Let’s start at the beginning… What actually is an XML sitemap?
A Sitemap is an XML file that lists the URLs for a site. … This allows search engines to crawl the site more efficiently.
So a good sitemap, from a well structured website, is like a road atlas that search engines can use to reach and index all the posts and pages on your site. The sitemaps points people like google down the correct path to find your hard grafted work. This may help you reach more of an audience by improving your Search Engine Optimisation.
And what is an XML file? Well it is basically a file that is used to transport or store structured data. Contained within the structured data are tags and text. This type of file can easily be utilised by search engines to locate your content.
All this does sound a little complex, but do not fear, as you don’t have to worry about sitemaps at all as there are a few very good plugins that handle all that for you just via a flip of a switch! Also if your site is small, 100 – 200 posts or less, a sitemap is not really required. Google and others will still crawl your blog anyway.
NB: There are also those in the tech world that feel sitemaps are best not used if your blog isn’t organised well, structurally. In such a case google would be more likely to crawl the areas that were not categorised correctly etc. if left to it’s own devices. When a search engine uses a sitemap it will follow its directions. I hope that make sense.
The two most popular plugins that generate sitemaps for you are: Yoast and Jetpack.
But first I will show you how they look – so you have an idea about what is going on.
The sitemap index and individual sitemaps are updated automatically as you add or remove content.
Yoast & Sitemaps
I use Yoast to handle my sitemaps. Here is how to do that.
Enable the XML sitemap feature – or check that you have it enabled.
Then you will see some tabs – here’s what you do…
Easy as that.
How about if you want to look at your XML sitemaps. Or copy the URL for one of them…
Carry out the steps in Figure 1 above and then…
If you can’t see the site maps – the page should look similar to the XML sitemap image near the start of this article – then clear your browser cache and also if you use one purge your site cache too. Try again. If you still cant see them then – disable the sitemaps feature – save – purge cache – signout of your site – signin – enable sitemaps – save – cross your fingers – and once again click on the ? to view your sitemaps 😉
Jetpack & Sitemaps
I don’t use these as I think it may cause a conflict with my Yoast sitemaps. But if you don’t have Yoast then I am sure Jetpack’s sitemaps work very well.
Here’s how you find them.
Hover over Jetpack in your side dashboard. The Click on Settings. Then you will see the tabs in figure 4 shown below.
Click on traffic.
You will come to a screen with various options. Scroll down until you find sitemaps and toggle the tab to on. See below…
But as I said before either choose Yoast or Jetpack to generate the sitemaps. Or they may conflict each other.
What you can do with your XML sitemaps
If you use google console you can upload your sitemaps so that google have them with all your other site information. Bing and other search engines also have a way you can provide them with your sitemaps. But this is not necessary for them to be used to your site’s benefit by search engines. Plugins like Yoast update the details on your site files to indicate you have generated maps, and search engines can read this and then should use the information from your sitemaps without you having submitted them.
However if you want to submit the maps, here is how to do that…
More about google console another day 😉