A sitemap is a complete list of the all the pages which are available to the users of a specific website. Today sitemaps are published in XML instead of HTML and their target audience is search engines and not people. In the past this was done manually and usually took the form of an HTML bulleted list. These days it is less about being an actual map for website users and more about SEO to some extent. The main purpose of an XML sitemap is informing search engines about all the pages that exist on their website. WordPress XML sitemap also tells search engines which links on your website take precedence over the others. This information which is passed on to search engines also includes how often you update your website. Sitemaps give search engines a chance to better crawl your website. They do not boast your SEO ranking. Here is an example of an XML Sitemap:
Plugins such as Google XML Sitemaps generate a special XML sitemap which will help search engines better index your blog. Therefore its much simpler for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you publish new posts. YOAST has this XML sitemaps feature as well. There are also several other plugins which could be mentioned but these are the most pervasive.
How to Install Google XML Sitemaps
As usual, the first step in setting up any WordPress plugin is to install it via the Add New Plugin functionality or you can even upload the file via FTP. Personally, I prefer avoiding the FTP option since adding the plugin is more convenient has no room for error. Once the plugin has been installed successfully, go ahead and activate the plugin. The next step is to go to Settings then click XML Sitemap. Customize the settings accordingly to suit your needs:
XML Sitemaps with WordPress SEO by YOAST
YOAST is a plugin that is renowned for its SEO capabilities so its no surprise that it includes the XML sitemap option. It is top ranking among SEO fanatics because it allows optimization of blog posts, social integration and many other tools. It is even argued that its more efficient that plugins which only offer the XML sitemap capability.
After installation and activation, you will need to enable XML sitemaps since WordPress will not do this for you automatically. To activate the XML sitemap function, select SEO then XML Sitemaps and click the box to enable this feature. You will notice that there are several options available. Proceed by selecting the settings which suit your needs and then save those settings:
Your sitemap will now be generated and will also become accessible publicly. You will be shown an XML Sitemap button. Click the button to view your sitemap (sitemap_index.xml). While it is easy for search engines to locate your sitemap, some prefer to submit their XML sitemaps to Google via Google Webmaster Tools. Once this step is complete, it will appear as pending. It will take Google sometime to ‘crawl’ your website. After a while you should be able to see some statistics with regards to your sitemap. The number of links found, indexation, image ratio are some of the details that are entailed in the stats.