Hurricane Katrina, the death of John Paul II, the no vote on the draft European Constitutional Treaty, and Alex's French Baccalaureate exam: these major events took place in 2005.

That year, something more confidential also happened. And indirectly, it concerns you.

You may recall that at this time, Google launched its sitemap protocol. This English term is the subject of our article of the day, which will teach you how to create a sitemap on WordPress.

Don't know how to do it? Wondering what it's for and if you need it?

You've come to the right place to find answers to your questions.

I will explain everything to you, in detail, so that you can easily add this famous sitemap to your WordPress site.

You'll probably have to consider creating two of them, by the way. But you'll understand why as you read through these lines. So stay right here.

What is a WordPress sitemap ?

A sitemap is a file that lists all of your website's URLs (adresses). This plan of your site, accessible to your users, also helps search engine robots to obtain information about your content's structure, while accelerating your site's indexing.

Today, search engine robots are able to visit your site on their own, walking around via your internal links.

But using a sitemap makes their job easier and speeds up the indexing of your site, even if it does not guarantee that all your pages will be indexed.

To make it very simple, during the indexing phase, robots store your content in a database, before it is returned to the Internet users through the search results.

So that you understand how a sitemap works, remember the good old road map. You know, the one that kept you from getting lost when you went on vacation?

Well a sitemap is a kind of road map, but specifically designed for a search engine.

It will use it to navigate quickly, easily and efficiently through the content of your site.

It is therefore very useful for your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy.

The different types of sitemaps

There are two main types of sitemaps:

  • The XML sitemap
  • The HTML sitemap

Let's find out more about them.

The XML sitemap

As its name indicates, it is a file in XML format (an extensible markup language) intended mainly for search engines.

It is strongly advised to submit it to Google and Bing, among others.

Would you like to know how? A little patience, I'll tell you all about it a little later.

In short, this famous XML sitemap lists all the pages of a website, their last modification date or the number of images. Its goal: to facilitate their indexing by search engines.

If you want to see what it looks like, take a look at the capture below. To be completely accurate, this sitemap is an index sitemap: it manages several sitemaps at the same time (videos, snippets, articles, pages etc.).

An example of a WordPress sitemap
WPMarmite's sitemap. As you can see, it isn't that readable for common users…

The HTML sitemap

In the sitemap family, I present to you the brother: HTML sitemap.

This is a page that presents the details of the content of your site, its architecture in a way. It is frequently found in the footer, next to the legal notices, for example.

It often includes the pages, posts, categories etc. of its site.

This allows a visitor – but also a search engine – to easily find their way around and navigate within your WordPress.

Thanks to this type of sitemap, you will also improve user experience (UX) of your readers. They can easily find a type of content by going to this page.

Well, that's theoretically speaking. Because in reality, it's not really a user's first reflex to look for a sitemap – often well hidden – when lost on a website.

In fact, it will especially help search engines to better index all the pages of a site, for example by making deep pages accessible in 2 clicks.

WPMarmite's HTML sitemap
The beginning of WPMarmite's HTML sitemap

Besides, it's very simple to set up. I will explain how to do it in Part 3.

Because there are some things you need to know first. Let's find out what right now.

What type of sitemap should you use?

HTML or XML? XLHT or HML? TML or HXTL? Sorry, I'm getting kind of mixed up here.

HTML sitemap or XML sitemap: wondering which one to use? The answer is: both, dear readers.

And it's not me saying it. On a video from its YouTube Google Webmasters channel, the famous search engine advices you to use both.

What are the benefits of a sitemap?

Do you really need a sitemap?

Well, we've been talking technical stuff since now, but you might be wondering if you really need a sitemap on your site, right?

Google gives us a clear answer on this subject.

Note: I am not in love with this search engine and have no share in its parent company, Alphabet. But as it has more than 90% of the search engine market share worldwide, I will quote it more often than its competitors (Bing in particular).

So according to Google, “in most cases, your site will benefit from having a sitemap, and you'll never be penalized for having one”.

The company points out that a sitemap can improve the exploration of your site, especially if it is :

  • “Really large”. Robots will crawl (the action of retrieving information about your content via your links) and index your pages much faster. A 2009 article published on Moz's excellent blog site, details that a Google robot takes on average 14 minutes to visit new content on a site using a sitemap and 1,375 minutes without!
  • “New and has few external links to it.”
  • “Has a large archive of content pages that are isolated or not well linked to each other”

I would like to draw your attention to this last point. You understood it, a sitemap can help out on indexing your site. This is a significant plus, but don't rely only on it!

It is necessary to work on your internal linking (create links between your pages) so that search engine robots can easily navigate your site.

If you want to try to appear on the first page of a search engine, this should not be neglected.

Now, I'd like to ask you a question. Do you think you'll get a little help in terms of ranking if you create a sitemap?

You'd like that, wouldn't you?

I suggest you discover this in the next section.

Will a sitemap improve your SEO?

The $100,000 question of the day: can a sitemap boost your SEO raking?

What an unbearable suspense. The answer is no. I'm sorry if I ruined your day.

Why? As mentioned above, a sitemap remains an indexing tool, not a ranking tool.

As Olivier Duffez, from the WebRankInfo website, reveals, “better work on internal links than on your sitemap file! […] In summary: you should NOT need a sitemap file to index your pages. Otherwise, it means your site is badly designed: it lacks internal links or the number of levels in the tree structure is too high.”

Get it? After talking about it, it's time to put it into practice. You will now see how to create a sitemap on WordPress.

How to create a sitemap on WordPress

Please note that the easiest and fastest way to create a sitemap on WordPress is to use a plugin.

