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The Importance Of Google Sitemaps And How To Make One In WordPress

Posted on February 25 by in Tips & Tricks | 38 comments

The Importance Of Google Sitemaps And How To Make One In WordPress

Sitemaps allow website owners to inform search engines what pages on their website are available for crawling.

The protocol was set up to help search engines crawl your website more intelligently. It was first introduced by Google in 2005, with MSN and Yahoo offering their support to the protocol a year later. Sitemaps are known as URL inclusion protocols as they advise search engines what to crawl. On the other hand, the robots.txt file is known as an exclusion protocol as it advises search engines what not to crawl.

In its simplest form, a sitemap is a document that lists all URLs of your website (that you want crawled). The document details additional information such as the date a page was last modified, how frequently a page may change and whether the page should be given priority over others. Specific sitemaps can be created for each type of content. For example, one sitemaps for blog posts, another for videos etc.

The importance of Sitemaps should not be downplayed. They help search engines navigate your website more easily, which helps search engines index your content better. If you think of your website as a building, the sitemap is a blueprint that informs search engines exactly where everything is located.

How to Create a Sitemap For a Small Content Website

Do not worry. You do not need to manually enter every single URL from your website in order to create your sitemap. Sitemaps can be automatically generated.

For a small static website that does not have content added frequently, I recommend using a sitemap generator such as XML-Sitemaps. It allows you to define how often your pages are updated and what modified date is used.

XML-Sitemaps

XML-Sitemaps is a quick way of generating a sitemap for a static website.

Once the generator has created your sitemap, you need to upload it to the root of your domain e.g. www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml.

The XML-Sitemaps generator is limited in many ways. Firstly, it has a limit of five hundred pages. Secondly, it defines the same “change frequency” for all URL’s. This is obviously not suitable for any website that publishes content every week as you want your home page spidered more frequently than other pages.

How to Create a Sitemap For Your WordPress Website

There is an abundance of sitemap plugins available for WordPress. Options include XML & Google News Sitemaps, Better WordPress Google XML Sitemaps and Google Sitemap.

I would personally recommend one of two plugins for creating a sitemap for your WordPress website.

If you are already using the fantastic WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, I recommend using the sitemap generator that is built into the plugin. If not, I recommend using Google XML Sitemaps.

WordPress SEO by Yoast is what I am currently using on my personal blog. I use it to create sitemaps for my blog because (a) I use the plugin for SEO already, and (b) It is very simple to set up.

The majority of people will not need to change any settings in the sitemap settings area. Options such a sitemap for users and pinging Yahoo and Ask.com are already enabled, but can be disabled if necessary.

Sitemap Settings Area

WordPress SEO by Yoast offers a sitemap interface that is easy to configure.

Specific post types and taxonomies can also be excluded from your sitemap. The number of URL’s listed on a sitemap page can also be limited so that less strain is put on your server.

Sitemap Settings Area

The plugin allows you to exclude specific post types and taxonomies.

Your sitemap will be generated and published at http://www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap_index.xml. The main sitemap page lists a sitemap for each post type.

Main Sitemap

The main sitemap lists all of the different types of sitemaps that are available.

Each sitemap lists the URL’s that should be be crawled. Their priority, number of images, change frequency and last modification date are all displayed. The information can be displayed in a different order by clicking on one of the table headers.

Detailed Sitemap

Each sitemap lists the URL’s that should be crawled.

Google XML Sitemaps is a better option if want more control over your sitemap.

At the top of the plugin settings page, it details when your sitemap was last generated. It also lets you know how long it took to build the sitemap and how much memory it used to do so.

Google XML Sitemaps

Google XML Sitemaps gives details about the last sitemap that was created

Many configuration settings can be modified through the main settings page. In addition to limiting the number of posts that are listed, you can increase the memory limit and execution time for the sitemap creation process.

Google XML Sitemaps Basic Options

Google XML Sitemaps offers a huge amount of configuration options.

Google XML Sitemaps also allows you to define pages that were not created through your WordPress website. There is also an option to define the priority of posts based on the number of comments they have.

