Sitemaps and Google Webmaster

Tools to help improve your SEO

If you're looking to build your search engine optimization (SEO) and rank higher in search engine results pages, there are several key tools you can use to help the search engines find your website.

One free tool that helps with this effort is Google Webmaster ToolsThe main feature of this service is to register your site with Google in the form of sending a sitemap of your website's architecture, so that Google explicitly knows you exist, and most importantly, knows how to efficiently read your content.

One benefit of a PhotoShelter account is that we automatically generate, submit, and verify your sitemap with Google on your behalf using our own Google Webmaster Tools account. (One exception: Any account without a completed My Website Address field will not receive a sitemap until the address has been finalized.)


Note: We only automatically submit and verify PhotoShelter sitemaps with Google. If you want to submit to another search engine directly, you may do so by using the sitemap URL format provided below.


What does my sitemap look like?

Your sitemap is an XML-based list of links to your content and contains the following elements of your website's architecture presented in a way that Google can easily digest:

  • Core static pages (i.e. your About page, homepage, gallery list, etc.)

  • Public galleries

  • Public gallery collections and the galleries included within them

  • All searchable images

If you're curious as to what your sitemap looks like, you may view it in a browser (try Firefox for best results).

The URL to your sitemap takes this format:

  • "YOUR-NAME" is what you've selected for your website address.

  • "YOUR-USER-ID" is the unique user ID created by our database when you signed up.

  • Please note that if you have a CNAME, we submit two separate sitemaps for you: one with your PhotoShelter specific URL and one with your alias (CNAME), so either URL will work.


How does PhotoShelter submit my sitemap?

We submit all user sitemaps to Google on a weekly basis. We also take a second step of "verifying" your website to confirm to Google that we have the authority to perform this submission.

Please note that there is a difference between submission, verification, crawling, and actual indexing of your website's content. In other words, we can guarantee that your sitemap and any updates will be sent to Google on a weekly basis, but when Google actually reads it and adds your content to its index is another matter (over which we mere mortals have no control!). To increase the number of pages that are indexed by Google, you need to focus on your SEO and building backlinks to your content.

For more on SEO, be sure to check out all our tutorials under the SEO & Google Analytics section.  


How can I create my own Google Webmaster Account?

Because we submit your sitemap to Google for you, there is no reason to submit your sitemap again on your own. However, if you create a Google Webmaster Tools account and enter your website address, you'll be able to see the status of the sitemap we've submitted for you as well as browse through many more interesting stats about your website and traffic.

1. To create your own account, head to and click Sign in to Webmaster Tools. You can sign in with an existing Google account or create a new Google account to proceed. 

2. Once you've created an initial account, you can add your PhotoShelter website by clicking the "Add a site" button and entering your site. Your site URL can be entered in either of the following formats:

3. After you add a site, Google requires you to verify that you control the website to prevent malicious activity. Under "Alternate methods" of verification, choose HTML tag. Copy the meta tag and paste it into the Webmaster Verification Code area of your Website Settings page (found under Website > General Settings). 

4. Return to Google Webmaster where you left off, and click the Verify button.  

5. You will be taken to your site's Dashboard. On the left side of the page, click Crawl to open the nested menu, then click Sitemaps.

6. On this page, make sure that you have the All tab selected above the bar graph to view the list of all sitemaps that have been submitted for your site URL. 


You should see our submission of your sitemap listed here (it has a format of "user-sitemap/sitemap-YOUR-USER-ID.xml.gmz"). Click on the filename to see the details for your sitemap, which will include the number of URLs and images submitted vs. indexed and the date the sitemap was submitted and processed by Google.

The difference between submitted and indexed: PhotoShelter or you will submit your sitemap to Google, but Google won't index your web pages or images until it crawls your website (Internet-speak for how Google reads your site's content). In order for your web pages and image to show up in Google's search results, they need to be indexed. So this dashboard should give you an idea of your site's discoverability. If you're seeing more web pages and images submitted than indexed, that probably means you need to work on your SEO efforts, i.e. keywording your on-site text, linkbuilding, etc. (Read more about building SEO on your website here.)

We encourage you to take the time to browse through the rest of your Webmaster Tools account, using the left-hand navigation, and explore the various functionality and analytics available to you. As with all new endeavors, you may not have a lot of data at first, but as more pages are indexed and you expand your SEO efforts, your statistics will diversify accordingly.

Remember, there's no reason to submit your sitemap again through your own account - we've got this handled for you.

Still have questions? Contact us.