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  • Jackie Day

What is an XML Sitemap and how does it work?

What is an XML sitemap

In all my years of consulting clients on website projects, one question that comes up frequently is the purpose of an XML Sitemap and how it works. This small but important file can make or break visibility for your website.

If you hired a web designer or you are a DIY designer, you probably have spent countless hours trying to perfect it, applying keyword phrases, search engine optimization, high-resolution images, alt tags, easy navigation, and mobile optimization. These are ALL very important search engine optimization elements for a website. Now that you have published your live site, what's next? You need to let Google know you have a website with some important pages that contain quality content for your audience.

Introducing the XML Sitemap. Simply put, the XML Sitemap acts as a road map to your small business website. It informs Google that changes have been made to pages, such as adding a

page description, metatag, a new blog, or alt tag for an image. This sitemap also tells Google when the page was created and last modified.

As Yoast explains:

You want Google to crawl every important page of your website, but sometimes pages end up without any internal links pointing to them, making them hard to find. An XML sitemap lists a website’s important pages, making sure Google can find and crawl them all, and helping it understand your website structure.

Below is a snapshot of an XML sitemap for First Wave Marketing, LLC

First Wave Marketingt XML Sitemap

How to submit your XML Sitemap to Google

If you want Google to find your XML sitemap quicker, you’ll need to add it to your Google Search Console account. Once you’ve logged into your Google Search Console account, simply find the ‘Sitemaps’ section and you’ll immediately see if your XML sitemap has already been added. If not, you can add your sitemap at top of the page.

Using First Wave Marketing Google Search Console and website as an example, follow the steps below:

1. Login to Google Search Console and locate your XML Sitemap. The URL is typically your website address with sitemap.xml at the end of the URL string, i.e.:

Google Search Console

2. Navigate to Sitemaps on the side-menu located under Indexing.

Google Search Console Sitemap

3. Click on Sitemaps and enter sitemap.xml at the top where it states, “Add a new sitemap” and click submit.

Adding a new sitemap

4. Once it has been submitted you will receive a confirmation that it was submitted and the status (shown in green above). The First Wave Marketing sitemap was successful!

Google’s XML sitemap is critical in helping search engines find your website content and detect any issues that could make your website unreachable. By having your pages indexed, your website can be found much easier by search engines and help your website rankings. Google will also be able to find updated content more easily, so they know when a URL needs to be crawled again. If there are issues detected, Google will display the error and provide help on how to fix it. Clearly, having a sitemap poses no risks to website owners — only benefits.

I’m a huge fan of the tools provided in Google Search Console toolbox. Once your sitemap has been submitted, navigate through some of the other options located on the left-hand side of the console. Personally, I like the Performance tab, it’s like a mini Google Analytics function providing an in-depth analysis on keywords, popular pages, clicks, and more.

If your business is need of website design and development, contact the experts at First Wave Marketing for a free consultation. We specialize in website development, search engine optimization and consulting. We make digital marketing easy for our customers.

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