How to Submit Sitemaps to Search Engines
What Is A Sitemap?
Sitemaps are generally XML files that list every single page of your website, and are thought of as a good record of your site and its contents. They're used by search engines to "see" your site as a whole in an instant, know your site's hierarchy, and decide how to process the individual pieces of your site.
What About Updating Sitemaps?
As you may have imagined, sitemaps need to be updated every single time your website's structure is updated. In other words, if a web page is deleted, moved, or created, those actions should also be reflected on your sitemap. Thankfully, there is no longer any need to do this manually anymore, as a sitemap generator will do the hard work for you.
Do I Really Need One?
Technically, no...however, it is a tool that is used directly by search engines, and therefore, an obvious advantage to anyone who actually uses one. Since search engines use them to help crawl your site, you'll really want to have one in place!
How Do I Create A Sitemap?
Having a sitemap is extremely important for proper site indexing. Creating a sitemap is a simple process, with the many free third party sitemap generation services or plugins out there.
Using a Sitemap Generator
Free services like XML-Sitemaps.com will simply ask you for your site's URL, and will being crawling your site while compiling a downloadable XML sitemap that you can simply drop into your FTP space. There's even the official Google Sitemap Generator, which is another free service that will perform this task on the server-side.
If you use Wordpress, the free plugin Google XML Sitemaps will auto-generate an XML sitemap for you. You'll have to manually generate the sitemap (it's a simple 1-click process) every time you create or delete a web page.
Synching Sitemaps with Webmaster Tools
Using any of these services will create a compliant file that can then be manually submitted to search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. The file can also be plugged in to your Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools accounts, which specifically have sections just for sitemap administration. Below, we'll review this feature for both accounts!
Google Sitemap Submission
Google has the nicest sitemap submission method around: it's called Google Webmaster, and it's a fully functional administration panel that you can use to manage all of your sites. It is an invaluable free service that lets you monitor your sites, beyond what Analytics can do for your site statistics.
To submit a sitemap to Google, create a free Google Webmaster Tools account. Add your site(s) directly on the front page, then click its link, and look for the "Sitemaps" link on the left bar. Click "Add sitemap" and follow the instructions. Type in the remainder of the URL to let Google know where that particular site's XML sitemap is located...save, and you're done!
Bing Sitemap Submission
Google isn't the only one offering webmasters an administration tool for its websites: Bing has their own version, and it's called Bing Webmaster Center. You can simply add a site URL and path to its XML file within it.
Just like Google, it also asks you to upload a file for site verification, in which you'll have to copy and paste some code into an XML file, and upload that file to the root directory. The tool will then start to provide data about the number of pages indexed, and you'll also be able to resubmit the sitemap if necessary.
Yahoo Sitemap Submission
Yahoo's old webmaster tools feature, originally called "Yahoo Site Explorer," no longer exists. Bing began powering Yahoo search in 2009, and Bing Webmaster Tools became the sitemap administration service for Yahoo, as well.
When you use Bing Webmaster Tools, it will manage your sites on both Bing and Yahoo. So, when you submit your XML sitemap to it (see the instructions above), it will update both search engines with your new information.