Are you focusing on website content? That’s great. Are you focusing on design and other user experience elements? That’s awesome.
But what you might be lacking are the more technical aspects of your website. I know some people don’t find them exciting (except the tech-savvy people), but you must pay attention to them. One of those technical aspects is the XML sitemap.
This blog post is dedicated to XML sitemaps, what they are, and how can you add them to your WordPress website.
Let’s get to it.
What Is An XML Sitemap
Search engines have a process called indexing which involves finding all content of websites and storing them so that they can be retrieved later when a person performs a search.
An XML sitemap helps search engines in this process by giving all content of a website in a machine-readable format. It’s a file in an XML format that lists all your website content. It helps search engines navigate through your website.
This dates back to the early 2000s when government websites had a link called “Sitemap” on their core pages. It had a similar function to an XML sitemap.
But after a while, the trend shifted from HTML sitemaps to XML sitemaps, with some sites still having HTML sitemaps.
The trend also shifted from having sitemaps for people to having them for search engines. Now they tell search engines about all pages on their website.
It also defines the priority of pages to search engines (which links are more important than others).
By now, we know that they are linked to search engines. So the obvious question should come to mind: do they help in SEO?
Not directly. They don’t boost your rankings of search engine results, but they allow better crawling of your website.
I mentioned indexing previously. Crawling is the step before indexing. It involves search engines navigating through your content.
But don’t underestimate them. Although they don’t affect your rankings directly, they help in showing more of your content in search results. That means more traffic and better SEO.
Do You Really Need An XLM Sitemap
As I mentioned in the previous section, sitemaps are important for SEO, even though the connection is indirect.
Adding a sitemap is important if your site is not indexed. It’s just a way to tell search engines that you have the following pages on your website.
Their importance increases if you have a new website or just started blogging. New websites fail in the backlinks department, which makes it difficult for search engines to know what pages they have.
So top search engines like Google and Bing allow new websites to submit sitemaps in their webmaster tools. It makes the process of indexing and discovering easy for them.
But their importance is not any less in the case of popular websites. If you have a similar website, having an XML sitemap will tell search engines which pages are more important, and which parts are more frequently updated. This way, search engines will visit your content and index it.
Now let’s cover another important aspect.
How To Create An XML Sitemap For WordPress Using Yoast
Most SEOs have used Yoast at some point. So they know that this tool is useful.
Creating an XML sitemap using Yoast is simple. The steps are easy, and I’ll show them to you in a second. But first, let’s make sure that:
- You have a WordPress.org site.
- Your website has Yoast SEO installed.
- Your website is connected to Google Search Console.
If you are running your website successfully, you should have these things in place. But just confirm that they are there.
Now, let’s get back to how to create an XML sitemap using Yoast.
The first step is to log in to your WordPress Admin.
Here, we will make sure that Yoast is ready to create a sitemap. For that, turn on Yoast’s advanced settings.
The next step is to click on the Yoast Plugin (“Y” icon). Find it in the left sidebar.
Then, click the “Dashboard” option. And within that dashboard, click “Features.”
Find “XML sitemaps” in the Features tab, and make sure the setting is “On.”
Finally, click on “Save Changes.”
The process was pretty straightforward, right? The sitemap it creates is solid.
Now, let’s move to the next section:
How To Submit Your XML Sitemap To Search Engines
I’ll show you how to do it on different search engines. Let’s start with the biggest search engine on earth, Google.
How To Submit Your XML Sitemap To Google
Creating the sitemap itself might not be valuable if you don’t submit it to Google.
So if you have followed the guidelines in the previous section, you’ll have Google Search Console connected to your website. Follow these steps:
Select your website with Google Search Console.
Visit “Sitemaps” from the dashboard.
Find and click “Add a new Sitemap.”
Enter the URL where you’ve saved your sitemap. It should end with “.xml” since it’s an XML file.
Finally, make sure that there are no errors using the Sitemaps report.
After that, it’s up to Google to index your site, which will help with your rankings.
How To Submit Your XML Sitemap To Bing
Although Google shares most of the market, Microsoft’s Bing gets a small portion as well (around 6%).
Submitting your sitemap to Bing is simple too. Just login to your Dashboard in Webmaster tools. Find the Sitemaps widget and click “Submit a Sitemap.”
Finally, enter the URL location of your file, and click “Submit.” Bing will do the rest.
“XML sitemap” is not as scary as it sounds to some people. Understand that it’s important for your site because it helps search engines in finding your content. Creating your sitemap and submitting it to major search engines is easy as well.
If you have any troubles creating or submitting your sitemap, please let me know in the comments. I’d be happy to help.