If you are an owner of a wordpress website or e-commerce store, you probably trying to do SEO(search engine optimization) or maybe paying someone to do it. But if you don’t know what is it and the rule of SEO on your website, then you are behind the race. In simple words, SEO helps you gain more organic traffic by ranking your website or website’s post on the top of the search engine results pages. But there are so many steps to do SEO in the right way, ex- metadata, alt text for the images, schema markup, LSI keywords, etc. Even if you did all of those steps very well and didn’t make XML sitemap, then the search engine won’t get 90% of data from your website.
What is XML sitemap or Sitemap index.xml ?
This page typically contained a listing of all the pages on that website. Search engines(google, bing, yahoo, etc) read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. A sitemap act as a compass to the crawler stating which one is more valuable and which is less. Even these days some websites have such HTML sitemaps. However, sitemaps have evolved such a lot from the manually created HTML bulleted list. These days sitemaps area unrevealed in XML rather than HTML and their target audience is search engines.
To make you understand easily I will give you an example sitemap. In this case, let’s use Deskcode’s Sitemap. On the sitemaps page, you can see post types, articles and more.
Why you need XML sitemap ?
As we discussed above, a sitemap is a key for search engine crawlers. It is very important for new websites to get indexed, as being discovered by search engines is very time taking(without a webmaster or sitemap submission). Sometimes it takes months to get indexed on google and Bing. So it’s easy to get their crawlers’ attention by submitting sitemap.
Here is what Google had said about sitemap…
For popular websites, sitemaps allow your website to interact with search engines more effectively. Search engines can guess how often your site is updated, which parts of your website are more frequently updated than others, set crawl rate for your site, etc. This improves the overall visibility of your site to search engines.
How to create a sitemap in WordPress ?
There are so many ways to create a sitemap in WordPress. We use Yoast SEO plugin to generate our sitemap, as it is a very effective tool than other sitemap generators. in order to create with Yoast, you have to install the plugin first. After installing and activating you need to do some additional steps, as by default, WordPress SEO does not enable XML sitemap functionality, so you will have to turn it on. To do that go to General » Features » XML Sitemaps and check the box to enable XML sitemap functionality.
After enabling it of your WordPress site, you can check if it’s working or not by clicking the link on it.
Submit your XML Sitemap to Search Engines
Search engines are quite smart in finding a sitemap. Whenever you publish new content a ping is sent to Google and Bing to inform them about changes in your sitemap. The best way to submit sitemap/s is bing/google webmaster tool. The benefit of this is that it will now show you any errors, pages indexed, and other relevant stats that will be helpful to you as a webmaster.
Go to Google Webmaster Tools. If you are not already signed in to your Google account, then you will be asked to sign in. After signing in you will reach webmaster tools. There you will see “Add a site” button, click it and then add the URL of your website.
On the next screen you will be asked to verify the ownership of the website you are trying to add. There are several methods to do that. But since you are already using WordPress SEO plugin, then the easiest method for you is to copy the HTML Meta tag value and paste it in WordPress SEO plugin. To do that click on Alternate methods and then on HTML Tag. You will then see a line of HTML Meta tag code.
Copy and paste this line in a text editor like notepad. Now copy the value inside the content=””. Leave the webmaster tools site verification page open because we will come back to the page after adding the meta tag to verify the ownership of the website. Go to your WordPress admin area and then click on SEO tab. This will take you to WordPress SEO plugin’s dashboard. Scroll down, and you will see Webmaster Tools heading. Paste the meta tag value you copied next to Google Webmaster tools and Save Settings.
Go back to Google webmaster tools, site verification screen and press the verify button. You will see a notice like “Congratulations you have successfully verified your ownership of www.yoursite.com”. Click continue to see the webmaster tools dashboard for your site.
After you done verify and added to webmaster , head to the next screen, where you will see Sitemaps column with no sitemaps in it. Clicking on it will take you to a Sitemaps page where you can add your sitemaps. Click on the red button labeled “Add/Test Sitemap” and provide the URL of your sitemap.
Now you have successfully submitted the sitemap to google webmaster. Wait until google crawl your website and get you results about errors and value.