Google XML Sitemaps Additional Pages

Additional pages can also be defined in Google XML Sitemaps.

Your sitemap will be automatically generated and published at http://www.yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml; however this location can be changed in the settings area.

Google XML Sitemaps also allows you to define what areas of your website will be listed in your sitemap.

Control What is Spidered

The plugin allows you to exclude many areas of your website.

Specific posts, pages and categories can also be excluded. You simply need to enter the post or page ID.

Categories, Posts and Pages Can All Be Excluded

In addition to post types, Google XML Sitemaps lets you exclude posts, pages and categories.

The change frequency and priority can be changed for eight different areas of your website including your home page, posts and archives. In my opinion, the default configuration is fine, though you may want to change it for specific areas of your website.

Change the Frequency and Priority of Pages

The plugin allows you to specify the frequency and priority of every type of page on your website.

Unlike WordPress SEO by Yoast, the plugin does not create separate sitemaps for each post type. The number of images on each page are not listed either.

Alt 7

All URL’s are listed on one page.

Submitting Your Sitemap to Google & Bing

Once your sitemap has been generated, you should submit it to Google and Bing. You can do this via Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools.

Search engines should automatically detect sitemaps that are placed in the root of your domain. There is, however, a benefit to submitting your sitemaps directly to Google and Bing: Analytics.

Webmaster Tools allows you to see exactly how many pages and images have been submitted and indexed. It will also highlight any errors that you may be unaware of.

Google Webmaster Tools

Submitting your sitemap to Webmaster Tools will let you see exactly what URL’s have been submitted and indexed.

If you have not created a sitemap for your website, I encourage you to do so as soon as you can. It will have a positive effect on your search engine rankings by giving search engines a better understanding of how to navigate your content.

As always, if you have any questions regarding sitemaps, please leave a comment :)

38 Comments

  1. Excellent. very good contribution. especially for those who are new to it, like me.
    Thank you very much brother.

  2. Thanks sir,
    It’s really very useful information.

    Have a nice day
    Ashraf

  3. Great work Kevin.
    I use WordPress SEO by Yoast in all my WP blogs and for me is a must have.

    Regards.

  4. Great post. I use Yoast’s SEO but didn’t like his sitemap generator for some reason. Can’t remember now why. I’ll have to have another look at it. I do like submitting it myself with Google’s Webmaster Tools, but I think that’s just an insecurity issue. Once I do it myself I know it really got there.

    Thanks again.

  5. Hy, thanks a lot for these useful informations.

    Just a word to let you know that the webmaster tool urls you give are broken…

    best regards,

    • Sorry about that. I fixed the link.

      • Not related with the content of this post but what nice social left bar are you using?

        • We are using AddThis Pro.

  6. Kevin Muldoon

    Glad you all found the post useful :)

    @Julius – I’m not sure what was wrong with the link, though looks like Nick has beat me to the punch and fixed it for me. Thanks for letting us know.

  7. Thanks kevin, I’ve been looking out for this tip. Also, your site is cool…

  8. A very useful article Kevin. Thanks. :)

  9. I just wanted to thank Elegant Themes for this blog. The articles are frequent and consistently interesting and informative. I’ve learned so much about WordPress since I subscribed. I find it incredibly valuable.

  10. Thanks Kevin! This was very helpful.

    I too love the Yoast WordPress SEO plugin – it’s awesome. It makes things easy that would normally be pretty complicated, including the sitemap function – which I actually discovered just last week.

    I ran my first sitemap and saw quite clearly that insignificant pages were getting the same priority as the most important ones. You just click the link on the site map, change the priority for that page in the Yoast settings, and voila, it’s fixed. It also made me realize that there were some pages that I should actually no index, which the plugin does for you as well.

    I wasn’t sure if there was anything more or different I should be doing, and your article totally covered that – I’m all set!

    Have a great week.

    Sharon

  11. Very useful, thanks!

  12. Very Good Article Nick, Step by step complete sitemap setting in WordPress. Such a valuable information. Thanks for share !!!

