How to create a Sitemap for Google Search Console

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What is a Sitemap?

A sitemap is a file where you provide detailed information about the pages, videos, and other files on your website, as well as their relationships. Search engines like Google use this file to crawl your site more efficiently. A sitemap informs search engines which pages and files you consider important on your site and provides valuable details such as when a page was last updated or if there are alternate language versions.

Types of Content in a Sitemap

  • Video Content: You can specify details such as video running time, rating, and age-appropriateness.
  • Image Content: Include the location of images on your page.
  • News Content: Provide the article title and publication date.

If you’re using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, Wix, or Blogger, it’s likely your CMS has already created a sitemap for you, so you might not need to take further action.

Do I Need a Sitemap?

When You Might Need a Sitemap

  • Large Sites: It’s harder to ensure every page is linked on a large site, making a sitemap beneficial.
  • New Sites: New sites with few external links might not be discovered by Googlebot.
  • Rich Media Content: Sites with a lot of videos, images, or news content benefit from a sitemap as Google can take additional information into account for Search.

When You Might Not Need a Sitemap

  • Small Sites: If your site has about 500 pages or fewer, and all pages are properly linked, you might not need a sitemap.
  • Comprehensively Linked Sites: If Googlebot can find all important pages by following links from the homepage.
  • Minimal Media Content: If you don’t have many media files or news pages you want to show in search results.

Building a Sitemap

Choosing the Right Format

Google supports several sitemap formats, each with its own benefits and drawbacks:

  1. XML Sitemaps: The most versatile, can provide extensive information about your URLs.
    • Pros: Extensible, versatile, widely supported by CMS plugins.
    • Cons: Can be complex to maintain, especially for large sites.
  2. RSS, mRSS, and Atom 1.0: Easy to create, particularly for video content.
    • Pros: Automatically generated by most CMS.
    • Cons: Limited to videos, cannot provide information about images or news.
  3. Text Sitemaps: Simple format, lists URLs to HTML and other indexable pages.
    • Pros: Easy to create and maintain.
    • Cons: Limited to HTML content.

Best Practices for Sitemaps

  • Size Limits: A single sitemap should be no larger than 50MB (uncompressed) and contain no more than 50,000 URLs. If necessary, break it into multiple sitemaps and use a sitemap index file.
  • Encoding and Location: The sitemap file must be UTF-8 encoded and can be hosted anywhere on your site. However, it should preferably be at the site root to affect all files.
  • URLs: Use fully-qualified, absolute URLs in your sitemaps. For instance, use instead of /mypage.html.

How to create a Sitemap for Google Search Console

  1. CMS-Generated Sitemaps: Most CMS like WordPress, Wix, and Blogger automatically generate sitemaps. Check your CMS documentation for details.
  2. Manual Creation: For small sites, you can create a sitemap manually using a text editor.
  3. Automatic Generation: For larger sites, use tools or plugins to generate sitemaps. Talk to your developers about creating scripts to extract URLs from your database.

Example of a Basic XML Sitemap

xmlCopy code<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<urlset xmlns="">

Submitting Your Sitemap to Google

Submitting a sitemap helps Google find your URLs, but it doesn’t guarantee all will be crawled. Here’s how to submit your sitemap:

  1. Search Console: Use the Sitemaps report to submit your sitemap URL.
  2. API: Programmatically submit your sitemap using the Search Console API.
  3. robots.txt: Add a line in your robots.txt file specifying the path to your sitemap, e.g., Sitemap:

Troubleshooting Sitemaps on Google Search Console

Use Google Search Console to manage and troubleshoot sitemaps. The Sitemaps report provides details on submission history and any errors encountered. Here are common issues and solutions:

  • Fetch Errors: Ensure the sitemap URL is correct and accessible. Check for robots.txt restrictions or manual actions.
  • Parsing Errors: Ensure your sitemap follows the correct format and syntax.
  • Size Issues: If your sitemap is too large, break it into smaller sitemaps.

Having a sitemap is crucial for SEO, but ensuring it’s functioning correctly is equally important. Google Search Console provides various tools and reports to help you troubleshoot any issues with your sitemap. Here’s a detailed guide on how to troubleshoot sitemaps using Google Search Console.

Accessing the Sitemaps Report

To get started with troubleshooting your sitemap, follow these steps:

  1. Log into Google Search Console: Use your Google account to access your Search Console dashboard.
  2. Navigate to the Sitemaps Report: On the left-hand menu, click on “Sitemaps” under the “Index” section. This will display all the sitemaps you have submitted.

