To help search engines to find and index all the pages on your website, it is important that you create and submit a sitemap to the main search engines. Google and Bing account for 89.7% (search engine usage june 2014) of search traffic (Yahoo gets its search results from Bing). Therefore, it is recommended that you submit to both Google and Bing.
There are two main types of Sitemap.
- HTML Sitemaps – These allow visitors to easily navigate your site and generally consist of a text version of your site navigation with appropriate keywords used as anchor text.
- XML Sitemaps – These are created purely for the search engines, allowing them to find data faster and more efficiently. In some cases, XML sitemaps help search engines to find website pages that may have been missed during the normal crawl process.
Google, Yahoo and Bing jointly support www.sitemaps.org. Please refer to this resource to learn more about the intricate details of sitemaps.
Below are two examples of sitemap – HTML (on the left), XML (on the right)
How to create your sitemap…
To create a sitemap there are a number of free resources available to you:
- https://code.google.com/p/sitemap-generators/wiki/SitemapGenerators (for larger sites) and
- http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/ (for smaller sites).
For this example, I will use xml-sitemaps.com.
To create your sitemap, go to the URL shown and follow the first three steps.
- Enter your full website URL and some optional parameters in the form below.
- Press ‘Start’ button and wait until the site is completely crawled.
- You will be redirected to the generated sitemap details page, including number of pages, broken links list, XML file content and link to a sitemap file. Download the sitemap file using that link and put it into the domain root folder of your site.
- Then, once your sitemaps have been generated and added to your website root directory, you should proceed to the Google and Bing Webmaster tools to submit your sitemaps.
Submitting your XML sitemaps to Google & Bing
Submitting Sitemaps to Google:
- Login to the Google Webmaster Tool.
- Add your website.
- To do this a number of options are available to you:At this point, you will be asked to verify your ownership or authority over your entered website. To do this a number of options are available to you:
- Add a Metatag to your webpage.
- Add a DNS record to your domain registration.
- Link to your Google Analytics account (the email address used with your webmaster account must match the email address that is used with your Google Analytics account).
- Add a Verification File to the root directory of your website.
- Once you have completed one of the above options, click ‘Verify’.
- The next thing is to submit your sitemap. Go to the ‘Crawl‘ area and click on ‘sitemaps‘.
- Click the ‘submit a sitemap‘ button, include the URL file path of your website sitemap, then click ‘submit’.
Google will now go out and collect all sorts of information about your site; search traffic, content keywords, security issues and more. After a little while, log back in and explore all the information that Google has found.
Submitting Sitemaps to Bing:
- Go to the Bing Webmaster Tool and sign in.
- Click the add a site button.
- Enter your website domain URL, then submit.
- Similar to Google, you will be asked to verify your ownership/authority over your entered website. To verify, you can do one of the following:
- Add a Verification File to the root directory of your site.
- Add the appropriate Metatag to your webpage.
- Once you have completed the verification process, click ‘configure my site‘ to find the option to submit your sitemap.
- Enter the URL of your sitemap, then click ‘submit’.
Bing will now go out and crawl your website.
As I mentioned earlier, 89.7% of search traffic is covered by Google and Bing (Yahoo gets its search from Bing). Therefore, it is recommended that you certainly submit your sitemaps to these two search engines.
Another step that you can take to help search engines to find and index all the elements of your website would be to reference your sitemap within your Robots.txt file. But that’s a topic that I’ll save for another day.