In today’s post I am going to take a look at two of the most popular plugins for creating a sitemap in WordPress: Google XML Sitemaps by Arne Brachold’s and Yoast SEO. Using a plugin to generate a sitemap is hands down the easiest way to manage this task, especially if you have to do it multiple times a day for multiple sites.
We will go over what these plugins can do and how you can use them to keep your sitemap up to date. It should be mentioned that Yoast SEO has much more functionality than Google XML Sitemaps. An average WordPress user with Yoast SEO probably won’t need to install Google XML Sitemaps.
In it’s simplest form, a sitemap is how a site is organized. Years ago almost every website had an HTML sitemap available for visitors to look at. It was best practice for websites to have a sitemap in the footer with links to the higher-level pages on the site. This allowed visitors to navigate the site and search engines to pull all the URLs from any page on your site.
As search engines became more advanced XML Sitemaps made their way into the picture. XML (Extensible Markup Language) is a meta language used to communicate with search engines. In web lingo, they are known simply as sitemaps. Unlike an HTML sitemap, these sitemaps are intended for bots. With a Sitemap webmasters can tell web crawlers which pages on their websites are available for crawling.
Sitemaps can help search engines pick up all the URLs on a website for accurate indexing. Using a Sitemap doesn’t guarantee that the pages listed will be included by a search engine, but it gives web crawlers valuable information about your site. This gives search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo do a better job of indexing your site.
It is considered best practice to submit an updated XML Sitemap to search engines regularly. When I create sites this is usually the last step after privacy policies.
Are Sitemaps still relevant?
Sitemaps don’t do anything to increase your search engine ranking, but they are useful for a few other things. For one it’s incredibly easy to generate a Sitemap so there’s no reason not to have one.
Nowadays search engines index pages much more efficiently than before, and there is a good chance all your pages will show up on SERPs without an XML Sitemap. But there are certain reasons why they are important. Especially under the following conditions:
- Websites with lots of new pages that aren’t strongly linked.
- Websites with lots of archived content that isn’t strongly linked.
- Websites with hard to crawl pages. It’s hard for web crawlers to recognize dynamically generated content, scripts or non-text content like web apps or videos.
- Websites with heavily syndicated content.
Sitemaps are especially useful for those who publish syndicated content. The XML map can help the content creator secure their position as the original publisher. Take Google’s panda update for example – this web crawler algorithm is focused on eliminating duplicate content.
This means if content is flagged as duplicated the website will be penalized or excluded from search results. If you post a blog and someone shares it on another site, there is a chance that the shared content is picked up first. This can easily be avoided with a Sitemap.
Another great reason to register a sitemap with a search engine is to catch certain Sitemap errors. Using the Sitemap this way serves as a tool to control indexing rather than enhancing it. Regularly updated sitemaps are useful for troubleshooting common problems.
Errors and warning stats are useful for projects where you aren’t in control of the update schedule. You’ll be notified about any 404 errors or forbidden pages. This kind of early warning can give you a chance to fix things before there is an issue.
Yoast SEO Plugin
The Yoast SEO Plugin is free and has lots of SEO tools to help you optimized your website. The nice thing about this plugin is that it’s lightweight and offers you other tools. The sitemap is just a small part of what Yoast can do.One of the features is Yoast’s XML sitemap generator.
It’s ridiculously easy to use. Everything is laid out nicely with tabs. You can choose what to include in your sitemap based on a few logical structures. This plugin has less options than Google’s plugin, yet you can still create a suitable sitemap to serve your purposes. Click the button to see your sitemap as shown below.Get Yoast SEO
Google XML Sitemaps
This plugin is also very simple to use. Install it and activate it and you are done. You can open the settings page to make any configuration changes. You can change settings like priorities and updates. You have the option to notify Bing and Google of your updates, add pages, change post priority, change frequencies and more.Get Google XML Sitemaps
Google XML Sitemaps vs Yoast Seo
Creating a Sitemap from the ground up with a text editor is simple. But today we aren’t going to bother with that. We have two plugins that will help generate dynamic Sitemaps for WordPress. Using a plugin to do this is recommended because WordPress doesn’t come with a sitemap generator. Both of these plugins are free at WordPress.org. The first one we will take a look at is Yoast SEO Plugin. After that we’ll take a look at Google XML Sitemaps.
Which one you choose all comes down to preference. Each of these plugins gets the job done in just a few clicks. The differences between the two lie in the user interface and how the sitemaps are generated. They both use different logical structures to get the same result. Yoast grabs type such as category, post, page etc. Google XML Sitemaps separates the content into monthly archives.
One thing I noticed about Yoast is that it wouldn’t work if I didn’t have pretty permalinks on my site. If you use WordPress’ default setting you are out of luck. This bugged me a little bit, but I use pretty permalinks on my sites for the most part anyway.
When all is said and done all you really need to do is generate a valid sitemap for Google, Bing or any other search engines you are targeting recognize. Just having one is enough unless you need very tight control over your content.
When it comes to sitemaps just having one will do. I think Google XML Sitemaps is slightly superior in terms of options. If you want more control over your sitemap I recommend this one. For those of you who already use Yoast SEO, just stick with that. You always have the option to use both, just make sure you turn off sitemaps in Yoast if you have them both installed.