A Beginner’s Guide To Using XML Sitemaps

xml-sitemap-plugins

Sitemaps help search engines crawl your website in a manner that can get your site recognition and improve its ranking.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about sitemaps. We’ll discuss why they’re so important and take in popular methods for creating these vital documents. Let’s get started.

An Introduction to Sitemaps

Webmasters can inform search engines about the pages on their site that are available for crawling using sitemaps. In a way, they are like maps that tell a web crawler where the sites pages are and how to reach them.

Back in the day, sitemaps were hand-coded in HTML format and their central purpose was to assist users and make site navigation simpler. Sitemaps have evolved a lot since then. Today they are published in XML and their goal is to improve search engine optimization by enabling search engines to crawl the site intelligently.

Advantages of Using Sitemaps

There are several advantages to using sitemaps:

  • Sitemaps help to classify your site’s content.
  • You don’t need to depend on external links to bring search engines to your site.
  • Help out new sites, new pages and recently updated pages gain recognition.
  • Improve user experience.

Top 4 Sitemap Plugins

Google XML Sitemaps

google-xml-sitemaps

Google XML Sitemaps enables users to create XML sitemaps for their WordPress sites. These are essential to anyone who wishes to submit their sitemap to search engines to improve search engine optimization and benefit from better indexing.

This plugin will include everything from pages to posts and custom URLs to custom posts. The plugin automatically notifies all search engines every time you create a new post or page saving you the trouble of doing it manually. Once you’ve set it up and created your first sitemap, Google XML Sitemaps will take it from there and dynamically edit it as you update your site.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the features it has to offer:

  • Creates XML sitemaps and updates major search engines.
  • Supports pages, posts, custom URLs, custom posts and more.
  • Automatically edits the sitemap as you add/remove posts and pages.

Yoast SEO

yoast-seo

Yoast SEO is loaded with functionality to improve your site’s search engine optimization. Among its extensive list of features, you’ll also find that the plugin creates XML sitemaps for your site. Once you configure the settings, it automatically creates XML sitemaps and notifies Google & Bing of the sitemap’s existence.

The XML sitemaps that are created also include images in your posts and pages. This added functionality ensures that your images are found better in the search engines too.

Here’s a list of features that Yoast SEO offers in its XML sitemaps:

  • Automatically creates XML sitemaps and notifies major search engines.
  • XML sitemaps include images found in posts and pages.
  • Support for pages, posts, custom post types and, custom taxonomies.

Simple Sitemap

simple-sitemap

Simple Sitemap lets users create HTML sitemaps for their WordPress sites. HTML sitemaps are typically used to increase user experience by making site navigation simpler for your visitors. You can choose to display the content as a single list of pages and posts or in a group format sorted by taxonomy using a drop-down box.

With the plugin’s shortcode integration, you can add your sitemap to pages, posts, sidebars, and even text widgets. This is especially handy if you want to preserve screen real estate.

Let’s look at the features you can get by installing Simple Sitemap:

  • Creates an HTML sitemap for your WordPress site.
  • Displays sitemaps in two modes – list and group.
  • Customizable display orders for pages and posts.

PS Auto Sitemap

ps-auto-sitemap

PS Auto Sitemap is another popular solution to create HTML sitemaps for WordPress sites. The plugin supports all WordPress generated pages in addition to posts and categories. Best of all: it works right out of the box.

A little programming knowledge is required to customize the sitemap’s appearance. If you’re not programming literate then you can use some of the built-in CSS skins to give your sitemap a little energy. PS Auto Sitemap’s standout feature is that it lets you set a limit on the depth of the sitemap.

Here’s a list of its features:

  • Creates cachable, HTML sitemaps for WordPress sites.
  • 12 designs for sitemap display styles to pick from.
  • Select which pages and pages to exclude from the sitemap.

Submitting Your Sitemap

Those of you who go with Google XML Sitemaps or Yoast SEO can submit the resultant .xml file to search engines to make the most of its search engine optimization benefits and improve indexing. In most cases, a search engine will automatically detect your site’s sitemap if you place it in the root of your domain but it’s recommended that you submit it directly via Google Webmaster Tools or Bing Webmaster Tools to view site analytics.

Conclusion

Adding a sitemap to your site not only increases user experience by improving site navigation but enables your site’s content to appear in search engine results more easily thus improving your site’s SEO.

Does your WordPress site have a sitemap? Which plugins do you use to create sitemaps? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and let us know.

Charles has been building and promoting websites and services in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and China for nearly 20 years.

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