To rank your website in search engines like Google, you should have an XML sitemap which is the best way to tell search engines about your content and pages in general. You need to submit it once and it will tell Google about your latest updates automatically.
That method works well for all types of sites, but it’s a thing that you should have especially for new blogs, simply because web crawlers can’t easily find your pages, without links from other websites. Today, you will learn how to submit your WordPress sitemap to Google, in a few steps, and you will also learn what you should include in that sitemap.
Why should I submit an XML Sitemap to Google?
Newbies confuse between an HTML sitemap, which is a normal webpage, and an XML sitemap, which is a list of your posts and pages, organized in XML format.
The first one is only helpful for people who visit your website, they will understand the structure of your page, and find what they need. But, the second one is a sitemap for web crawlers, and in our case, it’s a sitemap for the Google search engine.
If your blog is new, then, it’s really hard to index it if no one is linking to you. Google spiders search the web for new links by following existing links. This is why you should tell Google that your website is existing and you want to index your pages if possible.
Even if you have links, Google crawlers won’t easily find all your posts and pages, they need an existing structure to follow your links one by one, and index the page that really includes good content. When you submit your WordPress blog sitemap, you tell Google to follow an organized list of pages and posts.
As a result, crawlers will spend less time on your site and it’s for the fast crawling process, and you will maximize your chances to get ranked well in the search result pages.
What to include in your XML Sitemap?
Please be careful in this step, a sitemap is a very recommended file, but you can easily create duplicate pages if you follow the wrong method. And that can cause problems with Google, the best sitemap should only include your pages, your posts, and your categories.
Your homepage will be added as a page, but please forget your archive, and tags, they can easily create duplicate pages, because the URL is submitted twice, the first in posts and the second in the archive. This is why posts, pages, and categories are the recommended XML sitemap includes.
You can add your images if you have lots of them and you think they’re helpful.
Generate a Google XML Sitemap in WordPress
Before submitting your sitemap, you should first create it, there are a couple of good plugins that you can use to generate your blog, or website XML sitemap. The first one is the WordPress SEO plugin by Yoast, it’s a great plugin that you can download directly from your dashboard.
Its first job is to help you create and optimize clean posts, but it generates your sitemap if you want. All you have to do is to click on the “SEO” icon in your left menu, then click on XML Sitemaps, and activate that option by checking the box.
The second recommended plugin is Google Sitemap Generator, it’s also free and need a few moments to install and set up, please remember to check options as below:
The other options are up to you, you can do what you want. The plugin will update your sitemap when you publish a new post or a page, and notify Google about the latest pages automatically.
Submit your sitemap in Google Search Console
Now, you have created the sitemap and you need to submit it to Google. Google Webmaster Tools will be your friend in the next few days, it lets you notify Google about your website. But first, create your account, and add your website by clicking the top red button in your account.
Then, read this post that will show you how to verify a WordPress blog with Google. If you have your site added, verified, then click your website URL in your dashboard and Click Sitemaps as the following screenshot:
The new Google search console dashboard is better and you just need to add the extension of your sitemap URL.
All XML sitemaps should have a working structure, and the above plugins will generate a well-coded sitemap that Google understands. All you have to do is to add a sitemap.xml to your website URL. So, your sitemap will be http://www.websitename.com/sitemap.xml
Google will add your URL automatically, and you just need to add the sitemap.xml to the end.
Now, click the “Submit Sitemap” button or test your sitemap if you want before, and Google will crawl your website in the next few days.
No one can tell you exactly when your site will be crawled. But, in general, it takes from two days to a week to see your submitted pages, and how many of them are indexed by Google. You will see all your statistics on your dashboard when they are available.
Remember that Google will index the pages that are really able to be indexed, nothing is guaranteed, but if you have content that is unique, then, expect to index it.
At the same time, browse your webmaster tools options, and you will find great tools that can help you optimize your blog, and make it clear and clean. You will find lots of helpful information and tips from Google.
You can also submit the same sitemap URL to Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex. They use the same structure to understand it. You need a webmaster account with Bing to submit for both Bing and Yahoo, and another one for Yandex if you want. Their crawlers will visit your web pages and index your content in the near future.
Please avoid re-submitting your sitemap too many times, it looks spam. The only cases to resubmit that sitemap again is when you have changes in your whole site, or you have a problem notifying Google about your latest updates.
Make sure to check your webmaster tools account regularly. You will see your site health and the sitemap errors if something happens. But remember, also that you will see many “Not Found” page errors from time to time, and it’s a part of the web, don’t worry about that.
Even Google itself has not found pages, and the biggest websites also have errors with ”Not Found” pages, make sure to fix them if you can and your site will be in a good situation.