The ultimate goal of any Search Engine Optimization is dominating top of the search engines. By doing that your post are made readily to people when they search search engines but this cannot be made possible without submitting your site to Search engines to crawl.
Crawling simply means that your content is indexed by the search engines and can be discovered via relevant search queries. Organic search engine traffic is an important part for SEO strategy, being regularly indexed by Search Engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and so on is essential.
Indexing your website requires search engine bots to visit your website and search for old, new (or updated) content, and then making it visible on Search Engine queries.
Once your site is indexed, it will start appearing in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Once indexed, then you need some SEO strategies to rank higher on SERPs. One of these SEO strategies involves building an XML sitemap for your website and submitting it to search engines.
One easy way for WordPress users to generate a WordPress sitemap using Google XML Sitemaps plugin.
Google XML Sitemaps plugin was created by Arne Brachhold, has been available for free for years. You can download it for free from the WordPress plugin directory with a 4.9 out of 5 rating and with over 18 million-plus downloads to date!
In this post, I will explain how to install and configure Google XML Sitemap plugin.
What Is XML Sitemap?
We first start by explain what an xml sitemap is.
A sitemap can simply be defined as the map of your site. It helps Google crawlers index every content, pages and post of your site including new URLs and recently updated posts.
The XML sitemap helps to communicate between your site and search engines crawlers — such as when a page was published, or when it was last updated.
With the sitemap, search engines can crawl and index your website — unless you set a noindex tag to a page. This means a sitemap is the only way to set what and what pages will be indexed by Search engines.
Consider your website with no sitemap, search engines have to stumble upon your website, possibly by chance, or as a result of inbound links or backlinks from other websites.
The crawlers will index some of your pages most especially if your site is well organized with lots of internal links but it will take time to rank high on SERPs. In other words, there is need to install site maps and submit it to Search engines for indexing. There is need for a seo sitemap generator for your WordPress sitemap.
How to Install Google XML Sitemaps
I will explain how to install WordPress Sitemap using Google XML Sitemaps plugin. You will have to WordPress plugin before you get started.
Log in to your WordPress dashboard, navigate to to Plugins >> Add New.
Next, type ‘Google XML Sitemaps’ in the search bar. Similar named plugins will appear as the result,so make sure you choose the right one as shown below (The one developed by Arne Brachhold).
Once you find it, click Install Now >> Activate Plugin.
Once the plugin is activated, Google XML Sitemaps will generate your first sitemap automatically, taking a xml snapshot of your website in its present state. You can view your sitemap create by vising yoursite.com /sitemap.xml.
Your sitemap will list all of your URLs, as well as the date which it was posted. Google xml Sitemap is free sitemap xml generator for your WordPress Site.
How to Configure Google XML Sitemaps
It’s time to configure the plugin as submit the Sitemap to Search Engines. This can be done by visiting Settings >> XML-Sitemap.
Fortunately, the plugin comes with set of pre-configurations, you may wish to leave the settings as they are and the plugin would work just fine but you might need to edit some configurations.
Personally, you can configure yours to suite your taste but learn the basis from the settings I will be sharing below
In the XML Sitemap settings after installation, you are to see the following message at the top of the screen: ‘Search engines haven’t been notified yet.’
If you will want your site indexed on Search Engines, Click the notify search engines about your sitemap link.
This will ping your sitemap to two top search engines: Google and Bing. The plugin has notified the Search Engines about your sitemap. In few hours, your site will start showing on SERPs.
Now go back to the configurations screen, which is divided into seven sections. We go through each section in turn, explaining a full rundown of what the plugin does.
1. BASIC OPTIONS
The first section controls the basic configurations and whether to notify Search Engines about updates in your blog.
For start, notify search engines about your site’s updates. You are expected to leave both the Google and Bing checkbox ticked. Every time you publish a new post or edit old content, your site is pinged and the new posts are indexed.
The second option adds your sitemap to the robot.txt file. A robot.txt is a file mainly created to communicate with search engine crawlers. It serves as a guide to them around your website and tells them what to index. The file is usually useful for search engines that don’t support ping notifications. I suggest leaving the robot.txt checkbox ticked, as this can get your site indexed in some extra search engines.
Next, you’ll see the Advanced Options. The first two basic settings of memory limit and execution time are largely redundant, so will skip these.
Further down, you’ll have to configure the XSLT stylesheet. Remember the first settings of my basic sitemap I showed you earlier? Its easy to configure. You may choose to upload a new XSLT stylesheet if you want your sitemap to look nice, or you can disable XSLT altogether if you want it to be less ‘readable’. No neeed to worry, Search engines will still read it
The next option is one of the most important in this section: override the base URL of the sitemap.
