Indexing A Sitemap: A Little Step. A Big Difference.
In this blog we’re talking about a few SEO elements that many people will never see—but are critical to ranking with search engines and getting your website found in search engine results. We’re talking about sitemaps, verifying your website, and then indexing a sitemap with search engines—and it makes a huge difference in driving organic search results to your site.
The first step is preparation—and ensuring that your website has a sitemap.
If you’re using a site builder or WordPress—you probably already have a sitemap. There are also lots of plugins and free tools to automatically create and regenerate a sitemap.
If you don’t know if you have a sitemap, there are a number of ways to check. It may be located at your website at /sitemap.xml or /sitemap_index.xml (if you’re using the Yoast SEO Plugin like we are. You can go into your Yoast settings and ensure that it is generating a sitemap. If you do have a sitemap with Yoast—it probably looks something like this:
Otherwise, if you’re site is just generating a standard XML output—it probably looks more like this:
If you get a 404 (dead page), you may need to check if you have a .txt version. You may not have a sitemap or you may need to find the best way to upload one to your site.
Alright! What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file stored on your website that is readable and accessible to search engines and crawlers. It provides a list of all web pages and gives search engine important information about those pages—like which ones have the highest priority (i.e. home or contact pages). It’s usually in a .txt (basic text) or .xml (extensible markup language) format—and must be in UTF-8 encoding.
If your website doesn’t have a sitemap, there are a number of free ways to generate one for your site. It might just require a couple extra steps, or manual updating, every month. Here are some helpful tools:
- Yoast SEO (WordPress, Best): https://wordpress.org/plugins/wordpress-seo/
- Google XML Sitemaps (WordPress): https://wordpress.org/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/
- XML Sitemap Generator (WordPress & Web tool): https://xmlsitemapgenerator.org/
- XML-Sitemaps.com (Web tool): https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/
- Online XML Sitemap Generator (Web tool): http://www.web-site-map.com/
Verifying Your Website With Search Engines
Next, make sure you’ve verified your website with search engines like Google and Bing.
Registering and verifying your domain with search engines will grant your site additional protection and credibility in searches—which results in better results ranking and traffic. It also gives you lots of tools to improve your site, measure improvement, and more. We focus on Google and Bing—the two most dominant search engines—which control about 78% and 8% of market share, respectfully. (Source: https://www.netmarketshare.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4&qpcustomd=0)
Go to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools, create an account (or associate an existing account that you’ll use for your webmaster account), and add your domain. There are a number of methods for verifying your site on Google and Bing. You can do any of the following:
- Upload a file to your site for search engine to check
- Add a meta tag to your site
- Add a CNAME record to your DNS settings (recommended)
- Associate your Google Analytics Account with your domain (Google only)
Use these links to get started:
- Google Webmaster Tools: https://www.google.com/webmasters/
- Bing Webmaster Tools: https://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmaster
Indexing A Sitemap With Google & Bing
Once you’ve registered and verified your site—submit your sitemap for indexing. Indexing will queue up search engine crawlers to review your site and sitemap and add that information so that your site is more appropriately understood—which will improve your search results.
For more information on submitting your sitemap and support—here are some resources:
When indexing a sitemap, you’ll see a notification or pending status, which can take some time. But your site will be queued up to be crawled by the search engines.
That’s it! Check back in with your webmaster accounts on a monthly basis. Both Google and Bing will provide insights on improvements to improve search performance, notify you of crawl errors or problems with your site—and perhaps most importantly—improve your domain’s authority and relevance with those search engines.
As always, if you have any questions, contact us, leave us a response below or direct message us on any of our social media channels.
Thanks for reading!