If you own a WordPress website, bet you are already familiar with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Generally, the goal of any SEO strategy is to make your site’s content easily visible to search engines to generate more organic traffic. It revolves around organizing and showing your content and site structure to search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo among others, for easy indexing. For your site content to show in search engine results, you need to use various SEO techniques and tools. One of the most effective SEO tools is XML Sitemap.
What are XML Sitemaps and Why are they Necessary?
Simply put, Sitemaps are files that show a list of webpages, the content and structure of the site to search engines. Web crawler robots then read these files and inform the search engines about your content to display it in the search results. An XML Sitemap is a tool for site owners to inform Google and other search engines about all the pages in their websites. Additionally, XML Sitemaps for a WordPress site tell search engines which links are more important than others, as well as how often you update your pages.
While XML Sitemaps may not directly boost your SERP ranking, they help the search engine bots to crawl your website more effectively. You need XML Sitemaps to:
- Help web crawlers find important information like page updates and new content.
- Enable search engine to index all your pages even without interlinking within the content.
- Guarantees search engine visibility when you don’t have any external linking to your site.
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Creating an XML Sitemap for WordPress
Just like for many other functions, there are several plugins for generating XML Sitemaps for WordPress sites. In this post, we will focus on how to generate an XML Sitemap for your website with Google XML Sitemaps plugin.
Install and Activate Google XML Sitemaps Plugin
Google XML Sitemaps is a free WP plugin for generating XML Sitemap to enable popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com, to find and index faster and effectively. The plugin supports all types of posts and pages as well as custom URLs. Further, it allows you to exclude a portion of your site from the Sitemap, as well as define priority and frequency for re-indexing.
Login to your WordPress site admin panel, go to “Plugins” on the main dashboard menu and click “Add New”. Search for “Google XML Sitemaps” and click its “Install Now” button. After installation, click the “Activate” button to start using the plugin on your site. Learn more on how to install plugins on WordPress site.
How to Use Google XML Sitemaps?
Once you activate the plugin, it automatically generates a Sitemap for your site. To view the Sitemap, click on “Settings” on the dashboard menu and select “XML-Sitemap”.
The first section of the resulting page shows the results of the last ping. This includes the URL to your site’s Sitemap and successful/ failed notification for different search engines. Remember, the plugin will generate Sitemap index file which contains individual Sitemaps for each post types on your site. To view the Sitemap for your website, click the link to the Sitemap index file. This will lead to a list of sub-Sitemaps’ URLs.
You can click the different URLs to view the XML Sitemaps. For instance, you can view the map for the posts page.
Google XML Sitemaps Settings
From the XML-Sitemap page, you can modify the Sitemap options and settings.
Basic Options Settings
- Scroll down to the “Basic Options” section to enable/disable various options such as notify search engines about updates on your website, auto compress the Sitemap, and allow anonymous statistics among others.
- Click to check or uncheck the box for the option.
Adding Custom Pages to the Sitemap
- This setting allows you to add a custom page to your Sitemap including pages outside the site directory.
- Go to the “Additional Pages” section and click the “Add new page” link.
- Enter the page URL and set the priority and update frequency.
XML Post/ Page Priority Settings
- Setting priority for your posts and pages tells the search engines which content on your site is more important than others.
- Under “Post Priority” you can activate or deactivate automatic priority calculation for each post based on comment count or average.
- Scroll down to the bottom of the options and customize the priorities for various pages and posts.
Change Frequency and Sitemap Content Settings
- Change Frequency informs the search engines how frequent they can re-index different pages and post.
- On the other hand, you can include or exclude certain sections of your content in/ from your XML Sitemap.
Manually Creating Sitemap
If you don’t want to use Google XML Sitemaps plugin then you have many other options:
- When you are smaller site, you can enter the list of URLs in a text file and submit to Google and other search engines.
- If you have a static site and don’t add new content frequently then use third-party tools like XML Sitemap generator to create a Sitemap for you.
- In both of the above methods, you need to upload the sitemap.xml file under the root of your WordPress directory. Ensure to check it is accessible on the browser by opening the URL like “yoursite.com/sitemap.xml”.
Other Plugin Options
For a dynamic website, it is not possible to maintain the Sitemap manually. If you don’t like Google XML Sitemaps plugin then there are other popular options available for you. Alternatively, you can also submit the blog feed or RSS feed to Google instead of generating XML Sitemap.
Yoast XML Sitemap
Yoast is one of the most popular SEO plugin for WordPress community. You can use Sitemap index format for generating Sitemap from Yoast SEO plugin. After installing and activating the plugin, simply navigate to “SEO > General > Features” section to enable Sitemap for your site. We use Yoast XML Sitemap and it should looks like below:
You can customize which post type to be included or excluded to control the Sitemap index file.
Jetpack XML Sitemap
Other option is to use Jetpack plugin for creating XML Sitemap for your site. If you have Jetpack plugin installed on your site, navigate to “Jetpack > Settings > Traffic” and enable “Generate XML sitemaps” option. Jetpack Sitemap should look like below:
XML Sitemap helps you to show the structure and content of your WordPress site to search engine for easier indexing. This enables search engine bots to crawl your site faster, enabling the search engines to display your content on the SERPs. Google XML Sitemaps plugin can help you to generate an XML Sitemap for WordPress to enable Google and other search engines to find and index your content. The plugin is free, user-friendly and automatically notifies search engines about any updates on your website. You can also follow other methods outlined in the article for submitting your content to search engines with or without XML Sitemap.