Having an XML sitemap makes it easier for search engine crawlers to access all the contents of a website. It allows for the discovery and caching of content in multiple search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. When all the links are submitted to Google, there is a high chance that every one of them will be listed in the search results. When articles are listed—if they are good enough to rank high—they will bring in users to a website.

It is absolutely necessary for websites to have an XML sitemap. It should contain all the links that point to every useful content on the website. It can also have additional information like updated date and caching priority for individual links.

Generating an XML sitemap manually is not an easy job. It might be possible for websites with limited or low number of pages. It also requires a sound knowledge of the markup standards and guidelines.

For websites with a number of pages and content that are added and updated regularly, it is close to impossible to track them all and build a sitemap manually. Hence, they are built automatically using online software or script that know the nooks-and-crannies of the website. In case of WordPress, it’s done via sitemap generating plugins.

Now, realizing its importance developers have created a lot of plugins that can do the job. But the most famous and the most consistent one happens to be the plugin titled: Google XML Sitemaps by Arne Brachhold. It has more than a million active installs and a 4.9 out of 5 stars rating in the WordPress plugin directory. This is the perfect plugin for the job.

Install this plugin first. To access its options visit Settings > XML-Sitemap in the WordPress admin dashboard. There you can configure everything.

After a fresh install, note that the top-most part of the options will say:

Search engines haven’t been notified yet.

They will be notified after you start adding new posts or updating old ones. Once you do it, it will say something like:

Result of the last ping, started on June 5, 2015 3:38 pm.

XML Sitemap URL

First and foremost, the URL to access it is: http://www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.

For this website, the URL is http://wpcraze.com/sitemap.xml.

Sitemap Preview

Please note that it contains links to sub-sitemaps so that content can be well managed.

What to Do With the URL?

After generating the sitemap, the next thing to do is submit the link to webmasters tools and consoles of search engines:

Before being able to access these special tools, verify your website in Google as well as Bing Webmasters Tools.

Configuring the Plugin

Preview of Google XML Sitemaps Plugin Options

Basic Options

Under basic options, there are settings to notify Google and Bing when the content is updated. It is quite helpful to get your new articles cached as quickly as possible.

Other options include adding the link to robots.txt which should be kept as it is. There isn’t anything that needs to be changed here.

Additional Pages

This option allows you to add URL to the sitemap manually. If you created content for your website outside of WordPress and if you don’t want it to be left out, then use this feature.

Post Priority

Set it to Comment Count (as it is). You can try Comment Average as well. But don’t sweat on it as it doesn’t have a major affect.

Sitemap Content

Include homepage, posts and static pages. Some people might choose to include categories but it is not necessary. The rest: archives, author pages and tags need not be included.

Excluded Items

Use this option to manually remove posts and categories. Check the categories and use the IDs of posts/pages separated by a comma to exclude them.

Change Frequencies and Priorities

The default setup works great for most users. But if you know what you are doing in terms of SEO and you want to change the frequencies and priorities, then do it.

Final Words

This is simply the best plugin for generating XML sitemaps in WordPress. Submit them to search engine consoles and webmaster tools to make sure that all your content is listed in them. Make your new content discoverable as they are published. The options of this plugin touch on all the necessary aspects. The options are detailed but don’t let it overwhelm you. Leaving the default options works great for most websites.

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