Sitemaps, as the name implies, it acts as a road map to your site which allow search engines to navigate through your site. Having a sitemap is great for SEO, and is often used for users to find all the webpages on your site easily.
Essentially Sitemaps come in two flavors:
- XML sitemap – This sitemap is for search engine bots.
- HTML sitemap – This sitemap is for your site visitors.
Sitemaps also come in a variety of formats including video, images, news and mobile. If you are unsure about the different sitemap file types and when to use them, check this article: Comparison of Text, HTML, ROR, RSS and XML Sitemaps.
The XML Sitemap is the most widely accepted format for Sitemaps. This format is supported by all major search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing and Ask.com. Search engines use the information provided in sitemap.xml to learn about your site’s structure and make sure they are aware of pages that we may otherwise not discover.
About XML sitemap:
In 2005, Google designed a Sitemaps protocol based on XML format. It was called as Google Sitemaps, later evolved into XML (Extensible Markup Language) Sitemaps protocol. Over time, they became very helpful for search engine crawlers to find and index all the parts of a website more effectively. Currently, all of the major search engines including Bing (formerly MSN Live Search), Yahoo and Ask.com jointly support the XML Sitemaps protocol. XML Sitemaps have replaced the older method of “submitting to search engines” by filling out a form on the search engine’s submission page.
For more information on this subject please check www.sitemaps.org. (Sitemaps.org: Google, Inc., Yahoo, Inc., and Microsoft Corporation)
What is XML sitemap?
A sitemap is an XML file that contains a list of pages of a website along with additional information about each page (such as when it was most recently updated, how much importance for that particular page, how often it usually changes and how it is related to other pages). With such a sitemap, it’s much easier for the crawlers see the complete structure of a site and retrieve it more efficiently.
In general, an XML sitemap is a way to tell search engines about webpages on your site, so that each and every page of your site can be indexed by the major search engines.
Why do you need an XML Sitemap
The simple answer is Get your website listed in all major search engines.
Maybe, because sometimes search engine could not approach some pages on your site. Having an XML sitemap help ensure that pages on your website is being crawled and indexed by search engines and that none of the page is inadvertently missed by normal crawling process. This is particularly helpful if your internal linking structure is not good or if you have a large or complex site.
XML Sitemap is useful for many reasons:
- It ensure search engines are aware of all your webpages.
- Increase the visibility of your site to major search engines like Google, Bing and yahoo.
- Improve the SEO of a website by making sure that all the pages can be found.
XML Sitemaps are especially important for these sites:
- A brand new website with very few backlinks.
- A website has a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to each other. i.e Complex navigational structure.
- A website has a large number of dynamic pages.
- A website with a lot of pages.
Google doesn’t guarantee that the pages included in your Sitemap(s) will be crawled or indexed. Even without a sitemap, search engine crawlers can discover new pages on their own, however, a sitemap makes this process more efficient and effective.
How to create an XML Sitemap for WordPress
Luckily, it’s quite easy to create an XML sitemap for your WordPress blog in minutes using a plugin. Google XML sitemaps by Arne Brachhold is the best XML sitemap generator plugin available for WordPress. Keeping the sitemap up-to-date is an important task for a blog. It can be a pain to manually update an XML sitemap everytime you’ve made changes to your blog. This plugin will automatically update your sitemap and notify all major search engines if you made any changes to your blog.
Step 1 : Login to your WordPress dashboard
Step 2 : Click on Plugins > Add new
Step 3 : Type “Google XML sitemaps” in the search box and search for it.
Step 4 : Install and activate Google XML sitemaps by Arne Brachhold.
Step 5 : Go to settings > XML-Sitemap.
Step 6 : Click on “click here” link to generate the sitemap page.
That’s it. Your XML sitemap file is successfully created. Click on ‘sitemap’ to see your sitemap file.
XML sitemap file should look like this:
Your website’s sitemap location will be as http://yoursitename.com/sitemap.xml
Settings of Google XML Sitemaps Plugin
The default settings of the plugin are good enough for anybody, but there are only a few things that you need to pay attention to.
- Under “Post Priority”, change the radio button to “Do not use automatic priority calculation”.
- Also you can set the frequency of posts according to how often you update the posts on your blog. This tells the search engines approximately how often posts are updated. For example, If you update your posts weekly then you can set the frequency to weekly or If you update your posts daily then you can set to daily.
- The Priority tag is useful, although not quite as important. It only lets the search engines know which pages you deem most important for the crawlers. Also, please note that assigning a high priority to all of the URLs on your site is not likely to help you. Since the priority is relative, it is only used to select between URLs on your site. I recommend you leave them as default.
How to submit an XML Sitemap to Google & Bing/Yahoo
Once you’ve created a Sitemap, you can submit it to Google and Bing search engines using Webmaster Tools to get additional crawling statistics about your site, so you can make sure that the Sitemap was processed without any issues. To verify your sitemap is published and being accessed by Google and Bing, follow these steps:
Now you will need to copy the link to your Sitemap page and then go to the webmaster tools to submit a Sitemap.
To submit your sitemap to Google:
Before you begin, you must add and verify your site with Google Webmaster Tools.
Step 1 : Sign in to your Google Webmaster account.
Step 2 : Click the site you want to submit sitemap.
Step 3 : On the left sidebar, click on Crawl, you will be able to see a Sitemaps link. Click on it.
Step 4 : Click on Add/Test sitemap. In the text box, complete the URL to your Sitemap (for example, if your Sitemap is at http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml,type sitemap.xml.)
Step 5 : Click on Submit Sitemap.
After you submit a Sitemap, refresh the page and you will be able to see the total number of URLs submitted to Google. Initially the status will be Pending. Once Google has fetched and processed the sitemap, you’ll be able to view statistics about your sitemap such as how many URLs are indexed while highlighting any issues encountered.
To submit your sitemap to Bing/Yahoo:
Before you begin, you must add and verify your site with Bing Webmaster Tools.
Step 1 : Sign in to your Bing Webmaster Tools account.
Step 2 : Click the site you want to submit sitemap.
Step 3 : Scroll down to sitemaps section and look for submit a sitemap link. Click on it.
Step 4 : Enter the full URL of the sitemap in the ‘Submit a Sitemap’ text box.
Step 5 : Click Submit.
After you have submitted, the sitemap will be added to the list of sitemaps. Initially the status will be Pending. Once Bing has crawled your sitemap, they will update the status and the other details such as how many URLs are discovered while highlighting any issues encountered. If you see an exclamation mark in front of a status you can see additional information about an error or issue we encountered by hovering over the icon.
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