A sitemap is a web page which lists all the page of the entire website, making it easier for search engines crawl all pages of a website, and for users to find the page they are looking for, or to browse the whole site without clicking through a lot of links.
There are two typical versions of sitemap –HTML sitemap and XML Sitemap. In some case, some webmaster also want to display sitemap in a virtual way.
Create an XML Sitemap on Your Website
XML Sitemaps are written in XML (Extensible Markup Language),used by web developer to submit a sitemap to tell search engines about the pages on your site, their relative importance to each pother and how often they are updated. All these jobs are done for search engines, and website users don’ need to see them.
So, Is XML Sitemap Necessary? Definitely! XML sitemaps make great sense to search engine optimization so that it is important not only for WordPress sites, but also all types of websites.
If you are running a new blog or website, sitemaps are very useful. Generally, new websites do not get many backlinks to the individual pages so that it’s not easy for search engines to index all the pages and posts. However, with sitemaps which automatically informs search engines about pages that are available for crawling, your site can be crawled more efficiently.
If you have a powerful website, sitemaps help your site tell search engines the relevance between pages and the update frequency. Search engines can judge how often your site update and identify which parts are more frequently updated than others so that they will set proper crawl rate for your site. This makes your site are more visible to search engines and can be quicker crawled than others.
Generate Sitemap with Google SiteMap Generator Plugins
There are multiple ways to create an XML sitemap in a WordPress site, and usually using WordPress sitemap plugins can be the easiest one. In below, we take an example with Google XML Sitemap plugin (http://wordpress.org/plugins/google-sitemap-generator/).
As the name shows, Google XML Sitemaps makes the WordPress sites more friendly to the search engines as Google, Yahoo, Ask.com and Bing. It creates a special XML sitemap which can help the search engines index the sites better, and help the crawlers retrieve the information and structure of a website effectively. In this way, users’ blog can be easily discovered and indexed in search engines. The plugin is versatile enough to support all kinds of pages to be turned into sitemap; even it is a custom URL.
More importantly, once you updated your website or created new content for a post, the plugin will automatically inform all the main search engines to ensure the instance. All these measures combine together can guarantee that search engines can index every little thing on your WordPress sites easily. Here is the instruction about how to create an XML sitemap with Google XML Sitemap Plugin.
- Log into your WordPress admin panel, go to plugins.
- Install and activate Google XML sitemap plugin.
- Go to settings – > XML Sitemap.<//li>
- Click the “click here”, and your sitemap will be automatically generated in seconds.
In addition, there are some other rich-featured plugins used to help you create a XML site map with ease.
PS Auto Sitemap
PS Auto Sitemap is favored by many website builders for its easy to use features and highly customizable design. Through admin page, you can quickly change the settings of the lists, choose to show or hide of special home, category, pages, or posts. Besides, there are more than ten display styles for you to choose from and each of them is produced by professional designers. With these customized styles, you can make the WordPress sitemap different and elegant.
WP Sitemap Page
This is an extremely powerful sitemap plugins suitable for both newbies as well as internet geeks. It provides the easiest way for all users to setup a sitemap within one minute. All you need to do is just copy the given code and paste it to any of your posts and then, this can produce a sitemap of all your pages and posts automatically.
As for experts who prefer customizing their sitemaps, this plugin allows them to decide in what way the sitemap is displayed. Another advantage of this plugin is that it supports all the versions of WordPress, even the latest one – WordPress 3.9.
RPS Sitemap Generator
RPS is one of the best and the most welcomed sitemap plugins in the market. It comes with a familiar interface to ensure users can review their new as well as updated posts in an intuitive way. Besides, the plugin tries to keep pace with users to make sure that the sitemap can be updated as soon as there is anything new happens to their websites.
BWP Google XML Sitemaps
The plugin can produce a sitemap in a short time and take up fewer resources. Unlike many other plugins, BWP Google XML Sitemaps gets rid of the limit of 50,000 URL. Thus, site owners don’t need to worry about the limitations, especially for those big website managers. With it, users can build sitemaps for multiple websites at the same time and custom them with modules.
