If you intend having a good relationship with Google, or any other search engine for that matter, you need to play by their rules. That means, letting them know about your website and where all your pages and posts are.
As a beginner to website creation, you may not be aware of all the little things that go into having your website rank. It’s a little bit involved, so I’ll touch on what is a google sitemap, why you require a sitemap and what you need to do to start getting indexed.
After all, that’s what a sitemap is for.
What Does a Sitemap Do
Effectively, a Sitemap is a file that your website can generate via a plugin, which then gets submitted to search engines such as Google. This file details all the posts, pages, images, video etc within your website, and the relationship between each of these elements.
What the Sitemap actually does, is tell the search engine to crawl the details within the file, so that it can be indexed in the search results. Search engines like to know if you’ve updated any pages or articles on your site, so not submitting this information may alert Google to thinking your website is stagnant. This may end up with giving you lower rankings in search results.
The main benefits of submitting your Sitemap to Google (or Bing, Yahoo etc), is that your pages and posts will get indexed much quicker than if they are left to be indexed organically. Although Google and co. will eventually find your posts, alerting these search engines to the effort you’ve provided with published material, will have you ranking faster. This will in turn get you more website traffic.
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Where to Find Your SiteMap
First off, you need to generate a Sitemap, which can be done either manually, or via a 3rd party plugin. As this website is dedicated to creating WordPress blogs for beginners, I’ll be touching on the easiest and most common method.
There are WordPress plugins for everything these days and generating a Sitemap is no different. There are a number of plugins specifically for this purpose, I’ll be using a plugin called All-in-One SEO.
This plugin has a Sitemap generation tool built in, which means there’s no need to install 2 plugins, one for SEO and one for your Sitemap. All-in-One SEO kills two birds with the one stone.
Sitemap With All-in-One SEO
I’ll assume you’ll have All-in-One SEO installed already, if not you can read about the best SEO plugin here. Click on the ‘Features Manager’ section and active ‘XML Sitemaps’. When this is activated you’ll notice XML Sitemap in the All-in-One SEO menu.
When you activate XML sitemaps, a message will appear stating “All in One SEO Options Updated.” Your Sitemap has now been generated.
You’ll be able to modify what goes into your Sitemap by ticking on/off the various elements shown below.
Once you’ve made your modifications, simply click on ‘Update Sitemap’ and you’re done.
It’s now possible to view your sitemap at anytime. Simply click on the link provided that says ‘view your XML sitemap’.
When you view your sitemap, it will display all the links to the elements you’ve requested in your settings, such as posts, pages categories, images etc.
How to Let Google Know About Your Sitemap
This is where you’ll need to use Google Search Console (formally Google Webmaster Tools). Your sitemap is important, but not unless you inform Google of it.
First you’ll need to verify to Google, that you are the owner of your website. Add a new property, and then you have 5 different options of how to verify your website with Google.
I find the simplest method is to sync it with Google Analytics. If you have your website already verified with Google Analytics and you’re already signed in, simply click ‘Verify with Google Analytics’ and you should be good to go.
Otherwise, click on HTML tag and insert the line of code into your header section. What this means is, open up your sites homepage and go to the HTML editor. You should have header tags that look like this: <head> — </head>.
The first head tag <head> is the opening header tag. Anything within this, and the closing header tag </head> is part of your header section. This is where the HTML tag from Webmaster console should be added.
I’ve suggested this before, but I find using a theme such as Divi Theme from Elegant Themes can help tremendously when it comes to integrating code like this. The reason being, is that they have a section for integration in the settings.
Once your Google Search Console code has been added to your head section, go to your home page URL in a new browser tab.
Then right click your mouse and choose ‘View Source Code’ or ‘View Page Source’, depending on your browser.
You should see the code between the header tags. There could be a lot of information between these header tags, using the quick find facility maybe easier. Windows=CTRL+F or Mac=+F. This will open up a search box, search for ‘google-site-verification’.
Now go back to Google Search Console and click the ‘Verify’ button.
If these options don’t work, or if you require more clarification on these verifying methods, check Googles verification help page.
Adding Your Sitemap to Google Search Console
Okay, now you’ve got your website verified with Google Search Console, it’s time to submit your sitemap. This is as simple as clicking on ‘Sitemaps’ in the side menu, and adding the sitemap filename where it says ‘Enter sitemap URL.
If you’re using All-in-One SEO, which is my preferred SEO plugin, simply type in ‘sitemap.xml’.
If you’re using Yoast SEO plugin, which is the next most popular SEO plugin, enter ‘sitemap_index.xml’.
You’re now all set to go with any new pages or posts that you add, but there is still a manual process to go through to have your posts indexed quicker. It used to be known as the ‘Fetch and Render’ tool.
Google Search Console has recently had a makeover, and now you simply click on ‘URL Inspection’ and place the full URL of your newly published post.
Hit ‘Enter/Return’ and you’re done.
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Submitting your sitemap to Google and other search engines is not only going to help you get indexed, but also gives you the option to submit each published post for faster indexing.
There’s critical steps to getting indexed in the search engines including the following:
- Setting up your SEO Plugin
- Creating a Google Analytics account
- Setting up Google search Console
If your SEO plugin does not have a sitemap feature, you’ll need to also install a sitemap plugin such as Google XML sitemaps.
All this is part of your learning curve of creating a passive online business. Whether it’s via affiliate marketing which is my favourite method, or selling via a dropshipping ecommerce store, these steps will help with your organic reach so you don’t require pumping funds into paid advertising.
I hope this sitemap explanation has helped with moving your website forward.
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The opinions in this article are solely mine, are are not intended to offend or discriminate. All information in this review has been researched on the public domain of the internet.