Ever scrolled to the bottom of a website with an older style design and see a link called Sitemap and wondered, what is that? Wonder no more! A WordPress sitemap is just like it sounds like, a map of the website with a list of all the pages and categories for that particular website. Think of it as an instruction manual for a search engine on what pages you have on your site, where they are, and what they’re called.
Sitemaps were really happenin’ in the late 90s/early 2000s and while they’re still around today, they tend to serve more of an SEO purpose, than someone clicking it to find a particular page. A sitemap certainly won’t boost your SEO rankings like magic, but it will allow engines to crawl your website. When you think about search engine optimization, you have to keep in mind one key thing – there’s more to search engines than Google.
Take Bing, for example, it may only have an estimated 8 percent market share, but there’s less competition on Bing for the number one spot, compared to Google, so don’t discount advertising on Bing or optimizing your site with their SEO tools.
Do I need a Sitemap?
Yes! They are extremely important from a search engine optimization perspective.
Just having one doesn’t immediately boost your search rankings, but if there’s a page on your site that isn’t indexed, having a site map helps the crawler sort that out and complete the indexing of your site.
Sitemaps are really useful when you first create your site because most new websites don’t have any backlinks. This makes it harder for search engines to discover and index all of a page’s content. For this reason, major search engines like Bing, Google, and Baidu, allow owners of websites to submit their sitemaps using their own webmaster tools. This instructs that search engine crawler bots to check your site and add your content to its search results database.
I already have a website, is a site map right for me?
Again, YES! Absolutely. Without a sitemap, there’s no guarantee all of your content has been indexed. A sitemap helps you highlight the portions of your website that are more important or updated more frequently than others, so search engines can index your content accordingly.
How do I create a Sitemap?
Well, it depends on how your website is built. If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, there are some great plugins, and if you used regular ole’ CSS and HTML to build your site, there are some tools you can use to generate a sitemap. We’ll cover a few ways to do this below so you can make an informed decision when you make your first sitemap.
Creating a Site Map using a Site Map Generator
If you manually built your website using regular HTML and CSS, you will certainly benefit from using a Site Map Generator. My favorite tool is xml-sitemaps.com.
The website is free and simple. It’s perfect for quickly creating a sitemap for a small website, up to 500 pages.
Their site doesn’t require any registration and you can download the XML file results immediately after using the tool.
Of course, if you have more than 500 pages, they do have a Pro Sitemap service which can index up to 1.5 million pages, automatically update sitemaps, and create an image, video, and news specific sitemaps, plus RSS feeds, as well as to detect and list broken links on your site.
How do I create a WordPress Sitemap?
It would be remiss of me not to mention how to create a sitemap on WordPress, the Internet’s most popular CMS.
There are a few plugins you can use to create a WordPress Sitemap site, including these:
However, with WordPress, you always want to keep in mind the number of plugins you have installed. If you already have a lot of plugins, do you really want to add another plugin that effectively does only one thing (creates sitemaps)? Probably not.
For this reason, we suggest using Yoast SEO for your sitemaps. For starters, you’re probably already using Yoast SEO for its awesome SEO features AND your sitemaps. In case you didn’t know, some of the best features of Yoast SEO include:
- Automated technical SEO improvements, like canonical URLs and meta tags.
- Advanced XML sitemaps; making it easy for Google to understand your site structure.
- Title and meta description templating, for better branding and consistent snippets in the search results.
- An in-depth Schema.org integration will increase your chance of getting rich results, by helping search engines to understand your content.
- Full control over site breadcrumbs, so that users and search engines always know where they are.
- Faster loading times for your whole website, due to an innovative way of managing data in WordPress.
Yoast also helps you create awesome content by giving you these features:
- SEO analysis: an invaluable tool while writing SEO-friendly content with the right (focus) keyphrases in mind.
- Readability analysis: ensures that humans and search engines can read and understand your content.
- Full language support for English, German, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Indonesian, Polish, Portuguese, Arabic, Swedish, Hebrew, Hungarian and Turkish.
