How to set up your Google Site Map

A Google Site Map is one of those marketing tactics that you set up and forget about. Usually until you build a new website, forget to rebuild it, and suddenly find all your search traffic has dropped away.

It’s a little silent miracle worker. And every website should have one.

Why do you need a Google Site Map?

The Google Site Map is your way to make sure Google has the right impression of your website. It tells Google where all your pages are, and by providing a definitive list of pages it helps Google understand what pages are dead and gone faster.

Now, this is Google search we’re talking about so it’s not a case of “if it’s in my site map it will get lots of traffic”. Rather the more accurate an impression of your website Google has the more Google will like your site, leading to more accurate appearances in the search engine results.

There are 3 parts to getting / increasing your traffic from Google:

  1. Be in the index
  2. Have the right content (keywords) on your web pages
  3. Be liked by Google (social sharing and links)

The site map only affects the first of these – it improves the information Google holds about you in it’s index.

What is the Google Index? And why should I care?

The Google Index is the big (massive) database which Google pulls all it’s search results from. So you gotta be in it, to win it!

If a page from your website isn’t in the index it’s not going to appear in the search results.

If there are lots of inaccurate pages from your site in the index then Google isn’t going to understand your website, so you won’t get the traffic you deserve.

Google’s spiders will naturally add your site to the index page by page as they find it. Your sitemap will give Google the head’s up on exactly what’s there, and help Google to better understand your site.

The sitemap can be built to include information about your images and videos – thus adding you to the indexes that power the video results and the image results….

Step 1 Have a Google Webmaster Tools Account for your website

You have to have a GWT account to be able to submit a sitemap.

They are free, and easy to set up – just go here.

Your website builder or SEO agency may have set one up – so check with them first.

If you’re setting it up from scratch, use the same login you use for Analytics – then you can integrate the data from GWT into your analytics reports.

Step 2 Build the Sitemap

You’re going to need your website builder to do this for you, so ask them for a quote to do so. When you write the brief bear in mind:

  • you want the sitemap to regenerate every 24 hours – so it’s always up to date
  • a simple site map is better than no site map, so ask them for a price including / excluding the extension and the tags – there may be a very high ticket price for the extra functionality

At its most simple a sitemap just lists the URLs of your live pages.

The next step is to add in the site map extensions. This is where we start feeding information into more than one index, so we can give Google information about Videos, Mobile, Images, and News (although they suggest a separate site map for news). If you’ve got lots of great images and videos – well worth doing this. The straight page URLs are also an “extension”.

Finally, each extension you’re using can have a number of sitemap tags. So you can provide extra information about the item to Google such as the date the extension was last modified, a hint about how often you update that extension, how important the different extensions are in your site.

You’ll find all of Google’s advice here.

Step 3 Submit the sitemap

GWT sitemap submit buttonOnce you’ve got your sitemap it’s time to submit it to GWT.

Just login, and click on the “Add a sitemap” button – follow the simple instructions and it’s done!

Check to see if Google’s giving you any feedback on the sitemap and amend as required.

Then you can just sit back and relax knowing that your sitemap is keeping Google up to date on your website.