The very first step to SEO (search engine optimization) is verifying your website with Search engines and submission of your XML sitemap.
Google happens to be the biggest search engine there is, so it’s always the first that comes to our minds when we talk of search engine optimization.
I’m sure you are interested in getting your site listed on Google. Everyone does.
But how do you go about that?
Make sure your site is fully developed and then submit your XML sitemap to Google.
Although it is considered a technical part of SEO, I must confess, It’s really easy.
This guide will take you through the processes involved in creating your XML sitemaps and, not just that, you will also learn how to submit your XML sitemap to Google on Search Console.
But before we go into that, let’s have a quick look at what an XML Sitemap is and why it is so important for your SEO.
What is an XML Sitemap?
An XML sitemap of your website, as the name implies, is an XML file that lists all the important URLs in your site. It maps out your site’s structure and provides a complete list of links you want indexed on your website.
Once created and submitted, an XML sitemap together with a well configured robots.txt file, will tell search engine bots the URLs to crawl.
An XML sitemap does not guarantee an improved search engine rank. However, it is needed for a better and more efficient crawling of your website. Consequently, improving your website’s performance on Google.
Is a sitemap compulsory?
Compulsory? I wouldn’t use that word compulsory. I prefer to use the word important. The sitemap is very important.
Reason for its importance is majorly due to the benefits a sitemap has in store for your website.
What are the benefits of having a sitemap?
The benefits of having a sitemap are numerous. I will highlight only a few of the most important benefits.
- An XML sitemap informs search engines of newly published blog post
- An XML sitemap lets search engines understand the frequency at which you publish new blog posts
- An XML sitemap notifies search engines of your most important blog posts and pages
- An XML sitemap tells search engines who the author of a blog post is. Hence, defending you against content theft and plagiarism
- An XML sitemap is a good way to inform Google that you have created your website and you have started posting contents to it. This way, it will crawl and quickly index your website.
With all the information you now have about what a sitemap is and what its benefits are. I believe you are now interested in learning how to generate and submit one.
How to generate a sitemap
There are many ways to generate an XML sitemap for your website. Depending on your blogging platform.
XML sitemap for WordPress
For people with a blog on WordPress, you can make use of a plugin called WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast to generate your Sitemap, as highlighted in my guide for installing an configuring Yoast SEO.
If you have installed and configured Yoast SEO properly, your sitemap should be located within it.
How do you find your XML sitemap in Yoast SEO?
To find your XML sitemap on Yoast SEO, visit Yoast on your WordPress Dashboard and click on general.
On the your yoast general menu, click on ‘Features’
XML sitemap for Blogger
For blogger blogs, Google automatically generates your sitemap. All you have to do is learn how to submit your generated sitemap on Google Search Console which I will be showing in the next few lines.
For other static blogging platforms, you can make use of free online tools to help you generate your sitemap. A tool that can help you with this process is sitemap generator online by xml-sitemap.
All you have to do is, enter the URL of the website you wish to generate a sitemap for.
After generating your XML sitemap, it should open at yoursitename.com/sitemap.xml or yoursitename.com/sitemap_index.xml (remember to replace ‘yoursitename’ with your real website URL.)
How to submit an XML sitemap to Google
To go on with this process, first you need to verify your website on Google Search Console. After successfully verifying your website on Google search Console, submission of sitemaps is really easy.
visit Google Search Console.
Make sure you click on the exact property you wish to submit a sitemap for – https//domainname.com and https://www.domainname.com are considered different properties on Google Search Console. So, you must be sure of the exact domain your website is directed to.
Under your menu options, Click on Crawl and then on sitemap.
At the top-right corner, click on ADD/TEST SITEMAP.
Make sure you paste only the extension of your domain’s sitemap into the space provided. As you can see, Google has already entered your domain name. All you need to add is the “sitemap_index.xml”.
If you paste your whole domainname/sitemap, you will get an error message.
Now that you have successfully added your sitemap to Google, take a look at some of the questions I believe you may have in mind now.
Frequently asked Questions (FAQ)
After sitemap submission, how long does it take for my website to get indexed?
Answer: If you have a decent number of blog posts, just hold on a couple of days. They will get indexed. Mine got indexed in less than 24 hours after I submitted my sitemap. So, the sitemap is a form of supercharge process for your website’s indexing.
After your website gets indexed by Google, you will start seeing images like this.
Your sitemap should now contain your index status and a few data. It may however take up to a few days before the sitemaps results are updated. So, do not fret if you don’t have any data to on this page.
A way to know if your website has been indexed is by making a Google Search of your domain name. If your domain name is displayed among Google Search results, then, your website has been indexed.
Do I need to submit a new sitemap each time I publish a blog post?
Answer: No you don’t have to submit a sitemap after every blog post. If you blog on WordPress and use the Yoast SEO plugin, your sitemap gets updated every time you publish a blog post. So, your sitemap submission is a one process for all.
What is the maximum number of post a sitemap can contain?
Answer: Based on Google response on the page ‘build and submit a sitemap‘, A sitemap can contain not more than 50,000 URLs and must be no larger than 50 mb uncompressed.
most sitemap generators do not generate sitemaps as large as 50,000 URLs. You can set the number of URLs you want included in your sitemap.
Do I need to add the sitemap to the root of my domain?
Answer: According to the build a sitemap guide on Google webmaster help, It is not compulsory to add the sitemap to the root of your domain after submitting it to Google search console. It’s either one or the other.
You may do that for the sake of website auditing tools like Semrush or for other tools you didn’t submit the sitemap to.
Do I need to add my sitemap to my website’s footer links?
Answer: You have probably seen a few websites add the links to their sitemap at the footer of their website or some other places. This was a common practice before search engines made submission of sitemap a lot easier.
According to Yoast, you don’t need to do that anymore after submitting to search engines. If however, you just feel like doing that, then, by all means, just go ahead and add it.
That’s everything about generating and submitting XML sitemaps to Google Search Console. If you have any question, feel free to ask using the comment section below.