Search engine optimisation is essential to the success of your website. One important aspect of SEO is setting up and optimising your WordPress sitemap. An optimised sitemap can help your website index faster and achieve higher rankings. In this article, we will discuss what a sitemap is, why you need one, and explain how you can create and optimise your sitemap.
What is a Sitemap & Why Do You Need One?
A sitemap is a page on your website that search engine crawlers use to find all the important pages. While search engines can still index pages on your website, having a sitemap will guide the search engine smoothly through your website and ensure your pages are all indexed.
If your business has a website, you should submit an optimised sitemap. Any websites that have multiple pages that are new, or don’t use good internal linking practices need to have a sitemap. Any website that is being optimised for search engines needs to have a sitemap.
Creating a Sitemap
There are various tools that you can use to create a sitemap. On WordPress, the easiest way to do that is to utilise a plugin, which we will discuss more below. To check if your website has an existing sitemap, you can go to the following web address: http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml. It’s important for you to understand that a sitemap must be updated every time a page is updated, or a new page is added.
If you don’t have a WordPress website, you’ll need alternative options for creating a sitemap. You can do a search on Google for plugins that are made to be used with your specific CMS platform.
Two popular plugins widely used by WordPress users are Google Sitemap Generator and Yoast SEO. We will cover detailed instructions on generating your sitemap using these plugins below. The best way to generate your sitemap is to use these plugins to generate a sitemap with sub-sitemaps. You should also generate a separate sitemap for your videos and images.
Here we share some of the most popular SEO-related content that will help you optimise your website for search engines:
- How to Use the Many Forms of eMarketing
- Rankings with the Search Engines
- Everything You Need to Know About Content Marketing
- Guide to SEO Copywriting
- SEO Strategy
- What Is A WordPress Plugin? How to install an SEO plugin
- What Is WordPress?
- What Is A Website Audit?
- SEO Performance Metrics
- Website Migrations
- Search Console Errors
- Crawl Budget
- Organic Traffic Drops
How to Optimise your Sitemap
When using the plugins mentioned above, you will be able to generate a sitemap that will already include all of your web pages, blog posts, archived pages, images and videos, etc. You’ll actually need to utilise the plugins to generate optimised sitemaps, which we will cover in the section below. Here are some rules to remember when optimising your WordPress sitemap:
- Important pages include the Home page, About Us page, your blog posts and articles, etc.
- Pages that have high-quality content.
- Pages with duplicate content, such as archived web pages, tag pages, and author pages.
- Pages that are low quality, in other words, have very little content.
- Pages that are blocked by robots
- Pages that are password-protected
The best way to exclude the “bad” pages from your sitemap is to ‘no-index’ each page. You can also add them to a specific category and then exclude the category from your sitemap. If you generate a sitemap with sub-sitemaps, as suggested above, it will be easier to control what is included and excluded.
Don’t forget to add your sitemap to your robots.txt. You can do that by adding http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml at the top of your robots.txt.
How to Create a WordPress Sitemap
As noted, there are a number of ways to create a sitemap in WordPress using a variety of plug-ins. Here are two of the best options:
Using Google Sitemap Generator
- Download the plugin and install it into your WordPress website. Activate.
- Go to settings and click ‘XML-Sitemap’.
- Go to Sitemap Content and put in what pages you’re excluding.
- Click on ‘last modification time’ so that it is selected.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and select ‘Update Options
You should then go into your sitemap URL and verify that your changes have been made.
Using Yoast SEO Plugin
- Download the plugin and install it into your WordPress website. Activate.
- Go to SEO and click on ‘XML Sitemaps’.
- Click on ‘Enable XML Sitemap Functionality’ so that it is selected.
- Go to ‘Post Types’ and input the posts you want to exclude, such as media pages, etc.
- Go to ‘Taxonomies’ and input the tags and categories you want to exclude from the sitemap.
- Go to the ‘General’ tab and save your new settings by clicking ‘save settings’.
Once that is done, go to your sitemap URL and verify that your changes have been made.
How to Submit your WordPress Sitemap to Google
In order to submit your sitemap to Google, you’ll need to have a Google Webmasters account. The account is free, and if you’ve already had your Google Analytics set up it will take just a few clicks. Once you have logged into your Google Webmaster account, you’ll need to do the following:
- Go to ‘Crawl’ and select ‘Sitemaps’.
- Click on ‘Add/Test Sitemap’, which is located on the top right of that page.
- Input your sitemap filename. Your filename will be the section after http://www.yourdomain.com, most likely ‘sitemap.xml’.
- Click ‘Submit Sitemap’
Once you’ve submitted your sitemap, it will appear as Pending. In a few days, you’ll need to log back into Webmasters and verify how many pages are now indexed. Google normally won’t index all of your web pages immediately, so check in every week or so to see the progress and remember to update your sitemap every time you add a new page or update an existing page.
How to Submit your WordPress Sitemap to Bing
While Google is the dominant search engine, there are a lot of people who still use Bing for their searches. In order to submit your sitemap to Bing, you’ll need to register for Bing Webmasters tools. It’s free, just like Google’s platform, and they provide detailed instructions on how to establish a connection to your website.
To submit your sitemap to Bing, log into your Bing Webmaster Tools account and do the following:
- Find the ‘Sitemaps’ widget.
- Click ‘Submit a Sitemap’
- Enter your sitemap URL in the text box.
- Click ‘Submit’
Once you’ve submitted your sitemap, it will be listed as Pending. Just like Google Webmasters, Bing will begin listing the indexed page on their platform, and you can check in every few weeks to see the progress. If there are any issues, you’ll see an exclamation mark, and when you hover over it, it will tell you what the issue is and whether or not you need to upload a new sitemap.
How to Create a Sitemap: Wrapping Up
Having an optimised sitemap is essential for overall website search engine optimisation. By following the instructions we have provided above, you’ll be able to easily create a sitemap that you can submit to search engines.
Keep in mind that if you add new pages to your website and you forget to update the sitemap, your pages may take a lot longer to index on the search engines. Also, always remember that it’s about quality, not quantity. It’s not important to have a lot of pages listed; it’s more important that the pages that are indexed have quality content. Once your sitemap has been submitted, it’s only a matter of time before your web pages are indexed.
As ever – if you need help with your SEO strategy, optimising your WordPress sitemap or any of your digital marketing – we will be delighted to help.