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Submit a Sitemap – A Beginners Guide

John Doherty —  March 6, 2011
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Sitemap (n): A file placed on your web server, in XML format, to alert search engines to a website’s existing pages. Submitted manually to search engines using Webmaster Tools.

I just made up that definition, but it is also deceptive. I’ve been in web development for about 5 years, and I still hate sitemaps. At least, I did. I do sometimes.

Sitemaps can be incredibly helpful for websites, especially new websites, when trying to be discovered and ranked by search engines. They can be easy or terribly difficult to create, depending on the size, scope, and format of your website. I’ll cover this in a later post.

Basic Sitemaps for Beginners

Sitemaps for indexing, and therefore SEO, purposes are created in XML (eXtensible Markup Language) format. To learn more about the format for XML sitemaps, read this article on Sitemaps.org, the first result when you search “xml sitemap format”, and a surprisingly good resource for beginning.

A sitemap can, and possibly should, be generated every time you update your website by adding a new content page or blog post. Sitemaps should be placed in the root folder of your domain (so if your website is http://littlebluewidgets.com, your sitemap path should read http://littlebluewidgets.com/sitemap.xml).

Now, this is not an error-proof way of telling the search engines that you have a sitemap or that they should look for it. After all, if they have not yet found your site, a sitemap simply being placed in your root folder is not going to do you any good. You should use the search engine webmaster tools.

Webmaster Tools

Both Google and Bing have been nice enough to provide webmasters (and SEOs) with Webmaster Tools. Google’s is found here and Bing’s is found here. You must register your website with each tool and then place the given code into your site’s header (or use Yoast SEO for WordPress to do it automatically on your WordPress blog). Wait a few minutes (I usually wait a couple hours) and then verify your site.

Once inside, find the Sitemaps area where you can submit the path of your sitemap on your website.

Google

To find the sitemaps area in Google, simply log into your Webmaster account and click your website. Once the Dashboard appears, click “Submit a Sitemap”, which is found in the lower right-hand corner of the page.

Click "Submit A Sitemap" to move to the Sitemaps page

When you move to the Sitemaps window, click the “Submit A Sitemap” button and the below window will appear:

Google Sitemaps Window

Click "Submit A Sitemap" and enter your sitemap path

If you have entered the correct path, you should see a green check mark under the Status column.

Now on to Bing!

Bing

Submitting a sitemap to Bing is a bit trickier. Once you sign into Bing Webmaster Tools and select your website, you will land on the Dashboard page. Click the “Crawl” section, which is just to the right of “Dashboard” on the top navigation.

Bing Dashboard Screenshot

Click "Crawl" to move to the next step.

Once in the Crawl section, click “Sitemaps” on the left side of the screen:

Bing Crawl Webmaster Tools

Click "Sitemaps" to progress to the next step

Then click “Add Sitemap” and the following screen will appear:

Sitemaps for Beginners

Enter your sitemap path into this box

As long as your sitemap is in its proper place and you designate the correct path, you should see “Success” under the “Status” column.

Conclusion

I have taken you through the steps to submit your sitemap to the main search engines, Google and Bing. I highly recommend that you use a website CMS or blogging platform that allows you to automatically generate and submit your sitemap to the search engines.

I personally use Yoast SEO for WordPress, which I use to update the sitemap (I’ll be doing so directly after this post goes live) and ping Google and Bing to alert them that I have updated my website. This increases the likelihood of your new content being indexed.

Questions? Comments? Leave them in the Comments section!

John Doherty

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I'm the Senior Marketing Manager of HotPads.com, based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

4 responses to Submit a Sitemap – A Beginners Guide

  1. Spain Soccer Jersey December 11, 2011 at 5:37 am

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  2. Sound advice for beginners, useful for the sitemap links

  3. This is true, people. Mighty good information, John Doherty! I’m currently working on my uncle’s web property and within a couple of days of changing his original sitemap to XML and submitting it we’ve seen huge improvements in the way the site is crawled and search rankings.

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