What is a sitemap? How to create a sitemap in WordPress?

 What is a sitemap? How to create a sitemap in WordPress?

Wondering what a sitemap is, and how to add it to your WordPress site? A sitemap helps search engines easily navigate through the content of your website. It gives them a list of all your content in a machine-readable format.

In this article, we will explain what an XML sitemap is, and how to easily create a sitemap in WordPress.

Wondering what an XML sitemap is, and how to add it to your WordPress site?

An XML sitemap helps search engines easily navigate through the content of your website. It gives them a list of all your content in a machine-readable format.

In this article, we will explain what an XML sitemap is, and how to easily create a sitemap in WordPress.

What is a sitemap?

An XML sitemap is a file that lists all of your website’s content in XML format, so that search engines like Google can easily discover and index your content.

In the early 2000s, government websites used to have a link on their home pages titled “Sitemap.” This page usually contains a list of all the pages on that site.

While some websites still contain HTML sitemaps today, the general use of sitemaps has evolved.

Sitemaps today are published in XML instead of HTML, and the target audience is search engines, not people.

Basically, an XML sitemap is a way for website owners to tell search engines about all the pages on their websites.

It also tells search engines which links on your website are more important than others, and how often your website is updated.

Although XML sitemaps will not boost your search engine rankings, they will allow search engines to crawl your website better. This means that they can find more content and start showing it in search results which leads to increased search traffic and improved SEO rankings  .

Why do you need an XML sitemap?

Sitemaps are very important from a search engine optimization (SEO) point of view.

Simply adding a sitemap  does not  affect the search rankings. However, if there is a page on your site that is not indexed, the sitemap provides a way for you to let search engines know about that page.

Sitemaps are very useful when starting a blog or creating a new website because most new websites don’t have any backlinks. This makes it difficult for search engines to discover all of their content.

This is why search engines like Google and Bing allow new website owners to submit a sitemap in their webmaster tools. This allows their search engine bots to easily discover and index your content (more on this later).

Sitemaps are just as important to popular established websites as well. It allows you to decide which part of your websites is more important, which parts are updated frequently, etc., so that search engines can visit your content and index it accordingly.

However, let’s take a look at how to create an XML sitemap in WordPress.

How to create a WordPress sitemap?

There are several ways to create an XML sitemap in WordPress. We’ll show you three popular ways to create an XML sitemap in WordPress, and you can choose the one that works best for you.

Method 1: How to create an XML sitemap in WordPress without a plugin

This method is very basic and limited in terms of features.

Until August 2020, WordPress did not have built-in sitemaps. However, in WordPress 5.5, they released the basic XML sitemap feature.

This allows you to automatically generate an XML sitemap in WordPress without using a plugin. You simply add wp-sitemap.xml at the end of your domain name, and WordPress will show you the default XML sitemap.

This XML sitemap feature has been added to WordPress to make sure that any new WordPress website doesn’t miss out on the SEO benefits of an XML sitemap.

However, it is not very flexible, and you cannot easily control what you add or remove from your XML sitemaps.

Fortunately, almost all WordPress SEO plugins come with their own sitemap functionality. These sitemaps are better, and you can control what content you want to remove or exclude from your WordPress XML sitemaps.

Method 2: Create an XML Sitemap in WordPress with All in One SEO

The easiest way to create an XML sitemap in WordPress is to use the All in One SEO plugin   for WordPress.

It is the best WordPress SEO plugin on the market that offers you a comprehensive set of tools to optimize your blog posts for SEO.

First, you need to install and activate the All in One SEO plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Note:  The sitemap feature is also available in the free version of AIOSEO. However, to get the advanced news sitemap and video sitemap, you will need the Pro version.

Upon activation, go to the  All in One SEO » Sitemaps  page   to review your sitemap settings.

By default, All in One SEO will enable the Sitemap feature for you and replace the core WordPress sitemaps.

You can click the Open Sitemap button to preview it to see what it looks like. You can also view your sitemap by adding “sitemap.xml” to a URL such as www.example.com/sitemap.xml.

As a beginner, you don’t need to do anything because the default settings will work with all kinds of websites, blogs, and online stores.

However, you can customize the sitemap settings to control what you want to include in the XML sitemap.

Just scroll down to the Sitemap settings section.

sitemap settings

This section gives you options to manage sitemap indexes, and to include or exclude post types and ratings (categories and tags). You can also enable XML sitemaps for date-based archives and author archives.

All in One SEO automatically includes all of your WordPress content into XML sitemaps. However, what if you have standalone pages like a contact form, landing page, or Shopify store pages that aren’t part of WordPress?

Well, AIOSEO is the only plugin that allows you to add external pages in your WordPress sitemap. Just scroll to the Additional Pages section and turn it on. This will show you a form where you can add any custom pages you want to include.

additional pages

You simply need to add the URL of the page you want to embed and then set a priority where 0.0 is the lowest and 1.0 is the highest, if you are unsure we recommend 0.3.

Next, choose the frequency of updates and the last modification date of the page.

You can click the Add New button if you need to add more pages.

Don’t forget to click the Save Changes button to store your settings.

Exclude specific posts/pages from the XML sitemap

All in One SEO allows you to exclude any post or page from your XML sitemaps. You can do this by clicking on the “Advanced Settings” section under the  All in One SEO » Sitemaps page  .

exclude items

You can also remove a post or page from your XML sitemaps by making it without an index and not following. This will prevent search engines from showing this content in search results.

