What is a sitemap? As the name indicates, a sitemap is a list of all accessible web pages on a website which is available to users and search engine bots. You might have found various sites, especially the ones owned by the government having a link titled ‘sitemap’. This is nothing but a way to guide people and the search engines about all the accessible pages of the website.
Sitemaps were introduced way back in the early years of the internet in 1994 and 1995 when it was considered as a necessity to include sitemaps on any website. This was probably because a website’s sitemap in those years was the main tool of navigation before some user-friendly and aesthetic navigation were introduced by designers.
You might think that now since we have better and quick navigation in place, we don’t need sitemaps anymore. No. Sitemaps are even more important today from a SEO point of view. Here are a few benefits as to why sitemaps are so important:
- They enhance your web pages’ visibility to search engines and assure faster indexing
- Sitemaps inform search engines about changes on your website structure
- It also helps search engines index large websites with a lot of pages which are not well-structured or interlinked
These are just a few of the various advantages why sitemaps are important and why you should create a sitemap for your WordPress website. In this WordPress tutorial, we will have a quick go-through on the types of sitemaps, how to add a sitemap to WordPress and how to submit a WordPress sitemap URL to search engines. Let’s get started.
What you’ll need
Before you begin this guide you’ll need the following:
- Access to WordPress admin area
- Understanding the Difference Between XML and HTML Sitemaps
- Step 1 – Creating an XML Sitemap In WordPress
- Step 2 – Creating HTML sitemap for WordPress
- Step 3 – Submitting WordPress XML Sitemap to Search Engines
Understanding the Difference Between XML and HTML Sitemaps
Broadly, sitemaps can be categorized into two: XML and HTML sitemaps. The main difference between the two is that XML is mainly meant for the search engines while HTML sitemap is written for the users of the website.
- XML sitemap:
XML sitemap, as already said, is primarily intended for search engines and contains metadata along with the website’s URLs. It contains all the info including the likes of when a particular URL was last updated, how soon the changes occur, etc.
- HTML sitemap:
HTML sitemap is intended for users and provides easy navigation. It tells the users where the Contact Us or Shopping Cart pages are etc. It undoubtedly is meant for users, but also helps you in boosting your search engine ranking as your website is more user-friendly.
Both HTML and XML sitemaps result in easy crawling of the pages by search engines. We would highly recommend you to have both sitemaps – one for the search engines and the other for the users. This will ensure that you are not missing any important element related to SEO, while also guaranteeing that you are catering an optimum experience to your users too.
No matter if you own a very popular website, a relatively new website or a blog. Sitemaps are important equally in all cases. For new blogs with not so many backlinks, a sitemap helps in quick indexing of the web pages.
Let’s start with the tutorial and see how to add a both sitemaps to WordPress.
Step 1 – Creating an XML Sitemap In WordPress
WordPress XML sitemap can be created in a few different ways. In this tutorial, you will learn how to add sitemap using a few WordPress sitemap plugins. Let’s check out.
Option 1 – Creating XML Sitemap With SEO Yoast
Yoast SEO plugin is one of the popular plugins which is used widely for improving the SEO of a WordPress website or a blog. The plugin takes care of all the technical aspects related to the content and helps you gauge the keyword density, H1 and H2 tags, readability, etc. Also, it can assist you in creating XML sitemaps.
Follow the below-mentioned steps in order to add XML sitemap to your WordPress website using Yoast SEO plugin:
- Install and activate the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin.
- Once you have activated the plugin navigate to SEO -> Features and enable the Advanced settings pages feature.
- This feature will enable XML sitemap for your WordPress and a new section XML Sitemaps will appear under SEO menu. Here you can manage various settings like max entries per sitemap, exclude particular pages/posts from the sitemap and so on. Unless you need a custom WordPress sitemap, you don’t need to change anything here.
- This way, you just generated XML sitemap using the plugin. You can find your WordPress sitemap URL under Your XML Sitemap.
Option 2 – Creating XML Sitemap With Google XML Sitemaps
Google XML sitemap plugin can also be used to generate an XML sitemap for your website to help search engines in crawling your website.
This plugin is an easy way of generating a sitemap for a range of search engines like Ask, Google, Yahoo and Bing. The plugin creates sitemaps for all WordPress pages and custom URLs. Furthermore, it automatically notifies all major search engines whenever new content is posted or published.
Here are a few steps you need to follow:
- Install and activate the plugin from official WordPress plugin directory.
- Once activated, this will automatically generate the sitemap for your website.
- To find out your WordPress sitemap URL open the plugin configuration page by clicking on Settings -> XML Sitemap. Here you can also change various settings like post/page priority, exclude content, etc.
Step 2 – Creating HTML sitemap for WordPress
The two plugins mentioned above would help you in generating an XML sitemap. Now, if you want to create an HTML sitemap for your WordPress, use WP Sitemap Page plugin.
To create an HTML sitemap for your WordPress website, follow these steps:
- Install and activate the plugin on your WordPress website.
- Set up a new page and add [wp_sitemap_page] shortcode where you want your HTML sitemap to be visible.
- Publish the page and visit its URL to preview your HTML sitemap.
Step 3 – Submitting WordPress XML Sitemap to Search Engines
Step 3.1 – Submitting XML Sitemap to Google
Once the XML sitemap is ready, we would highly recommend you to submit it to Google search console tool. The first step to submit your sitemap via Google search engine console is to verify yourself as the site owner. To do that, use one of the verification methods.
- Once done, open Google Search Console home page and select your website.
- Click on the Crawl and select Sitemaps
- Click on Add/Test Sitemap.
- Enter your WordPress sitemap URL and click Submit button.
- Now allow a few days for Google bots to process your submission and crawl your pages.
If your website contains a lot of images, we would highly recommend you to create an image sitemap as well. You can also add video sitemap in case you have a lot of videos on your website.
Step 3.2 – Submitting XML Sitemap to Bing
Bing is yet another search engine you might want to submit your sitemap to. Just like we used Google Search Console for presenting a sitemap to Google, we will use Bing Webmaster Tools to submit our sitemap to Bing. Of course, you will first need to verify the ownership of your website. You can find instructions how to do this here. During verification process enter your WordPress XML sitemap URL and press Add button.
That is all it takes to add a sitemap to Bing Webmaster Tools.
Sitemaps are an essential part of our websites. The major aim of creating a website is to cater to the needs of the users, and further secure top ranking on search engine result pages. Both these aspects are well met by sitemaps which not only make your website easy to navigate and user-friendly but also help in the quick crawling and indexing by search engine spiders and bots.
We hope that by following the steps mentioned above, you were able to generate a sitemap for your WordPress website and submit it to search engines.
Got any query? Do let us know in the comments.