Google uses crawler called Googlebot to find new content on the web and index the pages in search results. This happens automatically once you publish the content online. However, the crawler may not understand the site content properly since every website has different structure. Therefore, website owners have an option to prepare a separate page and inform Googlebot about the structure of their specific sites. This page is called XML Sitemap and in this article, let us explore how to prepare and submit Sitemap to Google in Google Search Console.
1. Basics of XML Sitemap
You can check out our detailed article on structure and format of XML Sitemap. Here are some basic facts to ensure you have correct understanding:
- The XML Sitemap is not part of the website content and is in XML format. You can also create a HTML Sitemap as part of your site content and show to users visiting your website. However, you don’t need to display XML Sitemap to users.
- XML Sitemap should be uploaded in the root directory of your website and accessible in browser. If you have it in different location, then you need to use Robots.txt file directive to inform Google about the actual location of the Sitemap.
- Webmasters can submit the XML Sitemap for each website they own to help Googlebot in crawling and indexing the pages.
- This helps Googlebot to understand the link structure and the importance of any page URL compared to the whole site.
- Google Search Console, previously known as Google Webmaster Tools is the only way to submit your Sitemap to Google.
2. Accepted Sitemap Formats
Though XML Sitemap is widely used format, you can have other formats for Sitemap submission in Google.
- RSS or Atom feed of your blog
- Text link file containing all links on your site
- XML Sitemap index contains multiple single Sitemaps
RSS or Atom blog feeds generally have the latest 10 to 25 blog posts. If you have no XML Sitemap, you can still use the blog feed to Google. However, the problem is that when you modify the old content that is not part of the feed. Since the modified URL is not part of the feed, you may need to use URL Submission tool to submit separately.
You can also simply submit a text file to Google containing URLs one per line. However, you need to update the Sitemap file continuously whenever you add new URL on your site. So the best option is to submit XML Sitemap which will automatically updates the new URL and also has all old URLs. This will help to boost the visibility of all the pages on your site.
3. Preparing XML Sitemap
The preparation of XML Sitemap depends on the type of your website and the content management system you use. Most content management systems like WordPress, Weebly and Wix has automatic Sitemap generation tools. However, if you have a static website made with simple HTML or Bootstrap framework then you can use third party tools to generate Sitemap.
- Use XML Sitemap generator tool to create a Sitemap for your site. If you have WordPress site, use Yoast SEO or similar plugins to generate Sitemap. In our site, we use Sitemap index file containing multiple Sitemaps as shown below:
- If you have manually create a Sitemap, ensure to upload the XML file in your site’s root directory using FTP or File Manager. This will happen automatically with the automatic generation tools.
- Check your Sitemap URL in the browser address bar to ensure it can be accessed with the URL like “https://www.yoursitename.com/sitemap.xml“.
- Use correct protocols with HTTPS and WWW in your Sitemap file.
Note: Old Search Console or Webmaster Tools account had an option to set preferred domain settings for Google. If you have set the preferred domain as www then ensure to submit the Sitemap with www. Otherwise, you can submit both www and non-www versions if they both redirecting to the correct one. In new Search Console account, Google removed the preferred domain settings. Therefore, you can add all versions under domain property. However, Sitemap needs to submitted separately if you have www and non-www versions of you site.
4. Submit Sitemap to Google in Search Console
In order to submit your Sitemap you need to have a Google Search Console or Webmaster Tools account. This is the only way to submit your Sitemap to Google. You need to first add your domain and verify the ownership of your website before start using the webmaster tools account. Check out our article on how to add and verify your site in Google Search Console.
After successful verification of the ownership, follow the below instructions for submitting your Sitemap:
- Login to your Search Console account and select the site from the top dropdown.
- Click on the “Sitemaps” section.
- Enter correct Sitemap URL under “Add a new Sitemap” option.
- Click on the “Submit” button to submit your Sitemap to Google.
- You will see a success message pop-up like below and the status of the submission under “Submitted sitemaps” section.
5. Fixing Sitemap Issues
After you submit the Sitemap, it will show in Pending status till the time Google process it. This may take a day in general as Google normally processes Sitemaps every day. However, you may see different types of errors when submitting. You can find details of the the error by clicking on the submitted Sitemap.
Below are some of the common Sitemap errors along with the reasons and the way to fix:
- Couldn’t Fetch – this error indicates, Googlebot couldn’t crawl the Sitemap URL. The most possible reason could be that your URL is not accessible on browser. Check your server permissions and ensure that the Sitemap URL is accessible in browser. However, after submission, the new Search Console currently shows the status as “Couldn’t Fetch” even though the Sitemap is accessible. This is a bug in the Search Console and you don’t need to worry about this. After few days, the status will be changed to “Success”.
- General HTTP Error – click on this message to see the type of HTTP error. The status code will tell you the reason like 500 server error, 404 not found error and 403 permission error.
- Sitemap is HTML – ensure you have submitted XML Sitemap. Again, the new Search Console shows this error on some cases though the submitted URL is XML Sitemap. You can ignore and wait for few days to successful status.
The “Status” column will also show all warnings and errors encountered when processing your Sitemap. Clicking on the number of warnings or errors will show you the detailed issues in your Sitemap. For example if an URL in your Sitemap if blocked by Robots.txt then Googlebot can’t crawl that URL. This will be shown here as a warning.
6. Check Indexed Pages
After submission wait for few days till the status is showing as “Success”.
- When the status is success, you can check all the details like type of Sitemap, date of submission, last crawled date and number of discovered URL.
- Click on the submit link to get more details about the indexed status. You can click on the small graph icon against the Sitemap to get the index coverage details and fix index error.
7. Resubmitting and Deleting Sitemaps
At any point of time, you can resubmit or delete your Sitemap from Search Console.
- After correcting the warnings and errors, you can resubmit the same Sitemap for processing.
- You also have an option to delete the existing Sitemap and submit a new one. First click on your submitted Sitemap and then choose the “Remove sitemap” option to delete it from Search Console.
We hope this article helps you to understand the basics of XML Sitemap and how to submit to Google Search Console account. Most important point to remember is that submitting Sitemap will not help in improving your search ranking. The ranking is decided by Google algorithm based on content and external link quality. However, Sitemap will help Google to understand your site structure to index new and modified content quickly.