Do You Need to Submit a Sitemap to Google?

This is a very common question for those newer to blogging and internet marketing. Amongst a lot of the best practice SEO tips beginners often get swamped with, submitting a sitemap is very often mentioned as a “must-do”, but is it really that important?

The importance of sitemaps actually differs according to the size and type of site, but here is a general answer:

On any normally structured website, Google bots will usually find your posts and pages anyway without you needing to submit a sitemap. However, it is still good practice to submit a sitemap periodically, every 3-6 months, to make sure every page is indexed by Google and none get missed.

For readers new to blogging, a sitemap is just a very large page on your website that is literally just a very long list of all the different pages on your website. It tells Google or other search engines how many pages are on your site, what their URL is, and how they interlink with other pages.

Most smaller sites are not going to suffer by not submitting a sitemap, but it is still a best practice step anyway, and is pretty easy to do.

Let’s run through the pros and cons of submitting sitemaps in more detail, plus the steps on how to do it.

Submitting Sitemaps is Not Technically Necessary

On the issue of blogging and internet marketing, I really like the approach of the guys at Income School, who are really focused on what you can do with your time that best moves the needle in blogging, and not obsessing about the little things that don’t make a difference.

This is pretty much where they sit on sitemaps – it’s really not something to worry about. Google has bots crawling all over the web every minute of every day, looking for new posts and pages. Sooner or later, it will find something new that you publish, assess it to see what topic it’s about, and then stick it in the rankings where it thinks it belongs.

One of Google’s own documents on this suggests that you might not need a sitemap if your site is quite small, or where your articles are already well linked internally, since Google should already be able to find them by following existing links between pages/posts.

“As long as you have a normal site, with a normal structure of menus and pages, Google is gonna find your site just fine. (Submitting a sitemap) is a best practice, but don’t obsess about it”

Jim Harmer, Income School.

The vast majority of the time, their approach on this has been confirmed by my experience – Google has indeed found most of the pages on my different sites without me needing to do anything. I just publish a post, and within a few days, Google usually finds and indexes it, without needing me to submit a sitemap.

There have however also been a couple of irritating exceptions to this which have wasted a lot of my time, which is why I’m actually now in favor of submitting sitemaps. I’ll cover these in a section further below.

Submitting Sitemaps is Still a Good Idea

Having said all this, it is still true that submitting sitemaps is still a good idea, because a) Google is not foolproof even with all it’s bots crawling the web, and still misses stuff sometimes; and b) It’s quick and easy to do anyway.

The whole process is not hard and doesn’t take a long time. Some themes like the excellent Acabado from Income School will create a sitemap for you; if not just use a free SEO plugin like Yoast to create one for you, and copy and paste it into the Sitemaps section of Google Search Console.

We’ll detail steps on how to do this further below, but it only takes a couple of minutes maximum, so the tradeoff isn’t really that big. The “best use of your time” argument does ring true, but not for things that take so little time anyway and make sure all your content is found and ranked.

Submitting a sitemap is an especially good idea in these cases:

  • If you have a very large website, with a lot of pages and a complex structure (eg. big e-commerce site)
  • If you have a larger blog with 500+ posts
  • If you have a lot of pages that are not linked to from other pages on your site.
  • I will argue it’s a good idea to do it periodically anyway on most sites. See the sections below.

My Own Experience With Sitemaps

Whilst I like the Income School approach of common sense and “not sweating the small stuff”, I have to be honest about this and say that following their advice on not bothering with sitemaps actually caught me out.

I had “content warrior” phases a couple of times one of my blog, just spending a month turning out blog posts every day. I added probably about 50-60 blog posts in the space of a few months, and around 100 in the space of a year, and during this whole time I didn’t bother to submit a sitemap.

I was following the general advice of not bothering too much about this because I had a normal site structure, and just leaving Google to find and index my new posts as I published them.

However, I was taking a look back over my site one day, checking to see where some of my older articles were ranking, and I found a couple that were nowhere in the rankings, despite being good quality articles. I had posted them about a year earlier and forgotten about them.

I checked Google Search Console by plugging in the URL, and was confronted by a weird error message (I can’t remember exactly what it was now, something to do with a crawl error).

I also found that several other articles had the same problem – Google had not even found or indexed them, and they were just sat on my site doing nothing, when I spent a lot of time writing them.

Moreover, when I submitted a full sitemap, some of these posts were finally picked up and started ranking well within a matter of a few weeks.

They could have been ranking and driving traffic the whole time, but because of Google crawl errors/missing them, they were sat there for around a year, totally wasted, doing nothing.

I was too irritated by this wasted time with “dead” content that wasn’t found and indexed that I was not prepared to have this happen again. Articles, some of which I had spent hours writing had sat there, wasted for months, because Google had not in fact picked it up and indexed it.

This was really annoying once I realized, and since then I have actually been committed to submitting sitemaps at 3-6 month intervals, just to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

So I actually argue that it is a good idea to submit a sitemap periodically on most sites. You don’t need to obsess about it, but it is good practice to make some time for it every few months, or if you have published a lot of content since you last did so (say 50+ articles since the last one).

How to Submit a Sitemap Through Google Search Console

Let’s also provide a quick step by step guide to actually submitting a sitemap through Google Search Console, for readers who want to get it out the way quickly.

  • If you haven’t already sign up to Google Search Console here. See our article on how to do this.
  • Prepare a sitemap for your site. Download and activate the Yoast SEO plugin and they’ll produce one for you. Just go to SEO…..General….Features and scroll down to XML Sitemaps. Click on See the XML Sitemap and leave the tab open for now.

  • Sign into the Gmail account connected to your Analytics/Search Console for your website.
  • Every month, Search Console send you a performance summary email for your site. Open any of these emails and click on the “Performance Report” button at the bottom of any of these emails.
  • It takes you straight to the Search Console Dashboard (blue and white screen).
  • Click on Sitemaps on the left hand side.
  • Copy and paste the sitemap URL generated by Yoast into the box and click Submit.
  • Search Console will process and let you know if submission has been successful.
  • Google now has a record of all the pages and post on your site.
  • You can come back later and submit as many sitemaps as you want in the future using this exact same method.

Best Practices For Submitting Sitemaps

Here are some best practives for submitting sitemaps through Google Search Console, covering what we’ve said so far.

  • Submitting sitemaps is not technically necessary for most sites, but is very quick to do and still worth doing periodically.
  • This is especially important if you have periods where you are really turning out a lot of content on your blog. If it’s been 30-50 articles since you last did so, submit a new sitemap – it only takes a few minutes.
  • Definitely submit a sitemap on a new site after producing your first batch of 30-50 posts.
  • Thereafter, set a rough schedule for submitting new sitemaps, depending on how often you publish. (eg. every 50 articles, or every 3 months).
  • In my experience, Google does still occasionally “miss” newly published posts, so submitting sitemaps is a good idea to avoid your efforts being wasted.
  • Submitting a sitemap at more regular intervals becomes more important if you have a larger website (more than 500 pages/posts) with a more complex structure.
  • E-commerce sites that have thousands of pages and are constantly adding more would benefit from submitting sitemaps quite frequently.
  • It is also a good idea to submit sitemaps if you have a lot of “orphaned” posts or pages, that are on their own, not linking to other pages or linked to by other pages.