The SEO Benefits of a Google Sitemap
Without knowing the purpose of a sitemap, webmasters leave out the file and ignore its importance. However, a sitemap is not only easy to create, but it also helps you get indexed more quickly in Google, especially if you do not update your site regularly. A sitemap helps you include each Web page in Google’s index, notifies Google that you have new pages you want indexed, and you can keep track of each website URL for your own website audit records.
What is a Sitemap?
A sitemap is generally an XML file that contains each link to your internal Web pages. The XML file is typically generated by a sitemap generator. There are several online sitemap generators that crawl your website and create an XML file you can upload to your site. The XML file is picked up by crawlers, so the bots can find pages that you don’t have linked internally. You can also dynamically create a sitemap using your preferred dynamic programming language, but this is frowned upon, because large websites can take too long to generate the map, which is bad for search engines.
Adding a Sitemap in Webmaster Tools
If Google’s search engine is important to you, having a Google Webmaster Tools account helps you monitor your site in Google. One main advantage to a Webmaster Tools account is that you can “ping” Google to let the crawler know that you have new URLs to index. This utility is useful for webmasters who do not update the website often. You upload a new sitemap to Google’s Webmaster Tools, which triggers the crawler to pick up the new sitemap and index any new URLs. This method helps you get URLs indexed more quickly, so you do not need to wait weeks or months for a Google re-crawl.
To add a sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools, log in to the Webmaster Tools utility at google.com/webmasters/tools. Click the site you want to edit in the list of sites on the main dashboard screen.
The left panel contains the links to all of the utilities. Click “Site Configuration” and then click “Sitemaps.” If you have any current sitemaps uploaded, they display along with the number of URLs Google has currently indexed from the XML file.
Click “Submit a Sitemap” and specify your sitemap XML file located in your domain’s root folder. Google takes a few minutes to re-crawl the site and pick up the new XML file. After approximately 24 hours, return to the Webmaster Tools main dashboard to view the number of URLs indexed. You can keep track of future indexed URLs on this screen as you add more sitemaps.
How a Sitemap Helps Your SEO
Search engine optimization (SEO) facilitates easier crawling, indexing and categorization of your website in the search engines. Search engines crawl and “find” your Web pages by finding links to those pages within your website. If the link is not found on your own pages, the crawler can find the pages using backlinks from other website owners who link to your site. However, if no internal or external links exist, the search engines need a sitemap to find the links to your pages. The more pages you have indexed, the better chances you have for users to find your website and services. Several indexed pages also help search engines determine the proper index location for your site.
The sitemap is a necessary tool to help you manage your site in major search engines such as Google. Make sure you update your sitemap’s XML file regularly to ensure that each search engine can properly crawl and find your website pages.