What is an XML Sitemap and does your blog need one?
An XML sitemap is basically a file that lists all the pages of your website to tell search engines how it’s structured. The clue is in the name really – it’s a map of your site. Search engine crawlers like the googlebots use it to help them crawl your site.
Sitemaps tell search engines which pages are the most important pages on your site as well as how often you update it. They can also include information about your pictures, videos and categories.
XML is just a language used to present data, similar to HTML.
Do I need a Sitemap?
Google says you don’t actually NEED a sitemap but Yoast think that every site should have one. It certainly won’t harm your search rankings to create one and submit it to search engines. sitemaps.org say that a sitemap won’t guarantee that search engines will find your content but it does help search engines crawl your site.
Google recommend that you submit an XML sitemap if you have a large site, a site with large archives, a new site that doesn’t have many backlinks or a site with a lot of media content.
Even if your site doesn’t fit into any of these categories there are still some positives to having an XML Sitemap:
- They point search engines to all of your content. Depending on your site structure and links there may be some pages that otherwise it might not find.
- They let webcrawlers crawl your site in a more efficient way. The sitemap will tell them which pages have changed since the last crawl so it means they don’t waste time crawling content they don’t need to.
- Search engines give you the option to submit sitemaps for a reason. Trust me, software companies don’t invest time and money adding features if they’re not going to offer a benefit either to themselves or their users.
How do I create an XML sitemap in WordPress?
If you have Yoast SEO for WordPress installed (if you don’t you should) it’s really easy to create a sitemap. In fact Yoast pretty much does it all for you.
- Go to the SEO menu option on the left side of your screen and click ‘General’.
- At the top of the screen there should be 3 tabs, click the one called ‘Features’ and scroll down to the XML Sitemaps option.
- If this option is set to off, set it to on.
- Click the ? icon above this option and click ‘See the XML Sitemap’.
- This will open a new window or tab with the content of your sitemap.
That’s all there is to creating an XML Sitemap using Yoast SEO.
How do I add my Sitemap to the different Search Engines?
To add an XML sitemap to Google you need to have a Google Webmaster Tools account set up. Even if you don’t plan to submit a sitemap, registering your site with webmaster tools is a good idea.
Here’s a good tutorial on how to create your account.
Adding a sitemap to Google Webmaster tools is quite straightforward. Check out this video of me submitting a new sitemap for The Blog Genie.
Bing / Yahoo
Bing and Yahoo share the same webmaster tools so you only have to register and submit your sitemap once – yay!
Check out my video below to see how to register and submit your site to Bing Webmaster tools.
So even though XML sitemaps aren’t directly linked to search rankings they can help by making your site easier for search engines to navigate. Google recommend that if your site is big or is quite new you should submit a sitemap.
Personally, even if your site doesn’t fall into these categories, I think you should submit a sitemap. It won’t harm your search ranking and might even help. It’s a 20 minute job tops and anything that helps webcrawlersccrawl your site has to be worth it right?
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