How to Submit an XML Sitemap to Google and Bing

You need to submit your XML sitemap to Google and Bing and make it easy for other search engines, such as Ask.com, to find the sitemap on their own. You can tell search engines about your sitemaps in three different ways:

  • Submit a sitemap through the search engine’s Webmaster account.

  • Include a line in the robots.txt file telling a search engine where the file is.

  • Ping the search engines.

The last method is pretty much optional. You should definitely submit your sitemap to Google and Bing and use a robots.txt file.

Submit using the Webmaster account

You should set up an account on both the major systems (Google, and Bing; Ask.com doesn’t currently have Webmaster accounts) and submit your website’s XML sitemap. Then review the various tools that are available. Here’s where you can find the Webmaster areas and sitemap-submission pages for the two top systems:

You don’t need a separate account on each system for each website you own — you can submit multiple sites through each account, though the number of websites that you can manage through each account is limited. (Bing limits the number of sites to 125 sitemaps; for Google, it’s around 400 . . . enough for most people!)

However, in some cases, website owners don’t want search engines to know that their sites are associated; for instance, if a site owner has three sites, all of which rank on the first page for important keywords, he may not want it to be obvious that all sites are owned by the same person. In such a case, of course, the owner would set up separate accounts for submitting each sitemap.

Here’s the basic process you use at all these services:

  1. Set up an account.

    In each case, you have to set up a password-protected account.

  2. Add the URL of your website.

  3. Tell the search engine where the sitemap is.

    You provide the URL that points to your sitemap; the search engine checks to see whether it can find the file.

  4. Verify your site.

    You can verify your site in several ways:

    • You can choose to get a verification file, a small text file, that’s stored on your server. For instance, Google provides you with an .html file that you can download and place in your site. The file contains a single line of text, something like this: google-site-verification: googlec4b99698d01b26f2.html.

    • You may use a special meta tag that you add to your home page (something like <meta name="google-site-verification" content="1bkH4kUFdeKgcMhxOj8e06-7faFDZqAnS2jvGUDITRg" />).

    • You can choose to add a record — a snippet of information — to your domain name’s DNS information. Don’t try this unless you’re sure you know what you are doing.

    • Google Webmaster also allows you to verify your site by associating it with your Google Analytics account.

  5. Tell the search engine that the file or meta tag has been added to your site, that you’ve changed your DNS record, or (in the case of Google) tell it that you have a Google Analytics account, and ask it to “verify” the file.

    The search engine then checks to see whether the file, meta tag, or DNS record is present (or Google checks to see whether your site contains the correct Google Analytics code). If the search engine finds what it’s expecting, it assumes that you must own or have control over the specified site, and thus is willing to provide you with more information about the site.

Each system is different. Spend a little time digging around and you’ll soon figure it out. Remember, the basic process is to add your site URL, add your sitemap URL, and then verify or authenticate.

The robots.txt file

You need a robots.txt file in the root directory of your website, with the following line inside it:

Sitemap: http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml

The URL should point to your sitemap, of course. The URL tells the search engines that don’t provide a Webmaster account — such as Ask.com — where your sitemap is, so you’ll want to do this even though you’re submitting your site through the Google and Bing Webmaster account.

Ping search engines

Pinging a search engine means sending a message to the search engine telling it where a sitemap is, and telling it that the sitemap has changed. As of this writing, you could ping all three of the major systems — Google, Bing, and Ask.com — and some smaller systems, such as didile.com (for your Turkish websites).

You can see this process in action for yourself. Create a sitemap and then change the following URL to show the path to your sitemap:

http://www.google.com/ping?sitemap=http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml

Copy and paste this URL into a browser and press Enter, and you receive this response from Google:

Sitemap Notification Received
Your Sitemap has been successfully added to our list of Sitemaps to crawl. If this is the first time you are notifying Google about this Sitemap, please add it via http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps so you can track its status. Please note that we do not add all submitted URLs to our index, and we cannot make any predictions or guarantees about when or if they will appear.

These are the sitemap-submission URLS; put the full URL to your sitemap, including http://, after the = sign:

http://www.google.com/ping?sitemap=
http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemaps/ping?sitemap=
http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?sitemap=
http://submissions.ask.com/ping?sitemap=
http://www.didikle.com/ping?sitemap=

You can manually ping sites each time the search engine is updated. If you have a programmer build your sitemaps automatically by pulling data from a database, the programmer should add a ping function to ping the search engines each time the sitemap is updated.

And, some sitemap-creation programs that you can buy have built-in ping functions; the version of the XML-Sitemaps.com program that you install on your server can automatically ping for you.

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