At HeaderBidding.com, we understand how challenging it can be for newcomers to launch a profitable website, whether that’s a blog targeting new moms or an e-commerce store with thousands of products. Some of the most vital components of a successful website are XML sitemaps, so if your WordPress site doesn’t have one yet, now is the time to generate a sitemap and learn how to submit it correctly.
We wrote this blog post to clarify what a sitemap is, why your site needs one, and show you how to submit your new sitemap to search engines. Overall, the good news is that generating a sitemap in WordPress is as easy as following along with the instructions in this blog article.
Google has automated many of the technicalities behind sitemaps — all it takes is adding an SEO plugin and submitting the link it creates to search engines. In the end, we hope that this information puts your site on the right path for search engines to easily crawl your site and for users to effortlessly find your content.
What’s a sitemap?
Sitemaps are small XML files that your content management system (WordPress) uses to tell search engines like Google how to collect information about your site. They also describe how your content links together internally and how to use that information to make it easier to find your content online.
The technical name for this process is indexing, and Google’s algorithm is continuously crawling sites to categorize posts, images, and videos, too. Regardless if you’re on WordPress or not, your website should have a sitemap. If your site’s content grows to an unmanageable size, you’ll need a few sitemaps, but for now, we recommend you focus on how to make one good one first.
At HeaderBidding.com, we only require one sitemap (for now) and that’s because we don’t produce as much content as a news site would (ex. CNN). Site maps have a URL limit of 50,000 links so if your website surpasses that limit, you’ll need to make a second sitemap.
Why does your site need a sitemap?
The primary job of a site map is guiding search engines like Google through your site to show its crawlers where to find your content URLs. Understanding your website’s structure is how Google indexes the web and how it will continue to index it for years to come. For example, this blog post you’re reading has been crawled by Google and indexed. If you were to go on Google and search for “HeaderBidding.com generating a site map,” this article should appear in your search engine results.
Without a sitemap, your site is virtually invisible to the web, because search engines use them to ensure the accuracy of their indexing results. Search engines can’t accurately — or fairly — index a site if they don’t know how pages and posts link to and relate to one another.
The longer your content stays on the web, the more you’ll rely on your sitemap to keep old but successful content relevant and fresh as you publish new posts and link those to your cornerstone content.
One of the most easily corrected mistakes we’ve seen website owners commit is failing to create and submit sitemaps properly. Just using an SEO plugin won’t do the trick; there’s more to it than that, so next, we’ll walk you through how to submit a sitemap correctly.
How do you submit a sitemap to Google?
- Verify ownership with Google Search Console
This step may be optional if you’re already using Google Search Console for your website. If you haven’t verified your site ownership in Google Search Console, this is what you’re going to have to do first. This is an important step because it proves to Google that you own your domain. There are several ways to verify this, but the easiest method is log into your Domain Name System (DNS; like GoDaddy) and update your CNAME or TXT record.
- In Google Search Console, select “Domain name provider” as the type of verification which will give you a string value.
- Log into your DNS and add that string value as a CNAME or TXT record.
- Once you save it, you can go back to Google Search Console to check if the process completed.
- Download a WordPress plugin
The vast majority of SEO plugins like Yoast can generate sitemaps quickly in WordPress. Go to WordPress plugins and search for “XML sitemaps” and several options will appear. With Yoast’s plugin, all it takes is enabling the XML sitemaps switch and it’ll generate it for you. Here’s how you get started with Yoast’s XML sitemap feature.
What’s great about Yoast’s plugin is that you can select which links (pages or blogs) to include and exclude. Every site is different when it comes to excluding links because it all depends on the purpose and goals of your site.
- Upload your sitemap to Google Search Console
Once your sitemap is generated, all you have to do is log into your Google Search Console account. On the left hand navigation, you’ll see the option “Sitemaps” and on that page you enter your website’s sitemap URL. For Yoast, the URL is structured website.com/sitemap_index.xml. Once it’s done, you’ll see the status as “Success” (this should also keep you up to date for the last time your sitemap was read).
That’s all you need to do to submit a sitemap. It may seem like a daunting task but once it’s completed, you don’t have to do anything (unless you go over 50,000 URLs and need to create a second sitemap). We hope that this information makes generating a sitemap in WordPress much more comfortable for those who needed a quick rundown of the basics.