For many WordPress website owners, fully optimizing their sites with a WordPress sitemap can be often overlooked. However, when you use a sitemap for your WordPress site, your users (and the search engine bots!) are able to see the full structure of your website in a more efficient way.
A WordPress sitemap helps to create a far better user experience (UX) for your site visitors while providing complete and accurate site information for the key search engines to crawl.
In this full guide on WordPress sitemaps, you’ll learn all the details about the benefits of creating sitemaps for all of your WordPress sites. Beyond that, you’ll also learn the key differences between HTML and XML sitemaps and how you’ll be able to use both to fully optimize your site. Finally, we’ll teach you how you can generate both of these sitemaps for your site, and how to submit your sitemap to Bing and Google. Let’s dive in.
What Is a WordPress Sitemap?Simply stated, a sitemap for your WordPress site is a full list of every public URL on your site. A sitemap helps your users, as well as search engines, better navigate through all of your site URLs in a much easier and efficient way.
A sitemap will also show how different pages relate to each other, and the level of importance for each website page.
A WordPress sitemap benefits you in a number of ways:
- A sitemap notifies the search engines of new posts: Sitemaps alert the search engine crawlers and site visitors when new posts appear on your site. They also inform search engines about the pages on your site that have yet to be indexed.
- Sitemaps provide easier navigation: A sitemap will show the hierarchy and structure of your web pages by giving a full list of your custom URLs in one place.
- A sitemap improves your SEO (Search Engine Optimization): As part of a successful SEO strategy, a sitemap can help optimize your site by giving notice to the search engines that your site doesn’t contain any duplicate content. WordPress sitemaps also work to make your site much more user-friendly, which drives your ranking higher in the SERPs (Search Engine Page Results).
Understanding 2 Types of Sitemaps: HTML Sitemap and XML Sitemap
It’s important to understand that two different types of WordPress sitemaps exist: an HTML sitemap and an XML sitemap. Both types of sitemaps play a significant role in optimizing your WordPress site.
Here’s a breakdown of the two types of sitemaps:
- When you submit a sitemap to the search engines, you’ll want to use the XML (Extensible Markup Language) sitemap. With this specific language, the search engine bots will find your information and content much easier. An XML sitemap will also give additional context and metadata for each of your site’s URLs.
- An HTML sitemap is a bit different than their XML sitemap cousins. HTML sitemaps provide links that represent all of the site’s web pages using standard HTML format. By doing this, all of your site’s public pages will be presented to visitors in a much more user-friendly way. This makes your website easier for visitors to navigate.
The key difference between the two different types of sitemaps? An XML sitemap is housed in a separate URL and is focused on the search engines. The HTML version, meanwhile, should be included in an actual page on your site.
iThemes recommends that you have both types of sitemaps on your WordPress site. By doing so, you’ll provide an optimal experience for your users while simultaneously increasing search engine rankings.
How to Manually Generate an XML Sitemap in WordPress
By generating a manual XML sitemap, you’ll help to break down the specific information that search engine crawlers will consume. But it will take more time to manually create a sitemap, especially if your site has more than 10 total URLs.
To generate your SML sitemap manually, start by opening a text editor. If you’re using Windows, use NotePad. Linux and macOS users should use Nano.
Remember, the file will need to be in the XML format. In it, include the specific URL of your WordPress site as well as all of the information you want the search engines to know about your site.
An example of an XML sitemap looks like this:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> <urlset xmlns="http://www.sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9"> <url> <loc>https://www.myawesomesite.com/</loc> <lastmod>2022-06-04</lastmod> <changefreq>monthly</changefreq> <priority>0.5</priority> </url> </urlset>
Required Sitemap Tags
This sitemap contains both optional and required tags. Here is a full explanation of each of the required tags in a sitemap:
- <urlset> – current protocol standard. Keep the URL in the example for your XML sitemap file
- <url> – the URL’s parent tag. All of the other tags get included inside this tag
- <loc> – the URL of the site. It must start with the protocol, such as HTTPS, and end with a trailing slash (if your web server requires it). The value for the tag has to be under 2,048 characters
Optional Sitemap Tags
Additionally, there are several optional tags that you’ll want to consider:
- <lastmod> – this shows the last time your website was modified. For the format, use YYYY-MM-DD
- <changefreq> – shows how frequently there are changes to the site. Values that are valid are: always, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and never
- <priority> – shows the search engines which of your URLs are most important for their crawlers. Values that are valid values range from 0.0 to 1.0 with 0.5 being the default
Uploading XML Sitemap
After you have created the XML sitemap file, you’ll need to upload it into the root folder of your WordPress site.
WordPress Sitemap URL
When that’s done, access the URL of the sitemap to check it out.
Typically, the URL for A WordPress sitemap will follow this format:
After you’ve found the URL for the sitemap, you’ll want to validate it with a sitemap validator. This is because an invalid sitemap file could do more damage to your WordPress site than good.
This makes it absolutely essential that you first check with a validator before you submit an XML sitemap to the search engines.
To use the validator, all you need to do is enter the URL of your sitemap into the validator, then click “Validate sitemap.”
If the sitemap is valid, it’ll show a banner that says “No issues detected.”
Conversely, if your WordPress sitemap is invalid, you’ll see a message saying “Problem detected,” along with the details of what the issues are.
How to Generate a WordPress XML Sitemap Using a WordPress Plugin
An easier option to automatically create a WordPress sitemap is by using a WordPress sitemap plugin. It’s much faster (and more reliable) than by doing it manually.
By installing a WordPress sitemap plugin, you’ll receive additional functionalities and features that will better help optimize your site. The plugin will also work to automatically update sitemaps when changes are made.
Read on to find two different guides on how to generate your XML sitemap with the two best plugins to get the job done.
