What is a sitemap?
Simply put, a sitemap is a file that contains a list of pages on your website. There are two types of sitemaps: HTML and XML.
What is an HTML sitemap?
What is an XML sitemap?
An XML sitemap is a file that is submitted to Google to help it find, crawl, and index your important website pages. Sitemaps are not mandatory, but if a website has not submitted an XML sitemap, then Google must use your internal linking strategy to find pages. On small websites (around 100 pages or fewer), this likely won’t be an issue. But the more pages you have on your website, the more challenging it is for Google to crawl and index all of your pages. If important pages are not indexed, your SEO can be negatively impacted. An XML sitemap speeds up the page crawling process and ensures that important pages aren’t missed.
Just like a typical folder structure on your computer, an XML sitemap can have a parent sitemap and child sitemaps. Multiple XML sitemaps may be required for large websites where the initial sitemap is larger than 50MB or there are more than 50,000 URLs listed.
The remainder of this article will focus on creating and submitting XML sitemaps.
How to create a sitemap
Certain Content Management Systems (CMS) will automatically generate, submit, and update your sitemap when you add or remove pages from your site. But if your CMS doesn’t auto-generate one, you can easily create one with a plugin like Yoast SEO or Google XML Sitemaps.
If your website has very few pages on it, you may be able to create it manually, but this requires more technical experience and is much more time-consuming.
How to submit sitemaps to Google
Submitting your sitemap to Google is quite straightforward through Google Search Console:
1. Log in to your Google Search Console account
If you don’t already have a Google Search Console account, it’s an excellent tool to help you understand your website performance as well as communicate important information to Google (like your sitemap).
2. Navigate to “Sitemaps”
“Sitemaps” is located within the “Index” section in your lefthand menu. Click on this link to view any pre-existing sitemaps you may have already submitted. Remember, your CMS may have automatically submitted a sitemap for you, so it’s a good idea to confirm this before creating a new one.
If there are outdated sitemaps present, go ahead and remove them.
3. Add your new sitemap
Your XML sitemap has a unique URL, which can be generated using a sitemap plugin. Enter the URL in the “Add a new sitemap” section. Simply hit “Submit” and it’s off to Google!
4. Verify your sitemap submission
Once your sitemap has been submitted, it will appear in the “Submitted sitemaps” section. Here you can view the details of your submission including:
- Type of sitemap
- Date submitted
- Last read
- Status (Success, Couldn’t Fetch, or Has Errors)
- Number of discovered URLs