How to create an SEO-optimized XML Sitemap for WordPress
When it comes to SEO and marketing, quick and easy solutions are needed. So often the concept of XML Sitemap comes up in promotion methods. But there’s not enough information about how sitemap interacts with WordPress.
Despite the fact that XML sitemap refers to the “technical” side of SEO, it’s not hard to make. And, in fact, it’s not that “technical” either. In fact, you can create a really good XML sitemap in just a few minutes. You don’t have to know how to program.
- What is an XML sitemap
- Benefits of XML Sitemap for WordPress
- Creating an XML sitemap with Yoast SEO plugin
- Creating an XML sitemap with XML Sitemap Generator
- Creating an HTML Sitemap with Simple Sitemap Plugin
- Sending XML Sitemap to Google, Bing, Yandex
What exactly is an XML Sitemap?
Simply put, it’s a list of website URLs that should be indexed and made publicly available. That’s why it’s called a Sitemap. A Sitemap shows how a Web site is structured and what pages it includes. “XML” stands for “extensible markup language,” a way of displaying information on websites.
The domhtml view of a WordPress sitemap:
What is the purpose of a Sitemap XML file?
Search engines use scanners to organize and index information on the web. These scanners can read any information. But the XML sitemap makes it easy for the crawler to see what’s on your Web site and index it.
Once it does, your site is more likely to quickly improve its ranking. Essentially, an XML sitemap serves as a table of contents for your website, allowing the search robot to get the essentials and index your site accordingly.
However, a well-structured sitemap can do more to help promote your site. Sitemap files tell search engines when a page has been updated, the frequency of page updates, the relative importance of pages on a website, and ways to find and index content that can be found deep within the site structure.
This is what the information looks like in the sitemap:
- Where the page is located on the website (its URL):
- Last modified date:
- How often the page changes:
- What priority does this page have over others in the site:
These features are important, especially given the amount of unauthorized content distribution that’s going on today.
If you don’t use a sitemap, your Web site may be seen as containing repetitive content, which is not good for SEO.
Importantly, a sitemap is a quick way to get indexed by Google. You can use it to tell Google, “This is my site, and here are the pages I want you to index.” Within minutes (usually) Google will crawl your site and index your content.
Is there a limit to how many URLs you can include in your Sitemap XML file?
There is. But it is not mandatory for WordPress sites.
The sitemap.xml file technically has a limit of 50,000 URLs. But when your site consists of more than 50,000 URLs, it’s possible to create a master sitemap that links to other established Sitemaps (each with a limit of 50,000 URLs).
What are the benefits of a Sitemap XML file?
It only takes a few minutes to install, and the benefits are enormous.
Consider the following benefits of an XML Sitemap:
- It tells Google to crawl and index your site.
- It shows Google what to crawl on your site.
- The XML sitemap tells Google what information is on your site.
- The XML sitemap informs Google when your content has been updated (which can lead to more favorable or “fresh” rankings).
- It tells Google how often your content is updated and how important it is.
- An XML sitemap helps your site be indexed instantly for dynamically generated pages.
- Its use helps you overcome the limitations of a website with weak internal links.
- It also helps your site overcome the problem of not having a strong external link profile.
- It helps huge sites get better and more organized indexing.
- The XML sitemap helps Google crawl your site more efficiently.
- It shows Google all the pages on your website, even if they are deeply rooted in the architecture and otherwise could not be crawled as quickly.
If you’re ready to start creating your own XML sitemap, you need to follow a three-step process:
- Create your own XML sitemap.
- Add an XML sitemap to your site.
- Submit the XML sitemap to Google.
But creating a sitemap is only the first step. A sitemap means nothing if you don’t submit it to the search engines.
Creating an XML sitemap with Yoast SEO for WordPress
Yoast SEO is one of the most popular SEO plugins for WordPress. Yoast makes it easy to create and submit an XML sitemap.
Log into your WordPress admin.
First, make sure the Yoast plugin is ready to create a sitemap. To do this, you’ll need to enable the advanced Yoast settings.
Click on the Yoast plugin. It has a “Y” icon and says “SEO.” It should be on the left sidebar:
Click on the “General” option:
In the dashboard, click on “Features”.
