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Search Engine Submission

Not sure if search engines know about your site? Here is a walk through to search engine submission on Google and Bing using XML Sitemaps.

Search Engine Submission: XML Sitemap

XML Sitemaps are something I’ve talked before on this blog. To recap, an XML Sitemap is an XML file that lists many of the URLs for pages on your site. An ideal XML Sitemap will include the last change time of the page. It will also have a numeric score that lets your tell search engines just how important a page ranks on your site.

Most content management systems (CMS) will either generate an XML Sitemap for you by default, or they let you add that feature with a plugin.  We here at the BrandBuilder Company automatically generate an XML sitemap at example.com/sitemap.xml (replace example.com with your domain). Sites powered by WordPress can look to the Google XML Sitemap or WordPress SEO by Yoast plugins to add this feature. Personally I recommend the Yoast extension because it packages many SEO features in one, but the Google one is nice as a stand-alone plugin.

If your server can run PHP and your site is simple static files then you can look to phpSitemapNG. It will crawl your site and the file system and let you choose what URLs to create in the sitemap. It will include the last change time and lets you prioritize the pages.

Add the XML Sitemap to your robots.txt file to tell all search engines about this file. Simply add the following line to your robots.txt file:

Sitemap: http://example.com/sitemap.xml

You will need to replace the URL with the real path to your sitemap. At the time of this writing, our robots.txt file looks like:

Sitemap: http://www.brandbuilderwebsites.com/sitemap.xml
Sitemap: http://www.brandbuilderwebsites.com/blog/sitemap.xml
Sitemap: http://www.brandbuilderwebsites.com/oldsitemap.xml
Sitemap: http://m.brandbuilderwebsites.com/sitemap.xml

While that should work for everyone it is even best to explicitly add the XML Sitemap to the search engines you care about the most. The Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools allow you to do this. If you’re not aware, Bing powers Yahoo. This means that submitting to Bing will add you to Yahoo as well.

Search Engine Submission: Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools requires a Google account. The Google Webmaster Tools requires you to verify that you own the site before giving you access to the data. You can verify through one of four methods:

  1. Upload a file to a specific place on your server.
  2. Add a <meta> tag to the home page.
  3. DNS verification using a CNAME.
  4. Sync with your Google Analytics account.

The Google Analytics sync is the best method to verify your site. Linking your accounts will share information from the Google Webmaster Tools to Google Analytics. By having more information in Google Analytics you can make better decisions about how you manage the site.

Once you have verified your site it’s time to submit your sitemap. You’ll do this from your Dashboard and clicking on Optimization and then Sitemaps.

Search Engine Submission: Google Webmaster Tools: SitemapsTabs on this page let you see the XML Sitemaps that you have submitted to Google, and the ones Google is aware of. We manually submitted the XML Sitemap for the site and the blog. The oldsitemap.xml file comes from our robots.txt file. The /blog/feed/ entry is an RSS file generated by our blog. Google found this on its own.

A benefit of the Google Webmaster Tools is that you get to see not only number of the URLs submitted, but you also get the number of indexed pages. This can differ for many reasons such as:

  • The page includes code instructing search engines not to index them.
  • A lack of content.
  • The page was just created.
  • Google cannot access the page or it does not exist.
  • The page is not important.

If you’re wondering what about the oldsitemap.xml file, it is the XML Sitemap we had before our last relaunch of The BrandBuilder Company website. For good SEO we set up permanent redirects from the old URLs to go to the new ones. By including this sitemap in with the relaunch we told search engines to visit the old pages. When they visited the old pages and saw the permanent redirect they transferred the ranking value of the old value to the new pages. That explains why Google has not indexed any of the submitted pages.

Search Engine Submission: Bing Webmaster Tools

Search Engine Submission: Bing Webmaster Tools VerificationBing Webmaster Tools requires a Microsoft account and like Google requires you to verify that you own the site. You validate through one of three methods:

  1. Upload a file to a specific place on your server.
  2. Add a <meta> tag to the home page.
  3. DNS verification using a CNAME.

Unlike Google, there is no best method to verify. It often comes down to the software that powers your site and the type of access you have to make the necessary changes. For example, SiteBrandBuilder clients will find the second option the easiest to use because we made it easy to add custom HTML to the head of the page.

Once you have verified your site it’s time to submit your sitemap. You’ll do this from your Dashboard and clicking on Configure My Site and then Sitemaps.

Search Engine Submission: Bing Webmaster Tools: XML Sitemaps

We listed four of the five XML Sitemaps in our robots.txt file. You’ll also noticed that four of the five do not have a ‘Last Submitted’ date. They say that because they were automatically detected by Bing where three of those four come from the robots.txt file (the fourth is a compressed version of one of the XML files that Bing just guessed to find).

That’s it for our walk through on search engine submission. Have you been through this process? Let us know your thoughts.

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About

Brian is the Director of Development and Social Media for Brand Builder Websites where he oversees the development, strategy, and goals for our software development. He is also a huge fan of Android.
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