In the early 2000s, government websites used to have a link on their main pages, entitled “Sitemap”. This page usually contains a list of all the pages of that website. Even today some websites have such HTML sitemaps. However, the Sitemap has evolved greatly from the manually created HTML bulleted list. Today sitemaps are published in XML instead of HTML and their target audience is search engine and not people. Recently one of our users sent an email asking us: What is a WordPress sitemap? Do I need a sitemap on my site? How do I create a sitemap in WordPress? If you are new to WordPress and had the same questions, then you are in the right place. In this article, we will explain what a sitemap is, why you need a sitemap, how to create a sitemap in WordPress, and how to tell a search engine about your sitemap.
What is WordPress XML Sitemap?
Sitemap is a list of pages on a website that is accessible to all users. An XML sitemap is a way for search owners to tell about all the pages on your website. WordPress XML Sitemap also explains what links to your website are more important than others, and how many times you update your website. While a sitemap does not promote your search ranking, it allows search engines to crawl your website better.
Why You Need an XML Sitemap
From a search engine optimization, (SEO) approach Sitemap is extremely important. First of all, we would like to clearly state that adding a Sitemap does not affect search ranking. However, if there is a page on your site that has not been indexed, then a sitemap gives you a way to tell the search engine about that page, so it can be indexed properly.
Sitemaps for new websites and blogs are very useful. As most new blogs typically do not get many backlinks for their individual posts, the search engine makes it difficult to find all your posts and pages. Sitemaps help those websites crawl more efficiently to their search engines.
For popular websites, Sitemap allows your website to interact more effectively with search engines. Search engines can estimate how often your site has been updated, which parts of your website are updated more frequently than others, the crawl rate has been set for your site, etc. Improves overall visibility.
How to create a sitemap in WordPress?
There are several ways to create an XML sitemap in WordPress. In WPBeginner, we use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin to create your own Sitemap. We use this plugin because it allows us to customize our blog posts with other features like sitemaps, social integration, and more. We have also seen that it works more efficiently than other standalone sitemap generators for WordPress.
To add a Sitemap to your WordPress site, the first thing you need to do is install and activate WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin. By default, the WordPress SEO XML Sitemap does not enable functionality, so you have to turn it on. To do this, go to the SEO »XML Sitemap and check the box to enable XML Sitemap functionality.
When you check the box to enable XML Sitemap functionality, WordPress SEO will show you several options that you can configure for your sitemap. If you are unsure about what to do with them, then ignore them and click Save Settings.
Your Sitemaps are now available and publicly available. WordPress SEO will show an XML Sitemap button that you can click to see your sitemap_index.xml sitemap.
How to tell a search engine about sitemaps?
Search engines are smart enough to find sitemaps. Whenever you publish new content, a ping is sent to inform Google and Bing of the changes in your Sitemap. However, we recommend that you submit your Sitemap to Google using Google Webmaster Tools. The advantage of this is that Google will now show you any errors, indexed pages, and other relevant statistics that will be helpful to you as a webmaster.
Visit Google Webmaster Tools If you are not already signed in to your Google Account, you will be asked to sign in. After signing in, you will reach Webmaster Tools. There you will see the “Add a site” button, click it and then add the URL of your website.
On the next screen, you will be asked to verify the ownership of the website that you are trying to add. There are several ways to do this. But since you are already using the WordPress SEO plugin, the easiest way is to copy the HTML meta tag value into your WordPress SEO plugin. To do this, click on alternate methods and then HTML tags. You will then see a line of HTML meta tag code.
Copy and paste this line into a text editor like Notepad. Now copy the value inside the content = “”. Leave Webmaster Tools Site Verification page open because we will return to the page after adding the meta tag to verify website ownership. Go to your WordPress admin area and then click on the SEO tab. This will take you to the WordPress SEO plugin’s dashboard. Scroll down, and you’ll see the Webmaster Tools title. Paste the copied meta tag value next to Google Webmaster Tools and Save Settings.
Go back to Google Webmaster Tools, Site Verification screen and press the Verification button. You will see notice like “You have successfully verified your ownership of www.yoursite.com”. Click continue to see the Webmaster Tools dashboard for your site.
On the next screen, you will see a Sitemap column that will not have a Sitemap. By clicking on it you will be taken to a sitemap page where you can add your sitemap. Click the red button labeled “Ad / Test Sitemap” and provide the URL of your sitemap.
Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin publishes many sitemaps for your WordPress site. The main Sitemap is sitemap_index.xml that contains links to your other Sitemaps. You can either submit a Sitemap alone. You can submit all other sitemaps one by one. We recommend that submit sitemap_exx.xml alone, Google will then automatically search for and crawl other Sitemaps.
Once you’ve successfully added your sitemap, it will be pending. Google will take some time to crawl your website. After a while you will be able to see some statistics about your sitemap. This will show you the number of links found in your sitemap, how many of them are indexed, the ratio of images to web pages and so on.
Go to Google Webmaster Tools at least once a month. As your site becomes obsolete, you will start seeing more useful data about your website and how it will be seen by the search engine. This information can help you to know how well your site is and what you can do to improve its performance in search engines.