As a blogger, you want your website to be noticed by as many people as possible. Doing this relies a lot upon search engine optimization (SEO), of which sitemaps are an important part. An XML sitemap is a list of all pages on a website that are accessible to users and a way for you to tell search engines about all the pages that exist. It will also allow you to provide information to search engines on which links are the most important and how often your website is updated. Such a feature is particularly valuable for new bloggers that do not have many backlinks and, while having a sitemap does not influence the ranking of your site, it does make sure that all of your pages are indexed and can therefore be found by searchers.
Basically, if you want to be found, you need a sitemap. Here we will show you how to add one to your WordPress site.
Creating an XML Sitemap
There are several ways in which you can create an XML sitemap for your website; however, as always, the easiest way is to use a plugin. For adding a sitemap to your site, I recommend one of the following two plugins:
Google XML Sitemaps is the more basic of the two plugins and will generate an XML sitemap with no fuss and no added features. WordPress SEO by Yoast is a complete SEO plugin that allows you to optimize every area of your site so that search engine visibility is maximized. As you are probably looking to improve SEO performance across the board, you should opt for WordPress SEO by Yoast to create your sitemaps.
Once the Yoast plugin is installed on your site, locate the plugin on the left-hand menu of your dashboard and go to XML Sitemaps. On the next screen, simply check the box to enable XML sitemap functionality and the plugin will take care of the rest.
Setting up your site in Webmaster Tools
With your sitemaps generated and publicly accessible, the next step is to submit them to Google via Webmaster Tools – doing this will provide you with relevant information that can be used to better optimize your website.
Head on over to Google Webmaster Tools and sign in using your Google account (if you don’t have a Google account, you will need to get one). On the next page, click on the option for Add Site and enter the URL of your website. You will then be asked to verify your ownership of the site – the easiest way to do this is by using your Google Analytics account; however, if you do not have one, you should select Alternate methods and HTML tag.
Using the HTML tag method, copy the tag that Google presents you with, then go to Appearance > Editor on your WordPress site and locate the header.php file from the right hand side menu. In the editor, locate the <head> tag and paste in the copied Meta tag.
Save the file and return to Webmaster Tools to complete the verification process.
With verification complete, you will be taken to a Sitemaps column, click on the Add/Test Sitemap tab and add the URL of your sitemap. The best way to do this is to submit the WordPress SEO sitemap_index.xml by itself; Google will then discover other sitemaps automatically.
Once Google begins crawling your website, it will provide you with all the data you need to improve search engine performance.