How to submit your sitemap to Google
So you’ve heard that it’s a good idea to submit your sitemap to Google because ‘SEO reasons’. But what does that even mean and how do you actually do it?
Before we start, let’s just be clear on what some of the above words mean:
Sitemap – in this case we are referring to a sitemap.xml file, which is basically a list of all the URLs (pages) in your website and is normally found at yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml. A sitemap.xml in it’s raw form looks something like this:
SEO – stands for ‘Search Engine Optimisation’, and is all about getting your pages to appear when people type your target keywords into a search engine like Google.
- Why Submit a Sitemap to Google
- How Search Engines Work – Explain it Like I’m Five
- How to Submit Your Sitemap to Google – Step by Step
Why Submit a Sitemap to Google
If Google doesn’t know about your pages, it can’t add them to it’s list.
By providing Google the link to your sitemap.xml file, you’re saying ‘here’s all my pages you should know about’! If you don’t tell Google about your pages, then you are just waiting for their crawler to find your pages (and hoping that they do!).
In short, submit your sitemap.xml URL to Google to:
- Get pages indexed now instead of later. Remember, ‘later’ means whenever the crawlers manage to find your pages on their own (if they find them at all).
- In your Google Search Console account you can get performance information and see errors on indexed pages, which will include ALL your pages if you submit your sitemap.xml.
- Get new pages indexed faster when you launch new content.
How Search Engines Work – Explain it Like I’m Five
Mr. G works at the supermarket. He has a very special job. Every night he carefully ‘crawls’ through every product and updates it on his list. This list he calls his ‘Index’.
You visit the supermarket, and Mr G. is waiting at the entrance to help you find what you need.
You ask him for ‘spicy noodle sauce’, and he looks at his ‘Index’ list. He gives you the following options:
1. Chinese spicy noodle sauce – aisle 3, in the International > Sauce section.
2. Tomato-based pasta sauces – aisle 5, Pastas & Sauces
3. Spicy tobasco sauce – aisle 1, Cooking Oils & Condiments
This is how search engines work. Their ‘crawlers’ roam the internet, jumping between links, and update their ‘Index’. Then when you ask for something, they give you results based on their Index.
This is why it is important for you make sure your pages are indexed!
How to Submit Your Sitemap to Google – Step by Step
1. First you need to add the sitemap.xml file to your website so that it appears in the root folder next to your index page. i.e. yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml or yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.url
You might already have one! Modern web platforms like Squarespace and Shopify will auto-generate your sitemap.xml file for you. On WordPress you can use the Yoast SEO plugin to generate one. Otherwise, search ‘crawl to create XML sitemap’ to find a tool that will crawl your website and give you a sitemap.xml file back.
2. Optional: You can test if your sitemap file is valid with a tool such as http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/validate-xml-sitemap.html
3. Then you need to set up a Google Search Console account (previously Google Webmaster) (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home – sign in with your Google account)
4. Click the big red button to ‘Add a Property’ (aka a website). Type in the URL to your website e.g. https://yourwebsite.com
5. Enter into your website property, and on the left navigation click CRAWL > Sitemaps
6. On the right, click the big red button ‘Add Sitemap’, and enter the name of your sitemap file e.g. sitemap.xml
That’s it. You’re done. Google will send you emails with any crawl errors, and you can check your Google Search Console regularly for performance information.