How to Submit Sitemap to Search Engines
The search engines like Google are clever to find a sitemap. No matter when you publish a new post or page, a ping is sent to search engines to notify them about the changes. However, we still recommend you submitting your sitemap to search engines by hand so that they will show you errors, pages indexed and other relevant stats.
Submit to Google
To submit your XML sitemap to Google, you need to use the Google Webmaster Tool. After signing to your Google account and entering this special Google tool, you can find an “Add a Property” button. Click it and enter your domain.
Next, you should verify your ownership of this site. For this, the recommended method is by uploading the special HTML verification file to your site. Check the steps from the following screenshot.
Now, you can be presented with detailed statistics of whether your submitted contents have been indexed properly. To check it, you simply need to click Google Index > Crawl > Sitemaps from the left-hand column, and have a look at the bar chart to figure out how your website is indexed.
Submit to Bing
For this practice, you need to leverage the power of Bing Webmaster Tool. After signing in using the Microsoft ID, you firstly need to add your website and verify the ownership by entering all the information required about you and your website.
In the “About My Website” section, you can find an “add a sitemap” option. Here, you need to enter the full URL of your sitemap. Generally, this URL is just like “http://www.yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml”.
After filling out all the required fields and clicking the Save button, you can be redirected to the dashboard of the Bing Webmaster Tool, from which you can find a “Verify Now” button. Click it and choose the verification method of “adding the meta tag in header”. Then, you can be presented with a line of random code. Copy and save it.
Next, you need to go back to your WordPress admin and click the General button from the SEO drop down. Then, target the Webmaster Tools option and enter the earlier verification code into the area of Bing Webmaster Tools.
Now, you have your website and XML sitemap added to Bing successfully. Therefore, when you enter the dashboard of this tool, you can check your crawling and indexing situation clearly.
Create an HTML Sitemap on Your Site
Differing from XML sitemap that is used to tell search engines which web pages should be crawled, the mission of HTML sitemap is to let visitors know how many pages they can access to. That is generated in HTML. In most cases, an HTML sitemap should be like the following example.
Accordingly, categories of web pages are shown on the sitemap and each item comes with an internal link. Visitors can target a web page at a glance and then access to this page by simply clicking it. That enables great browsing experience for each visitor as well as encourages visitors to stay longer on your website.
WordPress developers have released multiple plugins to create HTML sitemap in a simple manner. Among hundreds of options, we select two of the most popular plugins to achieve the goal, one is HTML Page Sitemap plugin and another is Hierarchical HTML Sitemap.
# Method 1: HTML Page Sitemap plugin
HTML Page Sitemap plugin allows users to add an HTML sitemap of all web pages on a website by using a shortcode. Note that, the HTML sitemap page doesn’t display posts. First of all, install and activate the HTML Page Sitemap plugin via WordPress dashboard. And then, add HTML sitemap to your WordPress website by using the given shortcode.
Create a page that is used to display the HTML sitemap. Go to Pages > Add New and name it properly. In this guide, we name this new page as “Sitemap”. Copy and paste the shortcode [html_sitemap] to the page editor and then publish this page after having all settings done.
View the HTML sitemap via website frontend and that should be like the following example. All pages are listed on the sitemap. The display order of each page is in accordance with that on the admin pages list.
Users can customize the default HTML sitemap by adding some attributes and values to the default shortcode. The Template Documentation for the wp_list_pages function includes a list of useful attributes and values.
# Method 2: Hierarchical HTML Sitemap
Hierarchical HTML Sitemap allows you to generate an HTML sitemap of your WordPress website by using a shortcode. The HTML sitemap displays all pages and posts in hierarchically sorted categories. Install and activate Hierarchical HTML Sitemap plugin via your WP admin.
Create an HTML sitemap via Pages > Add New. Give the new page a proper name and then insert the shortcode [htmlmap] to page editor.
