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How to use (and why) WordPress sitemap plugin

How to use (and why) WordPress sitemap plugin

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Did you know that by knowing how to use the WordPress sitemap plugin you can significantly improve your site’s visibility and traffic?

Although it isn’t mandatory to have a sitemap on your site, having one significantly improves the site’s quality, crawlability and indexing. All this is important for better optimization, which is why we wanted to explain how to set up and use one on your WordPress site or blog.

And just to refresh your memory…

What is a sitemap and why should you care whether you have it on our site or blog?

To quote the mighty Google, “A sitemap is a file where you provide information about the pages, videos, and other files on your site, and the relationships between them. Search engines like Google read this file to more intelligently crawl your site.”

It’s basically a roadmap of your website that leads Google through and through everything that’s on it, for better understanding and rankings.

Having a sitemap on your WordPress site or blog is a must-have for technical SEO, but also a good On-Site SEO practice, as well.

A sitemap lists all of your site’s pages to Google can crawl and explore everything with ease, understand the site’s organization and all the updates on it. It should contain each page, file, or image you want to appear in search results. It’s written in a form of codes for bots to understand and if you ever come across it, it looks pretty much like this:

wordpress-sitemap-plugin-on-meks-site

For bigger sites with lots of content, XML Sitemap Index file contains more than one sitemap, as you can see from the example. Here, the site’s information is categorized into several sitemaps to make it as clear as possible to search engines what the site is about.

What information does a sitemap provide search engines?

Basic information about your site includes a list of all pages on your site. Also, any and every content type you have: images, videos, as well as information about changes within your site. Recent updates, deletes, along with the priority of these pages.

If not all, you’d want your most important pages to be included in the sitemap, and exclude the non-indexable pages or two versions of a page, to avoid any confusion.

Is sitemap the same as robots.txt?

A logical question that confuses a lot of people. Although they sound similar and are file types of information, the context and purpose are different. Robots.txt file is a guide for Google to navigate your site informing it which pages are allowed and restricted. A sitemap is an XML file that contains all or most useful URL’s of your site so Google can learn about its structure.

So, a sitemap tells search engines about the pages and links that are available for crawling, while robots.txt informs them which links not to include in that search.

And we believe Jetpack said it nicely that a sitemap is like a table of contents for your site written in a language that search engines understand 😊

How do I create a sitemap for WordPress?

One of the main questions we’re happy to answer. There are several easy ways to create a sitemap for your WordPress site or blog. You can do it manually or with the help of more than a few handy plugins.

Setting up WordPress sitemap manually

Well, semi-manually that is. If you don’t like plugins, you can choose to use sitemap generator tools to create a map of your site. You can use sitemap generator sites:

XML-Sitemaps.com

or

Xml Sitemap Generator

enter your site’s URL and wait for the site to generate your custom sitemap. Once that’s finished, download your sitemap file and upload it into the domain root folder of your website.

Setting up WordPress sitemap using a plugin

There is more than one useful WordPress sitemap plugin to help you set up your map in no time. Although we use Yoast SEO, choose the one that best suits your site’s needs.

All in One SEO

A freemium SEO plugin for managing your On-Site SEO and comes with a sitemap feature as well. Upon installation, go over to the Sitemaps dashboard to see if you like default settings or need to modify them to your needs.

Google XML Sitemaps

One of the most used WordPress sitemap plugins out there, with its 2+ million users to date. It’s free and provides you a complete XML sitemap for search engines. Once you install it, you’ll find it under Settings where you can manually configure the details or leave it by default. This plugin automatically generates a sitemap for your site and default settings are quite good for most of the users.

wordpress google xml sitemap plugin

However, if you wish to define which pages to include and which not, you can easily change it within the Sitemap Content part of the Settings. The same goes for categories and posts as well. It’s safe to say this plugin is an easy-going and flexible option for both novices and experienced users.

