Telling Google about your posts with Sitemaps

I’ve written before about submitting new content to Google, but there is one tool that in my experience works even better than pinging, and that is the sitemap submission.

You’ve probably heard of sitemaps before.  Many large websites use them to give their visitors an overview of how the site is structured.

Well, when this sitemap is in a special format called XML, Google can use it to review your entire site at once.

Setting up the sitemap submission is quite a long process, but it is worth it.  If you haven’t done so already, apply for a Google Webmaster Tools account.

We’ll come back to what to do there in a little bit.  First, you need to log into a WordPress administrator account.

1. The sitemap is created using a plug-in, so click on “Add new” in the “Plugins” area of the sidebar.

Click on Add New

2. Enter “google xml” as the search term and click on “Search Plugins”.

Search for Google xml

3. Probably the first result will be “Google XML Sitemaps” by Arne Brachhold.  Install this by clicking on “Install Now”.

Install the plug-in

4. Once installed, activate the plug-in by clicking on “Activate Plugin”.

Then activate it

5. Now you need to enter or at least review the settings.  To do this, click on “XML-Sitemap” in the “Settings” area of the sidebar.

Click on XML-Sitemap

6. At the moment, you can probably leave the basic settings as they are.  Note that the plug-in also notifies Bing and Ask.com about new content.  If you have a Yahoo! Application ID it will even notify that site as well!

Basic Settings(Click on the image to enlarge)

7. The “Location of your sitemap file” can probably stay the same as well.

The sitemap file location

8. In the “Sitemap Content” section, you can define which parts of the site will be indexed.  You might, for example, want to deactivate static pages from being indexed.

Sitemap content

9. You can set the priorities for different parts of the site and how often these are usually updated, in order to help the crawler.

Priorities and Schedules

10. Now go back to the top of the page and click on “Click here” to build the sitemap.

Click here

11. The chances are, that it will not work.  You need to take some further steps first.

The file could not be created

12. Open up Windows Notepad and save the empty file as “sitemap.xml” to your hard disc.

Save an empty sitemap.xml with Windows Notepad

13. Now save it as “sitemap.xml.gz”.

Save an empty sitemap.xml.gz with Windows Notepad

14. Using an FTP program, upload both files to the main directory of your blog on the web server.

Upload with FTP

15. You will then need to tell the FTP program to change the so-called “file attributes”.  Note that not all FTP programs can do this so you might need to change to a different one.

Change the file attributes

16. Set both files to have the attributes “777”.

Set the attributes to 777

17. Return to WordPress and click on “rebuild the sitemap”.  This time it should work!

Now it should work

18. Now log into the Google Webmaster Tools.  Select “Sitemaps” from the “Site configuration” part of the sidebar.

Select Sitemaps in Google Webmaster Tools

19. Click on “Submit a Sitemap”.

Submit a Sitemap

20. Enter the name “sitemap.xml” and click on “Submit Sitemap”.

Enter sitemap.xml

21. Google will then show that it is processing the sitemap file.

The sitemap is being processed

22. A few minutes later, and the sitemap should have been accepted.

The sitemap has been processed

Note how not all the URLs on this site were in the Google index.  The site has 30 URLs, but only 20 were in the index.  Hopefully the crawler will visit those other 10 soon!

About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a blogger from Germany. He has written code for WordPress themes since 2006 and been creating websites since 1994.
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