A sitemap is a file that contains a list of all the URLs that live on your website (text, images, videos, PDFs) and how they interlink. Search engines use it to intelligently navigate your pages so that they can later be indexed and served or ranked.
A sitemap is a vital, arguably critical, part of your website’s structure to achieve search engine visibility. Without a sitemap, Googlebots (Google’s site crawlers) won’t be able to crawl your pages, and your website will likely never show up in search engine results pages (SERPs). Once you have already created your sitemap, whether auto-generated or manually coded, the next important step is to submit it to Google.
Where Can I Find My Sitemap?
After you have created your sitemap, you should give it a home in the back end of your website, ideally inside the root folder. On the front end, the recommended place for your sitemap is the bottom of your home page. When you’re ready to submit it to Google for crawling, you can easily find the sitemap by typing yoursite.com/sitemap.xml for a single file. If you have multiple sitemaps, you will likely find them as yoursite.com/sitemap_1.xml, yoursite.com/sitemap_2.xml, and so on.
Prerequisites to Submit Your Sitemap to Google
“Submitting” a sitemap does not mean actually uploading the file to Google. This action simply tells the search engine where to find the file on your website. But before you go ahead and submit, there are certain conditions that need to be met.
Owner permissions are required before you can submit a sitemap via Google Search Console (GSC). If you do not have owner permissions, then you can just reference it from your robots.txt file (a plain text file in your root folder that either blocks or allows Googlebots to crawl specific file paths). Note that the Sitemaps report on GSC can show a maximum of 1,000 submissions, and there is currently still no way to see the excess sitemaps.
Your sitemap should also be accessible to Googlebot and not blocked by any login requirements. You can test this out on your browser by searching for your sitemap’s URL in Incognito Mode.
Add a Sitemap to Google: Step-by-Step Guide
The process of adding a sitemap to Google is straightforward, as shown in the steps below.
1. Log into Google Search Console.
2. Select your website and click “Sitemap” on the left sidebar.
3. Add your sitemap’s URL.
4. Click “Submit.”
Tracking Your Sitemap’s Submission Status
Referring back to the image above, you will find the status of your sitemap submission under “Submitted sitemaps.” Each line will contain your sitemap’s filename, file type, the date it was submitted, the date Google last viewed it, the Status (Success or Couldn’t Fetch), and the number of URLs discovered.
“Success” means you can breathe easy and carry on, while “Couldn’t Fetch” means there are errors you need to fix. To find out what errors these are, simply click that same line to find a detailed description, like so.
Submit a Sitemap to Google: FAQs
How often should a sitemap be updated?
As often as you update your content or add/remove URLs. It is a good idea to resubmit your sitemap to Google whenever changes are made to keep the Googlebots updated and ensure that no SEO efforts are wasted.
How do I check if my sitemap is working?
You will know whether or not your sitemap is working by logging into “Google Webmaster Tools,” clicking “Site Configuration,” then “Sitemaps.” The “Add/Test Sitemap” button is located at the top right. Enter your sitemap URL, click “Submit,” and Google will test it immediately.
How do I resubmit a sitemap?
Resubmitting a sitemap after you’ve fixed errors involves the same process as adding a new one, but with a few changes.
1. Log into Google Search Console.
2. Select your website from the sidebar and click “Sitemaps.” The Sitemaps menu is under the “Index” section.
3. Remove the outdated or invalid sitemaps (if any).
4. Enter your sitemap URL.
5. Click “Submit.”
Important Reminders on Submitting a Sitemap to Google
- A sitemap is a recommendation to Google about which pages are important. Google does not commit to crawl every URL that’s on your sitemap.
- The position of URLs in your sitemap does not affect how Google crawls your website. Googlebots do not crawl in the order the URLs appear on your file.
- Googlebots do not bother with <changefreq> and <priority> values.
At this point, it is important to note the Googlebots do not check your sitemap every time it crawls your website. Bots will check the file only in the first instance that it is spotted and thereafter only when you request a recrawl whenever you update your pages. If your sitemap is unchanged, it doesn’t make sense to ping Google.
Given this information, a solidly written sitemap should go hand-in-hand with your efficiently optimized content. In this way, whether or not Google goes back to your sitemap as it navigates your site, it will see a natural progression of links and a network of relevant, rank-worthy content. Still unsure about how a sitemap figures into your SEO efforts? Contact us for a free SEO audit and consultation. We got your back.