On the Features tab, find “XML sitemaps” and make sure it is set to “On”:
Now scroll down and click “Save Changes”:
The Sitemap XML sitemap that Yoast generates is pretty correct and reliable.
How to create a sitemap for your site with XML Sitemap Generator
Not using WordPress plugins? Working out of WordPress? Creating an XML Sitemap is possible with the XML Sitemap Generator. It lets you create an XML sitemap with:
- Cloud-based tool.
- A program (under Windows).
- WordPress plugin.
Let’s use the cloud-based Sitemap Generator tool.
Go to XML Sitemap Generator, select the Online Generator option:
When you go to the next page:
- Enter the URL of the home page of your site;
- Choose to calculate the date of your last change;
- Choose how often your pages change;
- Set the default scanning priority;
- Enter your email address;
- Click Generate Sitemap.
It is possible to set additional parameters by clicking “Advanced Settings”.
After you’ve created your Sitemap XML Sitemap Generator will start scanning your site with a delay. The size of the site also affects the scanning time.
When the Sitemap file is uploaded, you should place it in the root folder of your website.
Adding HTML Sitemap navigation for WordPress
In addition to Sitemap files in XML format, there is also a Sitemap in HTML format. This is a more useful version of Sitemaps. An HTML sitemap is a bulleted list of links to help people move around your site.
Your Sitemap HTML might not include all the pages on your site, but it allows you to quickly move between the most important pages. Creating a navigation area of the HTML sitemap is possible either manually or by using the Simple Sitemap plugin. Capabilities of the plugin:
- Enabling only certain types of posts.
- Limiting the number of displayed child pages.
- Exclusion of certain message identifiers.
- Arrangement of pages in different ways.
The plugin also has ready-made templates to help you create common types of sitemaps. Display HTML sitemap is possible anywhere on the page by using a shortcode.
When using the plugin, after activation, go to Settings → Simple Sitemap. Choose a ready-made code, or create your own using the attributes provided.
How to send your XML Sitemap to Google and other search engines
First, go to the Google Search Console and select your website.
Check out Google guide to learn how to do this.
In the control panel, click on “Sitemap Files:
Click “Submit a new Sitemap:
Enter the URL where you saved the sitemap. It should end in “.xml” since this is an XML file:
Then use the Sitemap file report to make sure there are no errors.
Once that’s done, Google takes care of the rest. Your sitemap allows Google to index your site quickly and seamlessly, helping to boost your rankings.
Google is the largest search engine, but it’s not the only one. To get the most out of your XML sitemap, you need to submit it to Bing and Yandex.
Send Sitemap to Bing
Bing is Microsoft’s answer to Google. It has a much smaller market share (just over 6%). However, more than 900 million unique users visit Bing per month. To reach that audience, submitting a sitemap to a search engine is easy.
To submit a sitemap to Bing, go into your control panel in Webmaster Tools. Find the Sitemap widget and click Submit Sitemap.
Enter the URL of your file and click Submit.
Send sitemap to Yandex
Yandex is the Russian version of Google. In Russia, Yandex has more than 55% of the search market. It also provides email, music streaming and online payment services. As with Bing, it only takes a few minutes to submit a sitemap, so it’s worth the effort to reach a wider audience.
Go to the Sitemap files page and select your site from the list.
Add your Sitemap URL.
It will take about two weeks for your Sitemap to upload. If it says “OK,” you’re done. If you see “Redirect,” try downloading the file again. If it says “error” or “not indexed,” you need to troubleshoot.
Apply XML Sitemap for WordPress now
Many small business owners and online entrepreneurs get scared when they hear the term “XML-sitemap.” However, the benefits of using it for SEO will be huge. If you’ve never created an XML sitemap for your website, make one today. After all, this is the thing that will accelerate the crawling and indexing of the resource, bring the pages to the top of search results.
Then do a technical SEO audit to see what other problems may be lurking on your site and fix them.
You should also submit a sitemap to Google Search Console to get indexing information from Google.
If you have more questions about XML Sitemap and WordPress, leave comments.