As the name suggests, a sitemap is like a map to help navigate the pages on your website. While sitemaps were originally designed with users in mind, to help them navigate all of the content available on a website, they have evolved tremendously from their early days as HTML bullet lists. Now, sitemaps are published in XML, and are designed to target search engines rather than people.
Why Have a Sitemap?
In short, an XML sitemap is a means to let search engines know about all of the pages that exist on your website – and to indicate which links on your site are the most important. While not designed specially to help boost search engine rankings, an XML sitemap will allow search engines to better crawl your site.
This is important because it ensures all of the pages on your website are indexed – something that is particularly important for new websites and blogs that haven’t yet built many links.
Create a XML Sitemap in WordPress
There are a number of plugins available to help you build an XML sitemap for your WordPress website or blog.
Google XML Sitemaps
Designed specially to generate an XML sitemap, Google XML Sitemaps supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages, as well as custom URLS. This plugin has been downloaded more than 11 million times, and has an average user rating of 4.7/5 stars.
Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps
This fast and powerful plugin features BWP GXS, allowing users to bypass the standard 50,000 URL limit by grouping multiple sitemap files. Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps has been downloaded more than 282,000 times and has an average user rating of 4.4/5 stars.
WordPress SEO by Yoast
Designed to improve WordPress SEO, this plugin by Yoast also features advanced sitemap functionality, automatically creating XML sitemaps once you’ve activated the sitemap option, and notifying Google and Bing of the sitemap’s existence. WordPress SEO by Yoast has been downloaded more than 6 million times, and has an average user rating of 4.7/5 stars.
Created for ease of use, XML Sitemaps automatically generates sitemaps for your site, and notifies search engines when they’re updated. This plugin has been downloaded more than 78,000 times and has an average user rating of 3/5 stars.
Google XML Sitemap for Videos
Particularly useful for websites with a great deal of video content, Google XML Sitemap for Videos will generate an XML sitemap for your WordPress blog using all YouTube videos that have been embedded into your blog posts. This plugin has been downloaded more than 95,000 times and has an average user rating of 3.7/5 stars.
After You’ve Created Your Sitemap
Search engines are pretty ingenious in finding new content on the web, and many plugins will notify them automatically after your sitemap is created, but to give them the best possible chance of finding your content is it best to submit your sitemap to Google by utilising Google Webmaster Tools.
To do this, simply go to Google Webmaster Tools after signing in to your Google account, and select the ‘Add a site’ button. You’ll be required to verify your ownership via one of the available verification methods, but once this process is complete you’ll have the option to ‘Add/Test Sitemap’ and provide the URL of your sitemap, which will appear as pending until Google has crawled your site.
Once Google has crawled your sitemap, you’ll be able to view statistics about your sitemap via Google’s Webmaster Tools, including the number of links found, and how many of these links were indexed.