Google search engine indexing can be facilitated through the creation of a sitemap. Once the map has been created, you will need to sign-up for Google Webmaster Tools (now called “Search Console) and Google Analytics accounts. Webmaster tools will permit you to submit your site for indexing. Once your web properties are indexed, you can use webmaster tools and analytics to track information about website traffic, search terms, and the effectiveness of SEOs.
This brief tutorial will show you how to step through this process. The instructions assume that you understand basics like how to upload files to your web host directory, and how to add Search Engine Optimization (SEO) terms to enhance your site’s search results.
Generating the Sitemap
A site map is a plain text XML format file that contains information about each page in your website property. There are several ways to create site maps, including free and pay automated services, through pay-for-play website builders, or even manually. Since most website properties are comparatively small, free automated site-mappers are an excellent choice.
Simply enter the complete URL of the website you would like to map, and select your choices for change frequency and whether you would like priority to be automatically calculated. Choose a change frequency that is realistic for your site. For example, if you tend to add some updates every week, enter weekly as I have above. The “last modification” setting can be set using the server’s response date and time – that is, the date and time on the server where your site is located. You can also manually set a time.
Next is the priority setting. Priorities are weights ranging from 0.0 to 1.0. These represent the “relative importance” of each page in your web property. I generally select “automatic priority” calculation. It is generally fairly accurate, since the algorithm gauges the priority number based (in part) on the position of the page in your website hierarchy. You can choose automatic, and then upon reviewing the values, make changes if you desire. This feature can save you a bit of time.
Once you’ve completed your entries, hit “Submit”. XML-Sitemaps will then begin scanning your site. When it finishes, you’ll see something like the following:
To submit a compatible sitemap to Google, click the link for “sitemap.xml” – that is the uncompressed sitemap in XML format. Save this file somewhere where you can find it on your local computer.
Placing the Sitemap
Now that you have your sitemap, you will need to upload it to your website in a publicly accessible location. If you know how to do this, go ahead and skip to the next section. If not, you want to place the sitemap in a place where Google can find it. I generally place mine in the root directory where my webpages are located. This is generally accomplished using the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). FTP uploads can be easily facilitated using free tools like Filezilla.
Some web hosting services offer their customers access to a web browser-based visual upload service. These work fine as well. Since each web host is a bit different, you will need to ascertain the specifics on how to connect to your web host account. Below is an example of an FTP upload using an application called “Transmit” (note, Transmit is not free). Filezilla is less feature rich than Transmit, but it is free and is a very easy to use application.
FTP transfer agents are generally very much like the one shown above. They are user-friendly, drag and drop style interfaces. In the example above, the left window is your file directory tree on the local machine, and the right side is the remote directory – i.e., the server where your website is stored. Locate the sitemap.xml file we downloaded in the last section in the left pane. Now, navigate to the correct directory on the right side that corresponds to your website. Drag the sitemap.xml file from the left pane to the right pane. You should see the newly uploaded file appear in the right pane.
Just a few words on configuring your FTP client. You should get this information from your web hosting provider. Most companies will have a “support” section that provides this information. I’ve shown an example from my Transmit program below:
The “server” or host box is the URL address provided by your web host where the website resides. “Protocol” again, is something your web host will provide, but for most users this will be “FTP”. Another common possibility is “SFTP” – a more secure form of FTP. You will also need to fill-in the “username” and “password” fields for your account. Most FTP client applications will pre-populate the “port” field based upon the protocol you select. If not, Port=21 is used for FTP, and Port=22 is used for SFTP.
If you already have a gmail account, establishing Webmaster and Analytics accounts will be fast and easy. If you don’t have a gmail account, get one – this will provide you with free access to numerous free Google features and web development tools, as well as an email address.
To submit our sitemap, log into your new Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) account. You should see something like the following:
My example shows several website properties, but if you’re new to this, your list will be blank. Click the “Add a Property” button. The resulting popup dialog will ask you to specify the website property you want to add:
Enter the URL address of your base website address.
Once your website has been added, Google will display a series of choices to verify your ownership of your site. Before you can index and control analytics for you site, Google will need you to use one of these verification methods:
The default is to upload the “.html” file to your website directory. To do this, download the file to your local computer, and then upload it to your website directory using the same method you used to upload your sitemap.xml file.
Next, you will see a menu on the left site of your screen. Expand the section labeled “Crawl”, and select the submenu item “Sitemaps”. A page will appear with a button in the upper right hand corner labeled “ADD/TEST SITEMAP”. A popup will appear with the base URL address you entered previously. Assuming you uploaded your sitemap to the root directory of your website, you only need to add the name of the file “sitemap.xml”:
Now click “Submit Sitemap”.
Now that the sitemap has been submitted, we want to expedite the process of indexing. To do that, look for the submenu link under “Crawl” labeled “Fetch as Google” and click to reveal the following:
Now simply click the “Fetch and Render” button. In a few moments, you should see a line below the “Fetch as Google” dialog, and on the right will be a button labeled “Submit to Index”:
Click on that button. That’s it! You’ve submitted your site for indexing.
A Brief Word on Google Analytics
To get the most out of your indexing and SEO, you will want to link your Webmaster and Analytics accounts. Go back to the Analytics account you created, and on the main page, click the “Admin” link near the top.
When you get to the next page, click on the “Account” dropdown, and select “Create new account”. You will need to add information about the website property you just added to Webmaster Tools. When complete, you will be able to see the property on the main page. Click on that link:
Upon enter the property pages, look at the left side menu for a section labeled “Acquisition”. Click to expand to reveal a submenu item labeled “Queries”:
Once you click that button, you will be shown a page advising that you need to link your Webmaster and Analytics accounts:
Click the setup button.
Now if you click the “Edit” link, you will be taken back to your Webmaster account where you will be asked to confirm that you’d like to link the two accounts.
One important note: in order for Analytics to provide useful data, you will be provided with a snippet of code that you will need to paste into every page for which you would like detailed demographics. Although that is not covered by this tutorial, adding this code will provide you with maximum detailed information on your website and SEO performance.