Do you want your website to be crawled by major search engines? We all do. Your SEO strategy holds no weight without search bots crawling your website. How do you communicate to the search engines that you want your site crawled? You submit a sitemap.
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is essentially a list of your site’s pages, organized hierarchically, that you make available to search engines so that they can understand your site’s structure. An XML (Extensible Markup Language) sitemap is the preferred format for search engines today.
In an XML sitemap, you can specify the page location, priority and update frequency so that search engines know where to navigate once they hit your site.
How to Create A Sitemap
If you use a CMS, such as WordPress, there are many plugins available to automatically generate an XML sitemap. If you don’t, check out the Google Sitemap Generator. While not the greatest tool, it will certainly save time from creating the sitemap line by line.
How to Submit a Sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools
If you haven’t already, sign up for Webmaster Tools and verify ownership of your website. Webmaster tools provides you with important reporting regarding your site’s health.
On your site dashboard, click the “Crawl” tab on the left-hand site and select “Sitemaps.” In the upper right-hand corner, select “Add/Test Sitemap.” Once you submit your sitemap, it may take several days for Google to crawl your site. Once it’s crawled, however, you’ll be able to see vital information on how search bots are accessing your site.
You’ll see how many pages have been submitted and indexed as well as any URL errors. This is essential to understand how and why you may not be seeing the results from SEO that you were expecting.
You can submit a sitemap to Bing and Yahoo together using Bing Webmaster Tools in a similar process.