Word Press Sitemaps: XML Sitemap

We’ve talked about how having an XML sitemap as well as a ‘people-fiendly’ sitemap on your website is beneficial for search engine optimization. But did you know, that these also need to be part of your blog’s plug-in’s to super-charge your Word Press blog in the search engine department.

What’s the Difference?

An XML sitemap is ‘search engine spider’ friendly making it easy for the ‘spiders’ – aka robots –  to follow all the links. Depending on which XML sitemap generator you use, you can see from the sample below ( using Google XML Sitemap) that it would be difficult for a human to use the information:

XML Sitemap Sample:

– identifies the start of the URL – acutal URL

2010-04-22T19:56:40+00:00 – when the page or post was last modified

weekly – identifies the frequency of change

0.6 – assigns a priorty

– closes the URL information

However, a traditional site map is people-friendly and allows humans to easily locate posts and/or topics. You’ll also notice that not only are the  main categories of your blog shown, i.e, Domain Name, but also the sub-categories are displayed, i.e, Subdomain.

Which Sitemap Plug-in’s To Use

There are many different plug-in’s available and when in doubt, I find it typically best to use the one that has the highest ‘star’ rating. For my blogs I like to use these sitemap plug-ins:

  • Google XML Sitemap
  • Dagon Sitemap

They are both easy to use and install, and configure with minimal effort.

Google XML Sitemap (GXS)

To save a little time and keep from back-tracking, you’ll want to install the XML sitemap first. This will make sense later on when you install the Dagon sitemap. Once you have the GXS installed and activated*, you can access the settings through the ‘settings’ link on the plug-in page or from the ‘XML-Sitemap’ link under the ‘Settings’ heading in the WP Dashboard. Either way will get you to the same configuration page.

Once there you will need to build your sitemap for the first time. Simply click on the link to ‘build sitemap’. Once this is done, you may also want to configure the options. While most of the default options will work, you can change the settings if you choose – making sure to click the ‘Update Options’ button at the bottom of the page once the changes have been made.

On the Setting page some of the basic options that are important are:

  • Rebuild sitemap if you change the content of your blog (will automatically do this if checked)
  • Update notifications to Google, Bing, Ask and YAHOO (you’ll need to get an application ID for Yahoo, click the link and follow prompts to get ID)
  • Add sitemap to the virtual robots.txt file (If you do not have a irobots.txt file plug-in installed , you may want to consider installing it as well. )
  • Additional pages – allows you to include or exclude pages. These can be HTML pages that are uploaded to the same domain name as you blog but are not a post or part of the WP blog itself.
  • Post Priority – uses blog comments to assign priority. If you do not allow comments or do not have a lot of comments, you may want to select ‘do not use automatic priority calculation’ – this will give all your posts the same priority.
  • Set the ‘change frequency’ for each page, category, etc. based on how often you post or make changes.
  • Location of your sitemap – you do not need to do anything here, but do take note of the location as you will need it for the ‘people-friendly’ sitemap plug-in to be installed  next.

Once you have the XML sitemap installed you are ready to install the traditional site map.  

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*  To install a plug-in, simply click on ‘Install’ once you’ve located the plug-in you want.  WP will automatically download, unzip and install the plug-in – and notify you on completion.  After you see the ‘successfully installed’ notification on the screen, you can ‘activate’ the plug-in.  This can be done from the same screen or you can activate (or deactivate) from the WP Dashboard Plug-in page.

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