Knowing how to submit a sitemap to Google is an important step in optimizing your website for search engines. A sitemap is an XML file that lists the URLs for a site, which allows Google to read and crawl them more intelligently. A sitemap acts as a roadmap of your website that leads Google to all of your important pages. WordPress, being a highly SEO-friendly platform, includes several ways to generate a sitemap, which can then be submitted to Google to ensure that your content is indexed and has the potential to rank higher in search results.

person creating a sitemap
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The first step to submitting a sitemap is setting up Google Search Console for your WordPress website. This free service provided by Google helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site's presence in Google Search results. GSC helps in understanding how Google views your site and how to optimize its performance in search results.

Understanding Sitemaps

A computer displaying a WordPress dashboard with a sitemap plugin open. A browser window shows the Google Search Console website with the sitemap submission page visible

What Is a Sitemap?

A sitemap is a file that outlines the organization of your website's content, serving as a guide for search engines. It's designed to help search engines discover and index your web pages more efficiently. Sitemaps come primarily in two formats: XML and HTML. XML sitemaps are intended for search engine crawlers.

The Importance of Sitemaps for SEO

Sitemaps are fundamental for SEO because they facilitate search engines in finding and indexing your web pages. By providing a clear map of all your pages, especially new or updated content, you enable search engines to crawl your site more effectively. This can lead to better visibility and rankings in search results.

The Structure of a Standard Sitemap

The structure of a standard XML sitemap is fairly straightforward. It is a file formatted in XML that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL. This includes information like when the page was last updated, how often the page changes, and the relative importance of the page in the context of the entire site. A well-structured sitemap ensures that all your pages are discovered by search engine bots.

Setting Up Google Search Console

Creating a Google Account

To access Google Search Console, you need a Google Account. If you already have an account with Google (e.g., Gmail), you can use it to sign in. If not, you'll have to create one. Here's how:

  1. Go to the Google Accounts sign-up page.
  2. Fill in the required information—name, username, and password.
  3. Click Next and follow the prompts to complete the setup.

Remember: Your Google Account gives you access to numerous Google services, including Google Analytics and Google My Business.

Adding and Verifying Your Domain

Once you have a Google Account, your next step is to add and verify your domain in Google Search Console. This is to prove ownership and gain access to confidential data and analytics for your domain.

  1. Sign in to Google Search Console.
  2. Click ‘Add Property' on the top left side of the page.
  3. Choose between the two types of properties: ‘Domain‘ or ‘URL-prefix.'
    • Domain includes both http and https protocols, along with all subdomains.
    • URL-prefix includes a specific protocol and URL path.
how to submit a sitemap to Google

In this article, we will be using the URL-prefix method

For URL-prefix property:

  1. Enter your website’s URL in the format: https://www.example.com.
  2. Choose a verification method. Google offers several, including uploading an HTML file to your website or adding an HTML tag to the homepage of your site. We're using the HTML tag method.
  3. Copy the meta tag that they give you.
  4. Go to your WordPress admin area and add a headers and footers plugin. We're using Simple Custom CSS and JS.

After you activate the plugin, go to your sidebar in your admin area> Custom CSS and JS> Add Custom HTML. Give it a name and paste the snippet that you got from Google Search Console into the box after the comment. Be sure to set “Where on page” to Header and click update.

Now go back to the Google Search Console page and click verify. If it doesn't verify immediately, give it a few minutes and click verify again.

Verification ensures that only authorized users can make changes to your website's data in Google Search Console.

Creating Your WordPress Sitemap

Generating a Sitemap in WordPress

WordPress offers native functionality to generate a sitemap without the need for plugins. As of WordPress 5.5, a basic sitemap is created automatically and can be accessed by adding /wp-sitemap.xml to your site's base URL. Here's how you find it:

  1. Navigate to your WordPress website.
  2. Add /wp-sitemap.xml at the end of your domain URL (e.g., http://www.yoursite.com/wp-sitemap.xml).

This sitemap will list the URLs of your posts, pages, and other post types, categorizing them for easier access.

Using RankMath to Create a Sitemap

Alternatively, you can utilize SEO plugins like RankMath that provide extended sitemap features. To create a sitemap with RankMath:

  1. Install and activate the RankMath plugin from your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Navigate to RankMath's dashboard and locate the Sitemap Settings.
  3. Configure your sitemap preferences, such as which post types or taxonomies to include.
  4. Once configured, RankMath generates a sitemap that can be accessed at yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml.

Copy the url that is generated by RankMath.

Verifying Your Sitemap

After creating your sitemap, ensure that it is correctly formatted and error-free:

  1. Visit your sitemap URL (found using the above methods).
  2. Check for any error messages or issues in the displayed XML.
  3. Confirm that it lists all essential URLs you want to be indexed.

RankMath has lots more features that make it one of my top recommended plugins.

How to Submit a Sitemap to Google

After creating a sitemap for your WordPress website, it's essential to submit it properly to ensure that Google crawls and indexes your website efficiently. This straightforward process will help Google understand your site structure and content updates.

Navigate to Sitemap Section in GSC

Sign in to your Google Search Console (GSC) account. Once you're in the dashboard, look for the ‘Sitemaps' section on the left-hand menu. This is where you'll input your sitemap URL.

Submit Your Sitemap URL

Under the ‘Sitemaps' section, you'll find a spot to add a new sitemap. Enter the sitemap URL: the beginning of the url will already be there. Then click “Submit”.

Monitor the Sitemap Status

Please note that it will take a few days for Google to crawl your site. After submission, track the status of your sitemap by revisiting the ‘Sitemaps' section. Google Search Console will provide valuable feedback, including:

  • Whether Google successfully read your sitemap.
  • If your sitemap was processed without any issues.
  • The number of URLs found and submitted to the Google index.

To Monitor Status, check the tables under the ‘Submitted Sitemaps' section which will indicate:

  • Status: Shows whether the sitemap is successfully added or if errors were encountered.
  • Last Read: Google's last crawl date of your sitemap.
  • Discovered URLs: Number of URLs in your sitemap identified by Google.

Regular monitoring ensures that any issues are identified and addressed promptly, maintaining your site's visibility in search results.

Check under Indexing> Pages to find any pages or posts that have not been crawled.

Troubleshooting Common Sitemap Issues

When submitting your sitemap to Google through the Google Search Console, you may encounter a few common issues. These include sitemap errors, duplicate content, and outdated URLs. Understanding how to handle these problems will ensure your sitemap remains effective for SEO.

Handling Sitemap Errors in GSC

If you encounter errors after submitting your sitemap.xml to Google Search Console (GSC), check the details of the error message. Errors may involve invalid URLs, issues with the sitemap format, or problems with site accessibility. You'll see this information in the ‘Sitemaps' section. Address each error by making the necessary corrections to your sitemap or website structure.

Properly structured sitemaps ensure that all dynamic elements of your site's content are found and indexed, making it easier for users to discover your media-rich posts and archives.

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