Now, let's look at what you do with it once you have your Google Search Console account ready to go!
A sitemap is exactly what it sounds like: a map of your site structure, or the hierarchy of pages contained within your website. It is best practise to submit your sitemap to Google so that Google has a better understanding of how your site is set up (and therefore, how your content is organised and even what keywords you might be worthy of ranking for).
The easiest thing to do is install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin, which will automatically submit your sitemap to Google. Within the XML Sitemaps section of Yoast, you can adjust which post and page types are included in the sitemap, or alternatively disable the sitemap function entirely if you'd prefer to create and submit the sitemap to Google manually.
In Google Search Console, it's a good idea to periodically check to ensure there aren't any sitemap errors registering there.
In general, warnings don't require immediate action; however, if there is anything listed under Errors here, you'll want to look into it and make changes to your website as necessary. The biggest issue you might run into is having broken links contained in your sitemap - i.e. references to pages that don't actually exist within your website. This can be confusing to Google and consequently may negatively impact your keyword visibility in the search rankings.
Once you correct the errors, you should resubmit your sitemap through Google Search Console.
Another section of the Search Console you should monitor is Crawl Errors. The bulk of these tend to be 404 errors, or Page Not Found errors, which occur when you alter your page slugs or URL structure and forget to change any link references to it that exist on other pages of your website. Google can't crawl any pages that aren't found, so it's very important that you fix these links so that they point to pages that do exist.
Thankfully, Google Search Console will point out where the broken link can be found so that you can easily change it. Alternatively, you can choose to remove the page with the broken link from your sitemap if you don't want it indexed at all.
Lastly, there are several useful search metrics provided by Google Search Console that can provide insight into the traffic your site is getting.
- Search Analytics will tell you exactly which keywords people are searching for to reach your website, how often they are clicking through, and what position your site holds in the search rankings for each keyword.
- Links To Your Site lists out all the websites that contain a link to yours.
- Internal Links lists out all of the pages within your site, in order of how many times they've been linked to within your site. (Read this post to learn why internal linking is so important)