success. For more technical SEO improvement ideas, check out our past blog post here.
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