  13. Can we use Yoast sitemap and Google XML Sitemaps plugin to gather ?

    • Kevin Muldoon

      You can enable both sitemaps, though I am not sure why you would do so. There certainly wouldn’t be any benefit to doing this as both sitemaps would show the same links. Therefore, it is better to just choose one or the other.

  14. What an excellent article! What an excellent outfit Elegant Themes with their daily blog, just incredible. I do not know how they can keep up with this pace and quality. Elegant Themes is going to be too popular and that is perhaps a danger for current users, but let’s enjoy it in the meantime! When support becomes a bit more streamlined we may have the best in business in the form of Elegant Themes!
    Gerard
    StarWebStudios

  15. I have implemented this plugin in my website and now I can see the results. Thanks

  16. Hi!

    Thanks for the great article – very helpful! We have a multisite setup to realize different language versions of our site like example.com and example.com/en/. Do I have to generate a sitemap on both sites?

    Go on with the good work!

    • Kevin Muldoon

      Hi Maike,

      Apparently it does work with multsite (though I have never used it myself).

      According to https://yoast.com/wordpress-seo-update/

      “Your XML sitemap will now once again reside at example.com/sitemap.xml, except, it won’t, really. It will be placed in a subdirectory of your uploads dir, and using WP Rewrite the URL will resolve to the right sitemap. So now it works with Multi Site installs, all of them: domain mapped Multi Site installs, subdirectory and subdomain ones. You’ll have to remove all the XML sitemaps in your root directory for this to work, and no, it doesn’t give you a notice about that (yet).”

  17. Great post and comparison. Thanks, Kevin. And thanks, Elegant Themes.

  18. i have one question about this, Google XML sitemaps plugin auto post you your sitemap or after this you will be upload this sitemap to google webmaster manually?

    • Kevin Muldoon

      It should detect it automatically, though there is no harm in submitting it via Google Webmaster Tools so that you can monitor the indexed pages.

  19. Thank you for the article, i am having a big problem with Google XML Sitemap not wanting to update automatically. Seems to be a problem that exists with many people and is an important feature. I also use Yoast SEO but i think with the free version the sitemap is not included. Have you got any suggestions as to why Google XML Sitemap is not updating. Here is a further link with the issue http://wordpress.org/support/topic/plugin-google-xml-sitemaps-my-sitemap-is-not-updating..thanks for your time

  20. Hi Kevin, Thanks for the article. It’s very informative.
    I just have 1 question: if sitemap generator such as XML-Sitemaps are limited. What do you suggest we use? Or how to go about generating sitemaps that are not so limited?

  21. Thank you sir for providing nice and useful information.

    I have one question related to sitemap.

    Can i have both sitemap such as web sitemap and google news sitemap in one website.

  22. thank you for this great post. i have a question, i named and published all the pages for my website but i still didn’t finish entering the content of these pages. will it make any difference if i did the sitemap now or if i did it after entering the content to the pages?
    thank you again.

  23. Hi Kevin:
    This is a very helpful post. I noticed that on my Webmaster Tools, only web pages (not images) are listed. Does this mean that my images are not being “crawled” by Google?

  24. I have a WordPress site (single page) on the root domain and another WordPress site on a subfolder for my blog. The single page on the root domain does not link to the blog in the subfolder, nor do I want it to.

    The question is, should I have 2 site maps, one in the root folder and one in the blog subfolder? If I only need one in the root domain, how do I go about making sure that the blog subfolder is included in the root sitemap?

    And should I have both the root URL and the blog subfolder URL showing separately in Google Webmaster tools?

    Would appreciate some input on this as I’m really confused. Thanks!

  25. Hello Kevin,

    Thank you for this great post above…I noticed that your Yoast site map image above (seo-sitemap-2.jpg) has ‘Daily’ set as it’s ‘Ch. Frequency’. Do you know how to set this as my Pro version of Yoast appears to be default to weekly and I can’t figure how to change it and haven’t heard back from Yoast.

    Many thanks Julien

  26. Great post for beginners like me. I appreciate that you wrote this, it both cleared things up for me and made me send my sitemap to Google.

    Hopefully I will see results soon.

    Regards,
    Samuel

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