Publish this page and then check if the HTML sitemap can be shown on your website successfully. If so, the HTML sitemap page should be like the following screenshot.
All categories of pages and posts are displayed on the sitemap page. That enables a clear view of the whole website structure. In this way, visitors can easily target a certain category and then search specific post or page as planned.
By the way, the Hierarchical HTML Sitemap plugin allows you to customize the default shortcode as needed. That makes it much easier to exclude certain posts or pages from the HTML sitemap by inserting post’s ID or page’s ID into the shortcode.
For example, the shortcode [htmlmap exclude=324,325] is used to exclude the post or page with ID number 324 and 325. Besides that, the shortcode [htmlmap showpages] enables the display of all pages while the shortcode [htmlmap hidedate] makes it possible to hide posts’ published date.
Display a Visual Sitemap on Your WordPress Site
As for a visual sitemap, it is an alternative option to an HTML layout. It grants you with the ability to show some items from your site in a tree-like structure, which is helpful to bring users with a good browsing experience and reduce the potential bounce rate.
After briefly reviewing the definition and benefits of a visual sitemap, let’s move on to the following part about how to add it to the WordPress site of your own.
How to Display a Visual Sitemap in WordPress?
In fact, this process is fairly simple with a plugin named as Slick Sitemap. The plugin enables you to easily add multiple sitemaps on your website using a shortcode. Now, refer to the following steps to see how we will use it.
Step 1 – Install the Slick Sitemap plugin
In the first place, you need to install the Slick Sitemap plugin. Search for the WordPress plugin via the “Plugins” > “Add New” menu in your admin area, download the zip file into your own /wp-content/plugins/ folder, and activate it.
Step 2 – Create a navigation menu
Before setting up the plugin, you need to create a navigation menu for the sitemap. This can be done with the help of some excellent navigation menu plugins or the decent navigation menu system coming with WordPress itself. In our case, we will choose the latter solution.
Firstly, navigate to “Appearance” > “Menus” option in the sidebar menu of your dashboard. Then, you will be brought to the “Edit Menus” page where you can add and adjust menus. Hit the “create a new menu” link and get started by providing a suitable name for the menu.
Secondly, you need to select the pages that you want to display on this menu. After clicking the “Add to Menu” button on the right side of the pages list, you can see the selected pages in the “Menu Structure” section.
The next thing you need to do is choosing a theme location to display the menu. It has to be noted that the number and names of theme locations may vary from theme to theme. In this case, you can choose the one according to your own preferences.
Besides the options above, the plugin also allows you to create nested menus or say drop-down menus. As the following screen capture shows, this can be done by dragging the menu item that you want to display as a child item slightly to the right of its parent item.
In addition, you can add categories, custom links, posts, and movies to the navigation menu using the options available. Also, it is possible for you to further configure each menu item by clicking the arrow on the top right corner. Once you have finished these settings, remember to click the “Save Menu” button to make them work alright.
In the last, you can visit your site to check whether the navigation menu is working in the way you like. If yes, proceed to the next step. If not, you can head back to the menu editing and managing system to adjust it to your taste. The following is an example navigation menu that we’ve created.
Step 3 – Set up the plugin
Now, it’s time to set up how the plugin will work on your site. Enter the plugin configuration page via the “Settings” > “Slick Sitemap” option in the admin area. Displayed as below, all you need to do is specifying the default menu for the visual sitemap, default utility menu, and default columns for the layout.
What worth mentioning is that the utility menu will be displayed on the top of your visual sitemap. You can choose to create a new one or use an existing menu according to your needs. The last but not the least thing here is hit the “Save Changes” button to enable all your settings.
Step 4 – Display a visual sitemap
When you have finished the operations above, now you can display the visual sitemap on your website. Simply start by adding a new page in WordPress. Then, copy and paste the shortcode [slick-sitemap] to the content area and publish the page.
Now, there is no more configuration. You can visit your website to see the visual sitemap functioning as below.