Generating a Sitemap For WordPress Using Yoast SEO
The Yoast plugin is one of the most-used SEO plugins for WordPress site owners. It takes care of all technical aspects of optimizing content, including creating your XML sitemap.
Follow these simple steps to build your sitemap using Yoast SEO:
1. Navigate to your WordPress Dashboard >> Plugins >> Add New and search for the Yoast SEO plugin. Click on Install Now and Activate the plugin’s free version.
2. Navigate to the SEO menu on the dashboard. Select General. Go into the Features tab to view the settings.
3. Under the features tab, select the On button located directly below XML sitemaps and click the “Save changes” button.
4. To see the XML sitemap link, click the question mark icon and select the “See the XML Sitemap” option.
Yoast will redirect you to the URL of your XML sitemap. There, you’ll see more information about each of the URLs on your WordPress website.
Additionally, the Yoast SEO plugin contains the Webmaster Tools setting. This can connect your website to all of the different search engines immediately. When you do this, it’ll be a lot easier to submit and notify the various search engines of your updates.
Generating a Sitemap For WordPress Using Google Sitemap Generator
The XML Sitemaps (or Google Sitemap Generator) plugin is the perfect option for people who prefer advanced settings, as well as the option to submit to search engines immediately.
Another feature of this plugin is that it has automatic notifications to the major search engines when new content is published or posted on your site.
Follow these steps to use XML Sitemaps to create your sitemap:
1. Install the XML Sitemaps plugin from the WordPress plugin directory.
2. Open the configuration page by navigating to Settings >> XML-Sitemap. The plugin automatically generates an XML sitemap for a WordPress site, so you’ll immediately see the sitemap URL located there.
3. Click the URL to view the XML Sitemap Index.
When you want to notify the search engines of your new sitemap, navigate to Settings >> XML-Sitemap and locate the section that says “Basic Options.”
On the first two boxes, check them to notify both Bing and Google, then click on Update Options located at the bottom of your page.
Submitting an XML Sitemap to Search Engines
After you generate your WordPress sitemap, you’ll want to submit it to the search engines in order to be indexed. Remember that while the search engines will still crawl your site even if you don’t manually submit it to them, when you submit your sitemap you’ll be benefits in several ways:
- SEO: A sitemap notifies search engines when changes happen or new content is added, which helps your site remain updated in current search engine results
- Free: There is absolutely no cost to generate your WordPress sitemap, no matter which method you choose to do it
- Organic traffic: You’ll generate more site traffic because you’ll have higher rankings in the SERPs
- Accuracy: With the help of your sitemap, search engines will only index the most relevant and accurate information about your site
How to Submit Your XML Sitemap To Google
By submitting your WordPress sitemap to Google, you’ll increase traffic and awareness of your website. WordPress website owners can do this by utilizing the Google Search Console.
To start, log into your Google account and follow the steps detailed here:
- Choose the property type to start out. To get info on all URLs throughout your domain, choose the Domain option. Enter your site’s domain, then click Continue.
- Verify your domain by including the TXT record from Search Console to your DNS server. In most cases, you’ll want to head to your host’s cPanel >> DNS Zone Editor, then add the record under the Manage DNS records box.
- Navigate back to Google Search Console and choose Sitemaps within the left sidebar menu (when logged into your account). This is where you can insert your sitemap URL under the section that says Add a New Sitemap. Click submit to finish the process.
To check on the status of your submission, navigate to Sitemaps >> Submitted Sitemaps. Search Console will share the status of your submission and provide feedback on how to optimize your site using the resources and documentation they provide.
How to Submit Your XML Sitemap To Bing
Bing is a popular search engine for site owners to submit to. This is because other search engines, such as DuckDuckGo and Yahoo also use Bing’s search index for rankings.
You can use the Bing Webmaster Tools for instant crawling and indexing.
Just follow these simple steps:
- Use a Facebook, Google, or Microsoft account to sign into Bing Webmaster Tools.
- Under the section titled Add Your Site Manually, add your site’s URL. If the URL is already verified on Google Search Console, sign in using your Google account. From there, you can simply click on the button that says Import.
- Select Sitemaps >> Submit Sitemaps. Add the URL of the sitemap. Bing Webmaster Tools will now be notified to start indexing your website.
To check into the status of the indexing process, click on Site Explorer contained on the menu to the left.
How to Create an HTML Sitemap Page in WordPress
As we detailed earlier in this guide, having a WordPress HTML sitemap is a critical element of your website’s SEO. It helps to provide navigation that’s user-friendly, while establishing a clear structure for your web pages.
The simplest way to create your HTML sitemap for a WordPress website is by using a plugin. A good one to use is WP Sitemap Page.
- Install and activate the WP Sitemap Page WordPress plugin.
- Navigate to Dashboard >> Pages >> Add New to create a brand new page on your WordPress site. If you’d rather add the sitemap to a page that already exists, select that page under the section that says Pages. However, we do recommend that you create a new page for your sitemap.
- Insert the following shortcode to add an HTML sitemap: [wp_sitemap_page]
- Click on Publish, and the HTML sitemap will be up and running on your WordPress site.
Wrapping Up: The Importance Of WordPress Sitemaps
In this guide, we’ve explored two separate ways of generating a WordPress sitemap: manually and by using a plugin. If you’d like to create one manually, you’ll be able to decide on the specific info you want to include in the sitemap.
However, creating one manually does take more effort and includes an added step of needing a validator to test the sitemap.
Instead, we recommend that you use one of the plugins we’ve discussed to create both your XML and HTML sitemaps.
And of course, don’t forget to submit your XML sitemaps to Google and Bing!
Kristen has been writing WordPress tutorials since 2011. Kristen also enjoys journaling, hiking and camping, step aerobics, cooking, and daily adventures with her family, hoping to live a more present life.