What is an XML Sitemap & How to Submit it to Google?

Buliding a website requires an XML sitemap

You’ve heard about it. You know it’s important. I’ve even mentioned it one of my previous post’s here. But what exactly is an XML sitemap, and why is it important?

And how the heck do I set it up?

Don’t worry. I’ve got your back, friend!

It’s pretty straightforward and simple. I’m going to share all the deets with you in this blog post.

WHAT IS AN XML SITEMAP?

There are actually a few different types of sitemaps, such as a visual one that you can create before building a website to know what your website flow and navigation is going to be, but I’m going to focus on the one that is most important for SEO.

This is known as an XML sitemap.

Simply put, it’s a list of the pages on your website. Think of it as a map of your website that shows what all of the pages are on your website.

Here’s what Google has to say about sitemaps:

A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. A sitemap tells the crawler which files you think are important in your site, and also provides valuable information about these files: for example, for pages, when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and any alternate language versions of a page.
— Google

This also tells us why a sitemap is important:

It tells the search engines about the content that you have on your site so that they can find it more easily and when it was last updated. Majorly important for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)!

If you have a Squarespace website, this is going to get even easier for you! Squarespace automatically generates your XML sitemap, so you don’t need to create one manually (whew!). It includes the URLs for all pages on your site and image metadata for SEO-friendly indexing. Squarespace automatically updates it with any pages you add or remove. No need for any type of website plug-in or manual labor. Thank you, Squarespace!

You can view your site map by adding:

/sitemap.xml

To the end of your domain. With your built-in Squarespace domain, your sitemap URL looks like this:

http://www.yourdomainname.com/sitemap.xml

TIP: Replace yourdomainname with your custom domain name. (Trial sites don’t have sitemaps. It needs to be a paid account with Squarespace.)

This is what the XML sitemap looks like for my Squarespace website.

 
Kat Collins Design website XML sitemap
 

Nothing fancy, but it doesn’t need to be. An XML sitemap is designed to be functional. It’s clearly important for SEO, as how would Google (or any other search engine) be able to send traffic to your website if it doesn’t know about your content?

DO I NEED A SITEMAP?

Yes!

Fortunately for you, as I said, Squarespace creates one automatically so it’s not something you have to worry that much about.

Google has confirmed that “a sitemap can improve the crawling of your site,” especially if you have a large site, one with a lot of content, a new site, or one that uses rich media content.

Without a sitemap, and without submitting a sitemap to Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools), Google can’t find your site which means no traffic to your site.

And guess what that means?

You got it. No sales, no leads, no subscribers, no profit!

PRO TIP

If you use a platform other than Squarespace, such as Wordpress, please make sure you or your website designer/developer creates a sitemap on your website AND submits it to Google Search Console. Consider it a MUST for your website.

Before I tell you how to submit your sitemap, let’s fully understand your Squarespace sitemap.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR SITE MAP

  • Squarespace sitemaps don’t include disabled pages, pages that have page passwords, or pages hidden from search in Page Settings.

  • Code Block and Embed Block content won’t appear in your sitemap.

  • The individual URLs of pages within an Index Page won’t appear in your sitemap, but the content of those pages will. This means that search engines can still crawl all content in your Index Page.

  • The XML file doesn’t include style information.

  • It isn’t possible to edit your sitemap.

  • Squarespace sets standard priorities for pages and blog posts in your sitemap. The homepage has a priority of 1, other pages have a priority of .75, and blog posts have a priority of .5.

  • The position of a page in the sitemap doesn’t affect the position of that page in search results.

  • Changes can take up to 24 hours to appear in your sitemap, although it’s often quicker.

SUBMIT A SITEMAP TO GOOGLE SEARCH CONSOLE

This used to take several steps to do but again, Squarespace has now made it easy for us to do! (another reason to love Squarespace, right?)

I actually wrote about this in detail in a previous blog post here. This blog post will tell you all about Google Search Console, how to register, and how to submit your sitemap.

Congratulations! You’re on your way to becoming an SEO wizard!

Did you have to create your sitemap manually on another platform? How did that go? Do you have any questions about an XML sitemap or submitting to Google Search Console or SEO? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 
 

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Kat Collins is a Squarespace Website Designer focused on helping you share your brand’s story via your website to take your business to the next level. On the blog, you’ll find a variety of topics that help you succeed in online business, such as website design, branding, social media strategies, blogging, email marketing, Squarespace design tips, and more.