Help Search Engines Help You with Sitemaps
Adding new content to your website is a great way to stay relevant in the minds of your customers. It's also a proven strategy that helps get your website listed higher in search engine queries.
For optimal results, make sure you update your sitemap file anytime website content is added or updated.
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file that search engines use to help determine the complete structure of your website. It also provides search engines with additional information about each page, such as when a page was last updated, how often content is likely to change, and a page's relative priority within the site. This information is used by search engines for relevance and ranking purposes.
Sitemap files are typically managed by CMS systems, or updated manually by website developers when changes are made to the site. They are usually stored alongside the files that make up the website, with the exact location of the sitemap detailed in the robots.txt file.
What is the Robots.txt File?
The robots.txt file is another tool used to communicate with search engines crawlers (bots), which are programs used to gather information about your website. The file instructs the bots to index (or not index) specific pages, and it also gives them the exact location of the sitemap file.
Submitting Your Sitemap to Google
It should be noted that the existence of a sitemap does not guarantee that all pages within your website will be indexed by a search engine, but it is very likely to increase the possibility of indexing. One way to force indexing from Google is by submitting your sitemap file via Google's Search Console. If you have not used Google's Search Console, read 'How Your Business Can Benefit from Using Google's Search Console' for some background.
Once you're logged in to the Search Console, you can access the sitemaps area by opening the crawl menu and clicking on “Sitemaps”.
Next, in the top right, there is a button to “Add/Test sitemap”. It's a good idea to test your sitemap to ensure there are no errors before submitting it to Google. Once you've confirmed that your sitemap is error free, click that same button, enter the URL for the location of your sitemap and then choose “Submit”.
Congrats, your sitemap has now been submitted to Google for Indexing! Once submitted, you should see a report indicating how many pages were listed and how many pages were indexed.
Now that you've submitted your sitemap to Google and have requested indexing, you no longer have to wonder whether Google's bots have gotten around to crawling your site. You can rest assured knowing that you've done your part in getting your web pages indexed as quickly as you can control!