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There are 2 ways to make search engines aware of a sitemap's location that I know of:

  1. Include an absolute link to it in robots.txt
  2. Submit it to them directly. The relevant URLs are:
    • http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ping?sitemap=SITEMAP_URL
    • http://www.bing.com/webmaster/ping.aspx?sitemap=SITEMAP_URL

Where SITEMAP_URL is the absolute URL of the sitemap. Currently, I do both. Regarding (2), I have a job that runs automatically every day which submits the sitemap to Bing and Google. I don't think there's any reason to do (1) and (2), but I'm paranoid, so I do.

I imagine you can avoid both (1) and (2) if you just make your sitemap accessible at a conventional URL (like robots.txt). What's the simplest and most reliable way to ensure that search engines can find your sitemap?

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For Google and Bing you can open a webmaster tools account and tell them where your sitemap is located, this will also give you access to SERPS information, site analytics and the like.

There is certainly no need to ping it to them every day!

By default both search engines look for sitemap.xml in the root, the only occasion when you would really need to inform them of it's location is when you have it located elsewhere, even then once is enough.

Otherwise you can simply leave the location in your robots.txt file.

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Where to upload your sitemap file:

When your Sitemap file is complete, upload the file to your site in the highest-level directory you want search engines to crawl (generally, the root directory), such as www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml. You can include more than one subdomain in your Sitemap, provided that youverify the Sitemap for each subdomain in Google Webmaster Tools.

Managing and updating XML sitempas:

  • Updating your Sitemap with Bing: Simply update the .xml file in the same location as before.

  • Updating your Google Sitemap. You can resubmit your Google Sitemap using your Google Sitemaps account, or you can resubmit it using an HTTP request.

See also The Art of SEO (specially Chapter 6 Page 184)

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