- A Google preview, which shows what your listings will look like in the search results. Even on mobile devices!
- Innovative Schema blocks for the WordPress block editor, so that your FAQ and HowTo content can be shown directly in the search results. Plus a breadcrumbs block to guide your users.
And, whether you’re an experienced blogger or totally new to the scene, Yoast helps you keep your site in perfect shape by:
- Tuning the engine of your website, so you can work on creating great content!
- Giving you cornerstone content and internal linking features to help you optimize your site structure in a breeze.
- Translating your content to structured data where possible, to help search engines understand your website.
- Helping you manage your team: with our SEO roles, you can give colleagues access to specific sections of the Yoast SEO plugin.
If you aren’t using Yoast SEO already, you can download Yoast SEO here or install it from the Plugins area of your /wp-admin.
Let’s take a look at how to create a sitemap in Yoast SEO. By the way, the tutorial below assumes you’ve already installed Yoast SEO.
Step 1: Log in to your /wp-admin and click SEO from the toolbar on the left.
Step 2: From the Yoast SEO Dashboard, click the Features tab.
Step 3: Look in the list of features and ensure XML Sitemaps is set to on.
It’s important to keep in mind, XML sitemaps are enabled by default with Yoast SEO. Beyond the initial configuration you do with the plugin, you don’t need to manually turn sitemaps on.
Is this all I need to do to get on Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others?
Yes and no. You can hope and wish Google and Bing/Yahoo’s crawlers notice a new website appeared on the internet and they index it, but truth be told, that could take a while. New websites often don’t have the benefit of a lot of backlinks, if any, so getting noticed can be difficult.
But, there’s a simple solution!
You can submit your website to major search engines and your site will be queued for indexing by their crawler bots. Pretty cool, eh?
How to Submit Your Sitemap to Google
Once you’ve created your sitemap, you’ll want to submit it to major search engines, like Google. This ensures that Google knows your site exists, for one, and also where to find your sitemap. This also gives you helpful information, such as how many pages of your site Google has indexed and if it’s encountered any errors.
Step 1: You need to add your site to the Google Search Console. To do that, open the Search Console by clicking here, then click Start now.
Step 2: You’ll have the option to either add your Domain, which includes all subdomains but requires DNS verification, or you can add by URL Prefix, which includes only URLS entered in the Search Console. This second method supports multiple verification methods and is the version we’ll be using for this tutorial.
Step 3: You’ll be given several options to verify you own the domain you’re attempting to add. For this tutorial, we’ll be using the HTML file method because it’s super easy.
Download the html file and save it to your computer. Next, open your cPanel and open your File Manager.
Navigate to the directory where your website is installed. In my case, I’m using WordPress so I’m going to navigate to the directory where WordPress is installed.
Use the Upload function at the top of File Manager to upload the html file that you downloaded from Google Search Console.
Step 4: Once the file is uploaded, return to the Google Search Console and click Verify.
Google will check that it can access the HTML file you uploaded. Once it’s able to do this, you’ll see this message:
Click Go to property.
Step 5: Next, click “Sitemaps” from the left menu bar.
Finally, click Submit.
This will submit the link to your XML sitemap to Google and they will queue your site for indexing by their crawler bots!
Once Google indexes your sitemap, you’ll be able to use the Google Search Console to view statistics such as errors, like 403 and 404, which might be occurring on your site.
What about Bing?
Bing offers users a free set of Webmaster Tools just like Google does. You can use their app to submit your sitemap almost exactly like Google.
Just sign up for the free Bing webmaster tools and you can submit your site.
A WordPress sitemap is one of those little things that every website needs, no matter the size. It’s not going to shoot your site to the top of search engine results pages, but it’s a great way to get your site crawled faster than if you didn’t have a sitemap.
Once you create your WordPress sitemap, you should begin to see valuable search engine optimization information about your website which will allow you to improve your search presence, therefore improving the search performance of your website to maximize the number of visitors possible.
These tools are FREE to use, so why not take advantage of them?
What tips do you have for Sitemaps? Let us know in the questions and comments!