Common Sitemap Issues and How to Fix Them

  1. Couldn’t Fetch Sitemap
    • Description: This error indicates that Google couldn’t retrieve the sitemap file.
    • Possible Causes:
      • The sitemap URL is incorrect.
      • The sitemap is blocked by your robots.txt file.
      • The site has manual actions that prevent Google from accessing it.
      • Server issues or site downtime.
    • Solution: Verify the sitemap URL and ensure it’s accessible. Check your robots.txt file for any blocking rules and remove them. Address any manual actions in the Search Console and ensure your server is up and running.
  2. Sitemap Parsing Errors
    • Description: Google encountered errors while trying to read the sitemap.
    • Possible Causes:
      • Incorrect XML syntax.
      • Unescaped characters in the sitemap.
    • Solution: Validate your sitemap against the XML schema. Use tools like XML validators to check for syntax errors and ensure all characters are properly escaped.
  3. URLs Not Accessible
    • Description: Google cannot crawl one or more URLs listed in the sitemap.
    • Possible Causes:
      • URLs blocked by robots.txt.
      • URLs leading to 404 errors or redirects.
      • Server errors when trying to access URLs.
    • Solution: Use the URL Inspection tool in Search Console to check the availability of the problematic URLs. Ensure they are not blocked and fix any server-side issues.
  4. Sitemap File Size Error
    • Description: The sitemap exceeds the maximum file size limit of 50MB (uncompressed) or contains more than 50,000 URLs.
    • Solution: Split the sitemap into multiple smaller sitemaps and create a sitemap index file that lists all the individual sitemaps.
  5. Invalid Date
    • Description: The sitemap contains one or more invalid dates.
    • Solution: Ensure dates follow the W3C Datetime format. For example, 2005-02-21 or 2005-02-21T18:00:15+00:00.
  6. Compression Errors
    • Description: Google encountered an error when trying to uncompress the sitemap file.
    • Solution: Recompress your sitemap using tools like gzip, upload it again, and resubmit.
  7. Missing Tags or Attributes
    • Description: Required tags or attributes are missing in the sitemap.
    • Solution: Review the sitemap schema and ensure all required tags and attributes are included.
  8. Too Many URLs
    • Description: The sitemap contains more than 50,000 URLs.
    • Solution: Split the sitemap into multiple sitemaps, each with no more than 50,000 URLs, and use a sitemap index file.

Using the URL Inspection Tool

The URL Inspection tool in Google Search Console allows you to see how Google views a specific URL. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Enter the URL: In the URL Inspection tool, input the URL you want to check and press Enter.
  2. Check for Issues: The tool will display various details about the URL, including whether it’s indexed, any errors encountered, and the page’s status.
  3. Live Test: Click on “Live Test” to see the real-time status of the URL. This helps identify current issues affecting Google’s ability to crawl the URL.

Reviewing and Fixing Errors

To fix errors in your sitemap:

  1. Click on the Sitemap: In the Sitemaps report, click on the sitemap with errors.
  2. View Details: You’ll see a detailed page listing all errors and warnings.
  3. Expand Errors: Click on each error to expand and see more details.
  4. Fix Issues: Based on the error details, take appropriate actions to fix the issues. This might involve editing the sitemap, fixing server errors, or addressing robots.txt blocks.
  5. Resubmit Sitemap: After making corrections, resubmit the sitemap via the Sitemaps report.

Monitoring Sitemap Performance

Regularly monitor your sitemap performance using the Sitemaps report. Check back periodically to ensure Google is fetching and processing your sitemaps correctly. Address any new issues promptly to maintain your site’s SEO health.

Troubleshooting sitemaps is an essential part of SEO maintenance. By using Google Search Console effectively, you can identify and fix issues that might hinder your site’s performance in search results. Regular monitoring and timely adjustments ensure that your content remains accessible and well-indexed by search engines, leading to better visibility and traffic. Happy optimizing!

Cross-Submitting Sitemaps

If you manage multiple sites, you can simplify submission by creating sitemaps that include URLs from all your sites and saving them in a single location. Use Search Console or robots.txt to submit these cross-site sitemaps.

Maintaining and Updating Your Sitemap

Regularly update your sitemap to reflect changes on your site. If you make significant updates, resubmit your sitemap to Google. For minor changes, Google will recrawl your sitemap periodically.

Wrapping Up

A well-structured sitemap can significantly enhance your site’s visibility on search engines, making it easier for users to find your content. Whether you’re managing a small blog or a large e-commerce site, following these guidelines will help ensure your content is efficiently crawled and indexed.

By taking the time to understand and implement effective sitemap practices, you’re setting the foundation for better SEO and a more successful website. If you encounter any issues, refer to the Google Search Console documentation for further guidance. Happy optimizing!

About the Author

Louee Gonzales

An SEO specialist in the Philippines and licensed Psychometrician who also loves writing about psychology and web development.

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