This section is really about one very fundamental principle of how the internet works. If there were no links from any sites to anywhere else, then no-one would be able to ‘search’ for any content. They’d have to know exactly what the web address was to be able to find it. Google would have no way of figuring out if your content was any good, because they wouldn’t be able to find you either – so there really wouldn’t be a Google in its current form at least. You’d have to rely on being able to tell people your website address through other media like print, TV or radio. Obviously, that wouldn’t work out too well if you had no budget for it. You’d be severely limited and only the rich could get the really good exposure for their website.
SEO is partly about making the content of your website interesting, focused, engaging and so on, and because that’s what makes it attractive for your visitors it also makes it a prime candidate for gaining organic rank in Google. The other very significant part of SEO is making the site accessible to the right audience. This first step in that process is getting your first set of links.
Getting your first links:
If your site is brand new, then the first set of links you should obtain that lead traffic to your website are the ones you can get free and easily, direct from Google and Bing. Both of these search engines provide an interface for submitting your site or individual pages of your site for indexing in their systems. When making a URL submission to either of these, I suggest you use the Webmaster tools accounts they provide. These tools are free of charge and are essential for all stages of organic SEO services being implemented on your website. Without these tools, it’s very hard to determine if your SEO efforts are making any headway.
To use Google Search Console, you first have to have a Google account, and also have full administrative access to your website.
Use Fetch As Googlebot:
Once you have your site verified with GSC, you can then begin adding your site’s pages into Google’s index using the Fetch command. Alternatively, if you don’t want to have a GSC account and just want to add your pages to Google’s index, use this submission tool: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/submit-url, however, I don’t know why any website owner wouldn’t want to have the full account and data access that GSC provides, so using GSC would be my recommendation every time.
Submit your Sitemap:
Once you have submitted all of your pages to Google (and Bing) – you should also submit your sitemap. A sitemap is a file that resides in your website (usually XML but sometimes TXT – I will explain later) and it provides a link to all URLs in your website. The URLs may be for pages, posts, images, videos, custom post types etc. Your website CMS may have some kind of sitemap file system built in, but not necessarily. The sitemap file is one that can be read by your browser and by Google-bot, Bing-bot and so on. Once submitted, they are an additional set of links to all of your pages, and these provide Google and Bing an ‘entry point’ to your site without necessarily having links from other websites just yet.
Usually the sitemap file resides on the root directory of the website like this: ‘https://crankedseo.com/sitemap_index.xml’. The sitemap you see there is actually a directory index to several other sitemaps. You’ll see the others are clickable and you can check out what they all look like. You can also try this: ‘http://yourwebsite/sitemap.xml’ to see if your website has one too. If you don’t find yours, don’t panic. Check with your web developer to ask them the address if you have one, and if you don’t have one, there’s another option.
Many CMS-based websites don’t have native systems to generate a sitemap file. You may be able to add one via a plugin, module or extension. Usually these are automatic and will build a sitemap file based on your page and content settings. The auto-generated ones are usually in XML format.
If you don’t have a CMS-based website and don’t know (or don’t have access to) some way of building an XML file, then you can fall back to using a TXT file format. To use the TXT file, just create a list of all your website pages in a plain txt document. The list should look a bit like this:
etc. You don’t need to make them into actual clickable links. That’s not supported in a ‘txt’ document anyway.
You just copy and paste the URLs of all of your pages into the list, save the file as ‘sitemap.txt’ and follow this next step:
Once your file is finished, you need to upload the file to your website. The ideal spot to upload to is in your root directory. You may need FTP access to your site to upload it, or you may have a facility to upload files some other way. Wherever it gets uploaded to, make a note. Try to open the uploaded address in your browser to confirm your file has loaded. For example, a txt sitemap in the root directory can be viewed by adding this address into your browser:
If you see the file in your browser, you have done it correctly and it can now be submitted to Google and Bing as an entry-point directory.
You can see from earlier that my sitemap is an XML file, not a txt file.
