How would you like it if you created content that Google or any other search engine never saw (indexed)? What would it mean for you and your business if you could somehow notify Google about the existence of a page or post and Google eventually sent traffic to it? Simply put, wouldn’t you do what you should, to have more visitors see your content? If the answer is a “Yes,” make sure you read our guide. Your solution is only a minute or better said, a sitemap away. If you already know what a sitemap is, feel free to skip the following paragraphs. Just click here to read how to create one.
A sitemap? What is a sitemap?
A sitemap is basically what the name implies; a map of your site. Sitemaps are used to notify search engines and visitors as well about the content of a website and its updates. This way the search engines crawl easier the pages of a site and index them faster. On the other hand, visitors that land on a sitemap have a bird’s-eye view of the content of the related website which eventually helps them decide what to read next.
Why do I need a map on my WordPress site? Website Crawling 101
While the ease of access you provide to your visitors is an excellent addition to the use of sitemaps, the main reason you will need one is the easier crawling of your site by the Search Engines. All search engines use bots (called spiders or crawlers) that visit all the websites available, using the links that exist and point to them. Then, they scan their pages and create indexes for them which appear on the search results pages. What this means is that unless a spider indexes your pages, your content will be totally invisible to the main search engines. By using a sitemap, you can ease the crawling of your site, as you present all your content to search engines. To put it simply, a sitemap is vital for the success of your site as it makes search engines to locate and index your content faster.
Do sitemaps improve the web rankings of your site?
The answer is a straightforward “No!” Or isn’t it? Well, the answer depends on the point of view. While having a sitemap on your WordPress website won’t improve your rankings directly, it can provide the boost your site need in its first steps to get indexed faster and consequently show higher on search results pages. We are not talking about miracles here. Having a sitemap will provide just a little push for your newly created site or your recently created content.
What are your options when it comes to WordPress sitemaps?
Sitemaps come in two versions; XML sitemaps and HTML Sitemaps. HTML sitemaps are sitemaps written in the HTML Language, which means that not only search engine crawlers can read then, but also human eyes can read them as well. XML Sitemaps, however, are written using the XML language. This means that only bots can read them to navigate on a website.
How to create an XML Sitemap for your WordPress website?
Creating an XML Sitemap is an easy process. You’ll just need to use a plugin specifically designed for this purpose, called Google XML Sitemaps. To do this, just follow the simple steps presented below:
Step 1: Log in to your WordPress dashboard.
Step 2: Navigate to Plugins > Add New.
Step 3: Type “Google XML Sitemaps” in the search box that appears at the upper right of your screen.
Step 4: After you locate the plugin, just click install, and activate it.
Step 5: Navigate to Settings > XML – Sitemap. You should see a screen like the following one. To notify Search Engines about the existence of your sitemap, click on the link “Your Sitemap” as shown in the picture below (Star 1.). After The Google and Bing Search Engines have been notified, you will see a message like the following (Star 2.) You will also be able to see your sitemap by clicking in the relevant link that the plugin has created for you (Star 3).
That’s it! Your sitemap is ready, and the two main Search Engines have been notified about it. The Google XML Sitemaps plugin has done all the tedious work for you. The plugin will also continue to update the sitemap of your site automatically. Thus, you won’t have to waste any of your precious time maintaining it and updating it.
Please feel free to play with the plugin for a bit, as it provides numerous configuration options ranging from excluding pages to Search Engines Ping Frequency.
A quick note for those who use the Yoast SEO plugin: This powerful plugin allows you to create XML sitemaps too. Just navigate to the plugin section on your navigation bar and locate the XML Sitemaps tab. Click on it, and make sure that the “XML sitemap functionality” option is set to “Enabled.”
How to Create an HTML Sitemap for your WordPress website?
If you want to also create an HTML Sitemap, you will have to use an extra plugin called “WP Sitemap Page.” To install and activate it, just repeat the steps 1 to 4 from the previous section of this guide using WP Sitemap Page instead of Google XML Sitemap. Once the plugin is activated, navigate to Settings > WP Sitemap Page and grab the shortcode that appears on the settings screen.
You can paste this shortcode to any page or post. Our suggestion, though, is that you add the shortcode to a page and then create a link to this page which will appear in your footer. This will make it easier for your visitors to find it as well as for Search Engines.
Despite the fact that most sitemaps plugins notify the main search engines themselves, you might want to have a bit of additional control over when your sitemaps are found by Google or Bing. What you will have to do is to just tell them about the existence your sitemap. To do this, you can use the Google Search Console which you can find here, create and account, and use their guide on how to post your sitemap to them. It’s a relatively easy process and a very effective one too. The same applies to notifying the Bing engine for your sitemap.
This sums up our guide on how to create a sitemap for your WordPress site. We hope you liked it. What is more, we hope that you put this tips to good use and quickly index your website. Sitemaps are a powerful, yet easy tool to use. Don’t be another site admin who omits using one of them. Hurry, create your XML or HTML sitemaps and submit them to the main Search Engines. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to contact us.
Thank you for reading!