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A sitemap is a very valuable part of any website. It’s the primary method in which search engines use to find your content. While you can still show in sites like Google without one, it makes the process easier and much quicker. How do you go about creating a WordPress sitemap to improve SEO for your site?
What Do You Do with a WordPress Sitemap?
A sitemap is a file that displays all of your available content. Well, the content you want to share with search engines anyway. Most sitemap plugins for WordPress will create and add to this file automatically, which means you don’t need to do anything except submit the file once to search engines.
Everything else is automated.
Will this Affect Search Engine Optimization?
Creating and submitting a WordPress sitemap is perhaps the first step to optimizing your website for search engines. By using the data within these files, systems like Google know where to look to start indexing your content.
Otherwise, they’ll have to wait for links back to your site. Even then, there’s no guarantee the entire site will be visible in search results.
The WordPress sitemap helps engines immensely and should be one of the first things you add when creating a new website. The sooner Google can index your content, the sooner traffic will come flowing in.
Using Yoast SEO
Install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin.
Click the SEO tool from the left admin panel.
Click the configuration wizard if this is your first time. This will walk you through the process of optimizing your website. Otherwise, you can skip to the next part.
Follow the steps to complete the configuration for your website.
If you don’t know all of the information for the wizard, don’t worry. Most of the settings are activated by default and are changeable.
Accessing the WordPress Sitemap for Yoast
As soon as you activate Yoast, the sitemap is created. This file is what you’ll give to search engines like Google.
To access the sitemap, click the Features tab along the top.
Scroll down and click the question mark next to XML Sitemaps. Depending on your settings, the sitemap button is switched, “On.” If not, click the On button to activate it.
Click the “See the XML sitemap” link.
This will open a new window displaying the content within your WordPress sitemap. The URL in your browser’s address bar is what you want to use when adding your site to Google or Bing.
What if I get a 404 error or if the sitemap isn’t working?
Sometimes when you add a new tool like Yoast to create sitemaps, it throws out an error that the file doesn’t exist. In this case, you’ll have to troubleshoot a little to find the problem. However, this fix works in every instance I’ve personally witnessed.
Go to Settings and click, Permalinks.
Click the Save Changes button without making any adjustments.
This causes the system to rewrite how links work, which in turn affects several types of plugins including Yoast.
Now go back to Yoast and try to open the sitemap link again.
Adding the Sitemap to Google
Before you can add a sitemap to Google, you need to have a verified website in Search Console.
Find your website in Search Console and click its link.
Expand the Crawl tool on the left and click, Sitemaps.
Click the Add/Test Sitemap button on the top right.
Now, you want to paste the part of your Yoast XML sitemap file after the “.com/” of your URL.
Click the Submit button to save the file. You can always test the file if you’d like before submitting. However, you’ll have to enter the URL information again. In fact, it may not be a bad idea to test the sitemap to make sure you got the right part of the URL pasted.
Alternatives to Yoast SEO
Yoast, although an excellent tool, isn’t the only way to add a WordPress sitemap. In fact, there are plenty of plugins to choose from. Personally, I prefer Yoast as it comes with a variety of tools to help build a site.
Here are a few you might want to consider.
Jetpack is another one of my favorite tools. This plugin comes with a myriad of modules to help create a great website including a sitemap generator for WordPress. The only downside is you need to register an account with WordPress.com, which is free. Besides, the features you get from WordPress.com are worth it in my opinion. While I don’t use it for WordPress sitemaps, I do use it for visitor tracking, sharing and a few other facets of my sites.
Google XML Sitemaps
Google XML Sitemaps is an exceptionally popular generator for WordPress. It has more than two million active installations and comes with a few useful features. You can fine-tune exactly what is shared with search engines such as adding the file to robots.txt and when to notify search engines of new content. It’s quick and easy while giving you immediate access to the XML file itself.
This is the plugin I used until I stumbled across Yoast.
Simple Wp Sitemap
Simple Wp Sitemap is just as the name implies. It’s an easy way to not just create an XML sitemap, but also implement an HTML version you can add to your pages. This creates a visual for visitors regarding what content you have available. However, I do prefer some of the other visual HTML sitemap plugins out there…which I will cover at a later date.
Getting the Most Out of Your Site
There’s no doubt that a WordPress sitemap is going to greatly benefit you in terms of pulling in traffic. It’s the primary method of how people are going to find your content. Even if you plan on just hosting a blog or a portfolio, it doesn’t hurt to have search engines crawl your site as often as possible.
You never know who will be interested in your content.