The difference between Fetch & Sitemap submission:
The Fetch command will request Google or Bing to send its crawler to examine the website page being fetched. If it likes what it sees, it may add it to the search engine index. This has nothing to do with ranking. Not all pages you get the search engine to fetch may show up in search. The search engine will decide for itself, based on their algorithm and your content whether your page warrants being indexed. The Fetch command can be likened to saying ‘here is my content, come take a look and see if you like it’.
The sitemap submission provides search engines with a list of all your pages, images, posts, videos etc. and provides a link to those pages or other content. This is a more passive system of providing search engines with a way to reach your content, because it’s like saying ‘here are the doors and windows to see what I have inside’, but it makes no actual invitation to access it. It merely shows an available entry point and leaves it up to the search engine to enter if and when it chooses.
Why Submit URLs and Sitemaps?
These are the fastest way to get your website indexed in search engines. You should submit your site to every search engine that you want to be indexed on. Others may find you and index you eventually too, but it may take a while.
To get your website to appear in search engines you can also use the slow approach, but it beats me why anyone would do this. Just create a link (or many links) from a page (or many pages) that you know already appear in search engines themselves, and ensure the links do not have the ‘rel=nofollow’ attribute (click here for info from Google). FYI: links from social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are all ‘nofollow’ type links and do not pass search engine crawlers to your site. By creating ‘followed’ links from other web pages, Google or Bing’s crawler examines the other websites’ pages, and finds the links to your site, then it follows those links to also discover your content. This depends on how often the search engines crawl the pages on which your website has links to it. This is an excellent long-term strategy to gain rank ‘credit’ for having links (assuming they are good links – see How to do SEO Step 8), but it’s not a good plan if this is your only strategy for discovery and indexing. Unfortunately – this is the most common strategy with many website owners, web developers or web administrators who are not aware of GSC or the URL submission process – but that’s usually because they’ve heard getting links is good, but haven’t yet had an introduction to GSC. In my view, every website owner should connect their site into GSC and perform submissions from there – the GSC interface is a critical component of measuring your SEO status and gives invaluable feedback on new SEO implementation. Googling yourself to find your rank changes won’t give you any of the really valuable information you need in order to make an SEO plan, and may even provide you with false positive perceptions of improved rank due to your ‘user settings’ in Google or Bing search engine pages.
How Soon Will Your Website Get Indexed?
If you’ve followed my recommendation on using Google Search Console to both ‘Fetch’ your pages and submit a sitemap, then your site’s pages will probably start appearing in Google within an hour. To test if your website is being indexed – use the ‘site:yourwebsite’ search that I noted earlier. If you have tried this and your site is not showing in the search results, then there may be issues with your use of ‘www’ or the exact format of your domain name. A successful ‘fetch’ from the earlier step will be proof that Google is able to view your page OK. Be sure your use of ‘www’ or without the ‘www’ is consistent and agrees with the configuration of your website. Any errors here will slow down your indexing process and Google finds pages but then has to re-assess based on sub-domain or root domain selection (www versus non-www).
How soon will your site get page 1 rank?
Possibly never. This process will not gain you rank of any significance – ranking is assessed over a long period of time, from anything upwards of a few weeks to many months, and this presumes you have followed the right steps and executed your SEO well. As you have probably discovered from reading earlier steps, there are a lot of factors that need to be considered when building a website that you want ranked on Google’s first page of search results. If you have executed all the recommended implementations from Steps 1 through 10, then you are on the right path to get the success you’re aiming for!
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If you completed ALL of the steps 1-10, then your site is now Search Engine Optimised. Now it is up to Google and Bing (or other search engines) to begin indexing your site. This process takes a while. Allow between 3 and 12 months for your site to gain rank – it depends on many factors. You will need to monitor your work and adjust accordingly on a regular basis, but be aware there is a delay for all changes you make to be reflected in rank changes. Avoid making changes on limited data. Add both Google Search Console and Google Analytics to your site so that you can keep an eye on data about your site from both the external organic perspective (GSC) and the internal conversion pathway perspective (GA).