When we create a website, one of the most common issues we must address is how to list the site in search engines like Google.
Whenever I talk to newbies who are not aware of how the search engine works, they think that they need to pay Google or other search engines to list their website. This is is not true, of course. You can show your website in a Google search for free. The only thing you need to work on is helping Google to find your blog.
I have already shared my case-study on how to index your new website in 24 hours, and in this guide I will talk extensively about submitting your site map to Google’s Webmaster Tool.
Google Webmaster Tool (GWT) is a free tool that lets you control your website from the search engine’s perspective. I will not go into detail about GWT as I have already covered it in previous posts. In case you missed it, here is the first article to get you started:
First we need to understand what a site map is, and why submitting your sitemap to search engines is important.
What is a sitemap?
A sitemap is an XML file that contains the URLs inside your blog. This file helps crawlers to find all of the URLs of your blog. There are many aspects of your site that a crawler will follow, such as the size of your sitemap and the number of URLs in your sitemap. In short, a sitemap is a complete index of your blog that you want search engine bots to see.
This wiki article on sitemaps will give you more technical and historical details.
Simply stated, a sitemap file contains all the URLs of your blog, and you submit that file to search engines to let them know about all the pages of your blog. Search engine bots follow sitemap files to crawl and index your website.
You can learn more about crawling and indexing here.
For a normal website, we use an online sitemap generator to create a sitemap file and submit it to webmaster tools offered by Google and Bing. For WordPress blogs, we use plugins that automatically keep updating our sitemap file as we publish the new post. This way, you don’t have to resubmit a new sitemap after publishing new articles.
It’s a good practice to place your sitemap file link at the footer of your website so that search engine bots can quickly discover and follow the site map file and crawl your blog more effectively.
Now that we know what a sitemap is, let’s move to the next level.
How to generate a sitemap for your WordPress website:
Sitemaps can be generated in different ways depending on the platform you are using for your website. For example, WordPress sitemaps can be easily generated using a plugin called Google XML sitemap generator plugin.
For another platform like those for static sites, there are many online tools and types of offline software which will help with sitemap generation. For the purpose of this post, I will assume you know how to generate a sitemap, and we will now learn how to submit that sitemap to Google.
Submitting sitemaps to Google Webmaster Tool:
When we submit a sitemap to Google, we do so using the Google Webmaster Tool. Assuming that you have already verified your site in Google Webmaster Tool and that you have logged in to your webmaster tool dashboard here, you have your sitemap link ready to go. If you have used an offline tool to generate your sitemap, upload it to the root of your site like this: /sitemap.xml
Here is what my blog sitemap looks like ShoutMeLoud Sitemap.
Inside your Google Webmaster Tool dashboard, on the right-hand side you will see an option called “Sitemaps”. Click on “More” to see all submitted sitemaps, or you can submit a new sitemap from there.
Click on “Add/Test Sitemap” to submit your sitemap file. On the same page, you can see which sitemaps are discovered by Google or which sitemap files have been previously submitted by you or someone from your team.
Depending on what type of sitemap you have generated, you can submit it from here. If you are running a site with lots of images, I suggest you create an image sitemap, as we already discussed in Image SEO optimization. You can also create a video sitemap for your website. For a WordPress blog, you can create image sitemaps using this WordPress plugin.
If you are submitting a sitemap for a new blog, it might take some time for you to see the index status. With index status on the same page, you can see how many URLs are submitted via sitemap and how many links Google has indexed. If you have submitted separate sitemaps for images and videos, you will see the status for those links, too. Here is an example of the index status of the ShoutMeLoud blog:
Once you are finished submitting your blog sitemap to the Google search engine, I suggest you read this guide and then repeat the process with the Bing Webmaster Tool. Here is an exclusive guide to submitting a sitemap to the Bing Webmaster Tool.
Here are few more guides that you should consider reading:
- 12 solid steps to increasing Google’s crawl rate for your website
- Understand site crawl errors in Google Webmaster Tool and fix them right now
Let us know whether or not you have done sitemap submissions for your website.
What other SEO-related things do you do for faster indexing of your blog?
Remember to share this post with anyone who might benefit from this information, including your Facebook friends, Twitter followers and members of your Google+ group!