XML sitemaps are a great tool to help ensure that your entire website gets crawled and indexed by search engines. An XML sitemap is hidden from your website visitors and is different than the sitemap that you provide for website visitors.
A visitor sitemap is typically an orderly index of all your pages and is readable by the general public. An XML sitemap is coded up using Extensible Markup Language (XML) and shares additional information with the search engine and is hidden from the general public.
What additional information does the XML Sitemap share?
An XML sitemap shares important information about each page (url) on your site:
- the date of the last update to the page
- how frequently the content of the page changes
- how important the page is in comparison to other pages.
Are there SEO benefits to adding an XML Sitemap to my site?
Absolutely! There are a few SEO benefits to adding an XML Sitemap to your website:
- Your sitemap can list all the pages on your site. This is particularly useful on very large sites or sites with complex navigation.
- You can submit priority information about the pages on your site so the most important pages are more likely to be indexed.
- You can let search engines know how often the content changes and when the content changes so the search engines can crawl your site in a more efficient way.
Adding an XML Sitemap to your WordPress site.
There are several plugins you can use to add an XML sitemap to your site. These are my favourite two:
Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin automatically generates and updates your XML sitemap when you make changes to your site. It also provides the ability to manually add non WordPress pages to your sitemap. Finally, this plugin also notifies the major search engines when you have added new content to your site.
Yoast SEO Plugin – If you are already using the Yoast SEO Plugin you already have the ability to add an XML sitemap to your site. Just enable it in the dashboard! This plugin also notifies the major search engines when you update your site.
Creating an XML Sitemap for non-WordPress sites.
You can still have an XML sitemap on a non-WordPress site but unless you install automated XML software it means more work for you. To set up an XML sitemap manually, you can use an XML sitemap generator like http://www.xml-sitemaps.com which will create the XML file for you. The only thing is you will need to recreate the file every time you update or add to your website. Bummer!
Take things one step further with Webmaster Tools
An XML sitemap is simply one SEO tool and is not a guarantee that any or all your pages will be indexed based only on your sitemap. Google suggests that XML sitemaps are simply a hint for the search engines so it is not a replacement for a comprehensive SEO strategy. It is simply one more tool in your tool box!