But you can also do it manually:

But by creating a WordPress sitemap without a plugin, you risk making mistakes and getting it wrong.

Don't worry: you'll soon see much clearer on this subject

At WPMarmite, we tend to turn to the simplest solutions, so we strongly advise you to use a plugin.

But which plugin, then?

Add an XML sitemap with the Yoast SEO plugin

Most SEO plugin have a feature to activate a sitemap.

At WPMarmite, we use Yoast SEO, one of the 10 most downloaded plugins of all time.

How do I design a WordPress sitemap with Yoast? It's very simple since the plugin automatically generates one (in XML format).

This will be automatically updated when you add, modify or delete content.

A small parenthesis on this subject: if you want to be sure to configure Yoast correctly, I suggest you read this post written by Alex.

First install and then activate Yoast.

In your WordPress administration bar, on the left, hover over the SEO icon and click General.

Create a XML WordPress sitemap with Yoast SEO

Then click on the Features tab to activate your WordPress sitemap.

Yoast SEO XML sitemap

Remember to click on the blue Save Changes button.

Next step: view your XML sitemap.

Simply click on the question mark next to XML Site Maps.

Finish by clicking on the link View XML sitemap. You should come across a page like this.

Here's a tip: to view your XML sitemap without going through Yoast, just type in your browser: yoursite.fr/sitemap_index.xml. This is the address of your WordPress sitemap.

Of course, replace yoursite.fr with the name of your site 😉

Note: it is not useful to include everything in your sitemap. For example, tags and media files do not necessarily have to be included. On this subject, everything was very simple to set up with the older versions of Yoast.

Now, go to SEO Settings, and select the tab you are interested in (Content Types, Media, Taxonomies, etc.).

Not displaying a content type on search engines automatically removes it from the sitemap. Of course, don't do that with your articles and pages, but with your tags, why not?

Exclude tags from your WordPress sitemap

On this point, Yoast's documentation is quite instructive.

Finally, to do things properly, you'll will have to end up by submitting the whole to search engines.

A little more patience, you'll see in Part 4.

Before you do so, you will find out what alternatives to Yoast are available. After all, you don't have to use it, even though it is highly recommended.

Which other plugins can you use?

If Yoast doesn't suit you, here are some alternatives:

The case of the HTML sitemap

Since then, I've been talking about the XML sitemap. But let's not forget the HTML sitemap, which is also important. Remember?

I hope you're not feeling too confused by all those names.

I want to reassure you: we'll still keep it simple to help you develop your HTML sitemap.

The best solution is to use the WP Sitemap Page plugin. It will create a Sitemap page, which will contain all of your WordPress' content.

WP Sitemap Page plugin

Install it and then activate it.

Then, on your WordPress administration, add a Sitemap page and copy and paste the shortcode below :

Publish the page and insert a link to it within your footer, for example.

WPMarmite's sitemap is in the footer
The link to WPMarmite's sitemap is in the footer

In the WordPress Sitemap Page plugin settings, you will be able to manually exclude certain pages and custom content types.

For example, the Sitemap page is re-read by default. A good practice is to exclude it by retrieving its identifier from the WordPress administration URL.

Exclude identifier from traditional sitemap

The famous Sitemap page is excluded in the plugin's settings thanks to its identifier

A way to exclude elements from the sitemap would be a big plus for this plugin. That would keep the I.D.s from being tampered with, wouldn't it?

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How to submit your XML sitemap to search engines

The method to add your sitemap on the Google Search Console

Your last assignment, should you choose to accept it: submit your XML sitemap to Google.

It can make its way to your sitemap on its own, but telling Google you have one has 2 major advantages:

  • Making it clear where he can find this sitemap
  • Being able to access a series of analytical data such as the number of web pages and images indexed, or the errors encountered

Everything happens on a tool called Google Search Console. It allows you to better manage your site and monitor your ranking by providing a whole lot of information (errors on your site, search analysis, links, indexing status, exploration errors, etc.).

It is free and essential for any webmaster.

Login to the Search Console

If you haven't already done so, you'll need to log in to this address first. Of course, you need to have a Google account to do this.

Adding your website

Then, you have to register your site by clicking on the Add a property button, located on the top left-hand side of the homepage.

Add a property on your Google Search Console

Follow the required instructions.

From now on, Google recognizes you as the owner of the site.

Adding your sitemap

Click on your website, which should normally appear on the homepage of your Search Console account.

In the left area, click Index > Sitemaps.

Copy and paste sitemap_index.xml into the window that opened.

Submit your WordPress sitemap on Google Search Console

Finish by clicking on the blue Submit button.

Your sitemap has been submitted to Google: congrats. Now all you have to do is wait for Google to go and see what's inside.

2. How to add your sitemap on Bing?

According to Statcounter, Google had a stunning 91.89% market share in the whole world, as of April 2020. Far, far, far behind him is Bing (2.79%).

But it can also be useful to submit your sitemap to Bing.

You must first create an account on Webmaster Tools. Then you can submit the sitemap from your Dashboard.

Here is the link to the search engine's documentation.

And now it's your turn

You are about to finish reading this article explaining how to create a sitemap on WordPress.

To put it in a nutshell, there are two main types of sitemaps:

  • The XML sitemap
  • The HTML sitemap

They list the pages of your website to help out search engines index your content.

Now it's time to put it all into action.

Start by telling us, in the comments sectioon, what type of sitemap you are using.

Do you have any comments or questions for us? If so, let us know right below.

And if you feel that this article can be useful to others, feel free to share it on social networks.