One of the most powerful ways to make your website more search engine friendly, is to use a sitemap. But what are sitemaps, and how do you create one for your site?
What is a site map, and why is it important?
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo crawl through the contents of a WordPress site in order to index all the data present on the site. They use different mechanisms to identify different pages/URLs on the website. One of the most powerful ways for crawlers to index your WordPress site is through sitemaps (or sitemaps).
A sitemap is a document that contains a list of URLs of all the pages in your website. When you use sitemaps on your website, as the website owner, you’re telling search engines what content is present on your site and where to find it. This makes the job of search engines easier and ensures that they don’t miss any pages on your site, even by mistake.
Why XML sitemaps are important
Sitemaps are of different types, of which the XML sitemap is the one that search engines look for while crawling your site.
sitemap.xml files are polar opposites to robots.txt files. While robots.txt files are URL exclusion protocols that inform web crawlers and bots not to crawl the pages in the file, sitemap.xml files are URL inclusion protocols. An XML sitemap should be stored in your root WordPress directory so that search engines can locate and access it with ease.
Types of XML sitemaps
There are many types of XML site maps you can create to provide search engines and users with more information about your website. Some of them are discussed below.
- Image site maps: As the name suggests, image site maps are site maps that include a list of all the images on your website.
- News site maps: These site maps contain a list of all the News published on your site.
- Video site maps: Video site maps contain an index of all the videos posted on your website.
- Mobile site maps: These site maps list only those URLs that serve mobile web content.
The format of a URL XML site map
A site map, in addition to web page URLs, contains some additional information such as the date on which a page was last modified; how frequently a page is likely to be changed, modified or updated; and how important a page is with respect to other pages on the same website. A typical URL entry in a sitemap.xml file looks like this:
Here, the <loc> attribute states the web page URL. The <lastmod> attribute states the date on which the page was last modified. The date should be mentioned in W3C Datetime format, as shown in the above example. The <changefreq> attribute states how often the page may change. The options that can be mentioned here are always, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or never. Lastly, the <priority> attribute states how important the page is when compared to other pages on your website. Valid options for this range from 0.0 to 1.0, the default value being 0.5.
Creating an XML site map for your WordPress Site
If you have a WordPress site with lots of web pages to index, it might seem like a daunting task to create a site map for your site. But it isn’t, so don’t you worry. You can automatically generate a site map for your WordPress site using a site map generator like XML-Sitemaps. Once a site map is generated, you can then upload it to your WordPress root directory. Else, you could also use WordPress site map plugins like WordPress SEO by Yoast and Google XML site maps to generate a site map for your website. These plugins will also notify all major search engines about new content on your site, every time you create a post.
Once you’ve generated an XML site map for your site, you can submit the sitemap.xml file directly to search engines like Google and Bing via the Google Webmaster tools and Bing Webmaster tools respectively. Alternatively, you can use the following directive to specify the path to your site map anywhere in your robots.txt file:
This is sure to have a positive impact on your search engine rankings. So what are you waiting for? Get started with your website site map already!