Simply edit the post or page you want to exclude and scroll down to the AIOSEO settings box at the bottom of the editor.

noindex aioseo

From here, you need to switch to the Advanced tab and check the boxes next to the No Index and No Continue options.

Create additional sitemaps

All in One SEO allows you to create additional sitemaps such as a video sitemap or news sitemap.

You can create a video sitemap if you regularly include videos in your blog posts or pages. Allows search engines to display posts in search results and search for a video with a video thumbnail.

You can also create a news sitemap if you run a news site and want it to appear in Google News search results.

Simply go to  All in One SEO » Sitemaps  and switch to the video sitemap or news sitemap tabs to generate these sitemaps.

Overall, AIOSEO is the best WordPress plugin because it gives you all the flexibility and powerful features at a very affordable price.

Method 3: Create a WordPress Sitemap with Yoast SEO

If you use Yoast SEO as a WordPress SEO plugin, it also automatically runs XML sitemaps for you.

First, you need to install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, go to the  SEO » General  page   and go to the ‘Features’ tab. From here, you need to scroll down to the “XML Sitemap” option and make sure it is turned on.

yoastseo

Next, click on the Save changes button to store your changes.

To verify that Yoast SEO has generated an XML Sitemap, you can click the question mark icon next to the XML Sitemap option on the page.

viewsitemap

Next, click on the “See XML Sitemap” link to view the live XML sitemap built by Yoast SEO.

Yoast SEO creates multiple sitemaps for different types of content. By default, sitemaps of posts, pages, author, and categories will be created.

How to submit an XML sitemap to search engines

Search engines are very smart at finding the sitemap. When you publish new content, a ping is sent to Google and Bing to inform them of changes to your sitemap.

However, we recommend submitting the sitemap manually to ensure that search engines can find it.

Submit an XML Sitemap to Google

Google Search Console is a free tool offered by Google to help website owners monitor and maintain their site’s presence in Google search results.

Adding a sitemap to Google Search Console helps your content get discovered quickly even if your website is new.

First, you need to visit the Google Search Console website and sign up for an account.

Next, you will be asked to select the property type. You can choose a domain or a URL prefix. We recommend choosing a URL prefix as it is easier to set up.

gsc step1 1

Enter your website URL, then click the Continue button.

Next, you will be asked to verify ownership of the site. You will see multiple ways to do this, we recommend using the HTML tag method.

Simply copy the code on the screen and then go to the admin area of ​​your WordPress site.

If you are using AIOSEO, it comes with easy webmaster tools verification. Simply go to  All in One SEO » General Settings and  then click on the Webmaster Tools tab. After that, you can enter the code from Google there.

If you are not using AIOSEO, you need to install and activate the Insert Headers and Footers plugin   . 

Upon activation, you need to visit  Settings » Insert Headers and Footers page and  add the code you copied earlier in the Header Scripts box.

Don’t forget to click the Save button to store your changes.

Now, go back to the Google Search Console tab and click on the Verify button.

Google will verify the verification code on your site and then add it to your Google Search Console account.

Note:  If the verification does not work, please make sure to clear your cache and try again.

Now that you’ve added your website, let’s add your XML sitemap as well.

From your account dashboard, you need to click on “Sitemaps” from the right column.

Next, you need to add the last part of the sitemap URL under the Add New Sitemap section and click the Submit button.

Google will now add the sitemap URL to Google Search Console.

It will take Google some time to crawl your website. After a while, you will be able to see the basic sitemap stats.

This information includes the number of links Google found in your sitemap, the number of links indexed, the ratio of images to web pages, and more.

Submit your XML sitemap to Bing

Similar to Google Search Console, Bing also offers Bing Webmaster Tools to help website owners monitor their websites in the Bing search engine.

To add a sitemap to Bing, you need to visit the  Bing Webmaster Tools website  . Here, you will see two options for adding your location. You can either import your site from Google Search Console or add it manually.

create account bing

If you have already added your site to Google Search Console, we suggest importing your site. It saves time as your sitemap will be automatically imported for you.

If you choose to add your site manually, you need to enter your site URL and then verify the site.

Bing will now ask you to verify your website ownership and will show you several ways to do so.

We recommend using the meta tag method. Simply copy the meta tag line from the page and head over to your WordPress admin area.

Now, install and activate the Insert Headers and Footers plugin   on your website.

Upon activation, you need to visit  Settings » Insert Headers and Footers page and  add the code you copied earlier in the Header Scripts box.

Don’t forget to click the Save button to store your changes.

How to use XML sitemaps to grow your website?

Now that you’ve submitted your XML sitemap to Google, let’s take a look at how to use it for your website.

First, you have to keep in mind that an XML sitemap does not improve your search rankings. However, it helps search engines find content, adjust crawl rate, and improve your website’s visibility in search engines.

You need to monitor sitemap statistics in Google Search Console. It can show you crawl errors and pages that are excluded from search coverage.

Below the charts, you can click on the tables to view the actual URLs that are excluded or not indexed by Google.

Usually, Google may decide to skip duplicate content, pages with no or very little content, and pages excluded by  your website’s robots.txt file or meta tags.

However, if you have an unusually large number of pages being excluded, you may want to check your SEO plugin settings to make sure you are not blocking any content.

For more details, see  the complete Google Search Console guide  for beginners.