Jetpack

We all know jetpack as a marketing, security, performance, and many other features plugin, but it also comes with a sitemap feature as well. With it, you can easily generate a sitemap listing of all of your posts and pages just by enabling it within the plugin’s Settings.

wordpress-sitemap-plugin-jetpack

Furthermore, if you’re aiming to apply for Google News and get approved as a Publisher, Jetpack generates your own news sitemap specifically for this platform and it’s activated once you enable Generate XML sitemaps.

Rank Math SEO

Another great multipurpose SEO plugin that comes with various features, including sitemaps. Upon installation, head over to the Sitemap section to configure on based on your needs, including content type formats and Google News feature as well. On top of that, you can even enable Ping Search Engines notification which will automatically notify Google and Bing when a sitemap gets updated.

wordpress-sitemap-plugin-rankmath

For further detailed tutorials, head over to Rank Math’s blog explanation.

Yoast SEO

We all know of Yoast SEO by now. Used by more than 5 million websites all over the world, it comes with a lot of free features and options. XML sitemaps being one of them as well. Once you install it, head over to SEO > General > Features where you’ll find a set of features to define, and XML sitemap is one of them:

wordpress-plugin-yoast-seo

And the sitemap is automatically updated as you add, edit or delete the content from your site. The sitemap index includes links to a variety of sub-sitemaps for posts, pages, authors, categories, tags, and other taxonomies.

XML Sitemaps Functionality in WordPress 5.5

As of WordPress 5.5 update, there’s a basic built-in sitemap feature within WP Core. However, it doesn’t come with the dashboard or settings to modify and configure the details. By default, sitemaps are created for all public post types and taxonomies, as well as for author archives.

How to submit a sitemap to Google?

Once you have your sitemap set up, head over to Google Search Console to submit it for crawling. Here are the steps:

  1. Sign in to GSC
  2. Select your website in the sidebar
  3. Click on Sitemaps section in the sidebar
  4. Enter a new sitemap URL or remove and replace the existing one
  5. Click Submit and that’s it!

It takes Google a couple of days to process your submission and crawl the site’s pages.

How to submit a sitemap to Bing?

Similar to Google Search Console, you need to log in to Bing’s Webmaster tool to submit an XML sitemap. Add your site’s URL and verify the ownership by downloading an XML Bing file to upload it to the root of your site. Afterward, head over to the Sitemaps section, enter your sitemap URL and click on the Submit button.

How can you use the WordPress sitemap plugin?

Firstly, if you want Google to know who you are and what you stand for, you’ll use a sitemap. More traffic, more visibility, and organic discovery – you’ll use a sitemap. As we know by now, Google uses web crawlers to discover publicly available pages and links and sitemap provides that information. Now, it’s important to note that sitemaps won’t boost your rankings but will help search engines crawl and understand your site faster and better.

Secondly, to have a sitemap on your site means faster crawl times hence quicker indexing of your existing and new content, because Google bots know what to look for and where.

Thirdly, it helps with visibility as a rich snippet result, which happens if you have a lot of rich media content on your site. As explained on Google’s Search Central Documentation, they can use a sitemap “to provide information about specific types of content on your pages, including video and image content.”

Anything that helps Google and other search engines understands what your site is about is good for you and your SEO. So you can only benefit from having one. And every time you have an update on your site and in overall content, the sitemap will pick it up, for search engines to acknowledge it much quicker.

Wrapping up

Hopefully, this article helps you not only in understanding this small yet important part of your web presence but also in creating one by yourselves. Now you know all there is to it and can implement the advice today! Let us know in the comment section which WordPress sitemap plugin you’ve used and how it changed your online organic presence. Also, don’t be shy in asking us any additional questions regarding this topic, we’re here to help!

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Ivana Cirkovic

Ivana is a Digital Marketing, PR and Social Media consultant with over nine years experience in the field. She is also a WordPress enthusiast and an active member of WordPress community who lives online almost 24/7. In love with Twitter, WP, photography and NYC.

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