By default, your sitemap appears in the /sitemap.xml extension like yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.
But let’s say your website is splitted across sub-directories.
- Root domain: domain.com
- Sub-directory: domain.com/blog/
Combining all sitemaps in the root domain sitemap, entering the sub-directory URL in the blank field. Now, you’ll need to eit into your root domain’s .htaccess file and paste the following code below:
RewriteRule ^sitemap(-+([a-zA-Z0-9_-]+))?\.xml(\.gz)?$ /your-blogdir/sitemap$1.xml$2 [L]
Note: With the above code snippet, be sure to replace ‘your-blogdir‘ with your own sub-directory name.
The final step is to configures an HTML version of your sitemap for less sophisticated bots that may not understand XML an can be viewed by your viewers. This doesn’t apply to any of the big search engines, but, if you want your site to be indexed everywhere, leave the box ticked.
2. ADDITIONAL PAGES
The second section, Additional Pages, is only really applicable to those using sub-domains and sub-directories. It helps you specify additional external pages to add to your sitemap.
For example, if you run your blog at yoursite.com/blog/ , you may still want to include the homepage, yoursite.com, in your sub-directory sitemap.
Click Add new page and follow the prompted instructions. You will need to specify the URL, priority level, change frequency, and the date the URL was last changed, I will be explaining priorities and change frequencies in details further down the page.
3. POST PRIORITY
Next, is the Post Priority, this helps you better understand post that are more important, explaining how to quickly introduce SEO priority levels.
Priority levels are important part of your sitemap, they help communicate your most important content to the search engines. Every specific web page gets its own priority level, scoring between 0 and 1 in increments of 0.1.
You might think: your site is most important, so you will give all my URLs the maximum priority of 1.0.
A URL’s priority level is ranked relative to other internal URLs. If you give them all the same priority, even maximum priority, this helps communicates to the search engines that all URLs are equally valuable.
In the configurations; this section looks specifically at how each post’s priority is scored. There are three basic options:
- Do not use automatic priority calculation: This selects all posts equally, assigning the actual priority value later.
- Comment count: The priority of each post is calculated based on the absolute number of comments a post receives.
- Comment average: The priority of each post is calculated based on the number of comments relative to other posts.
From advice, use one of the comment-based calculations. This implies your popular posts will automatically receive a higher priority level.
4. SITEMAP CONTENT
The Sitemap Content section allows you to select items, custom post types, and taxonomies you want to include in your sitemap so as to be crawled by Search Engines.
For example, the homepage is a necessity to be ticked. It’s expected to to include all of your WordPress posts, pages, and custom post types. However, you may which to include your archive or tag pages. If you don’t want these pages appearing in the SERPs, untick them and they won’t be added to your sitemap.
At the bottom of the section, you will notice Further options. You will be prompted if you want to include last modified times. I advice leaving this ticked, otherwise the search engines will only crawl only new content and not recently edited content.
5. EXCLUDED ITEMS
You may want to include most of your blog posts in your sitemap, may want some to be indexed while some excluded. This section allows you to exclude certain categories from the sitemap, including individual posts and pages by entering their ID numbers.
6. CHANGE FREQUENCIES
This helps to set the Frequencies throughout which Search Engine crawlers will crawl your site, but this is the section where you can set values for them.
Now, change frequencies are given to guide search engines, letting them know how often content is likely to change in your site. This information tells the search engines how often send their crawler bots to look for updates.
For example, if you publish new blog content regularly, set the homepage change frequency to daily. If you run a static website that rarely add new blog post or changes, daily will not be useful, in this sense, the yearly option feels more good. The options are set always, hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and never.
We’ve earlier discussed about the Post Priority levels, but this section lets you rank how important part of your site is valuable that other content, you must also specify blog posts’ maximum and minimum priority values.
Your homepage is the most important page of all, so you are advised to give it the maximum score of 1.0. Static pages and popular blog posts are next to your most important pages, so score them highly, too.
You are not meant to score unimportant content too highly. This will reduce the priority levels of your more important sections than others
Every WordPress site needs a WordPress sitemap that is needed by Search Engines. Google XML Sitemaps plugin is a sitemap xml generator an configuring it helps to set how crawlers will crawl your website.
The plugin is free and easy to use. This is probably because the XML sitemap is easy to set up. Google Xml Sitemap helps to set your sitemap the way you like so as to rank high on SERPs. It is also advisable to fetch new post on Google Webmaster so as to be easily fetched on Google Search queries.