You can spend all the time you want tweaking and perfecting your WordPress website. But, if it’s not indexed by search engines like Google, there’s not much point — many visitors will have a difficult time finding it, and you’ll miss out on organic traffic.As the site owner, it’s on you to optimize your website for search engines. One of the best things you can do for SEO is to set up a sitemap, which is a file that lists all of the relevant URLs for posts, pages, and media on your website. These files help search engines index your site quickly and efficiently, boosting your visibility online.
So, if you want to launch a website that Google (and your potential customers) can discover, you'll need a sitemap. In this guide, I’ll explain sitemaps more in-depth and recommend some handy WordPress plugins to help you make them.
What Are Sitemaps in WordPress?
The purpose of sitemaps is to help search engines index your website content without having to crawl your web pages. After you create one for your website, you can submit it to search engines, which will update their indexing.
While sitemaps aren’t absolutely necessary to make — you could wait around for Google to find your website itself and index your pages through its internal links — we still highly recommend generating one and updating it regularly. By giving search engine bots a better way to “crawl” your website, you’ll help your rankings. And, you can ensure your site is thoroughly indexed whenever you add or remove content — you just need to create and submit a new sitemap to search engines.
What’s in a sitemap?
Here’s an example of a very basic XML sitemap:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
Media-heavy sites might also opt to make separate sitemaps for images, videos, and or other media types. These special sitemaps help these items rank in Google results alongside pages and posts.
Why You Need a Sitemap WordPress Plugin
Sitemaps can do wonders for your search rankings, but they’re also a major time-suck to make manually. It’s recommended that you submit a new sitemap every time you add a new page, post, or media item to your site. For website owners who make frequent updates to site structure, such as bloggers, it’s a lot of work to write a new sitemap and send it off every single time.
This is where WordPress plugins come into play. A quality sitemap plugin will bundle your URLs into a sitemap for you, no coding needed on your part. Some plugins will also submit your sitemaps to services like Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools for indexing. Some plugins can create image or video sitemaps as well.
Sound like something you need? You have a few options — let’s explore the best ones.
Best Sitemap Plugins for WordPress
- Yoast SEO
- Google XML Sitemaps
- All in One SEO Pack
- Sitemap by BestWebSoft
- Premium SEO Pack
- Simple Sitemap
1. Yoast SEO
Yoast SEO is one of the best SEO plugins for WordPress. It's an all-in-one type of plugin for your SEO needs — be it sitewide SEO, on-page SEO, or sitemaps, this plugin will handle everything with ease.
Once you activate and enable the sitemap feature, Yoast SEO generates an XML sitemap containing links to your website content. This sitemap will automatically refresh any time you change your content, for instance, if you add or remove a page or post.
The sitemaps created in the free version of Yoast SEO will accommodate posts, pages, and media — you can also decide if you want to exclude any of them from the sitemap. To index other content types, update to the premium version of the plugin.
Yoast SEO can handle a multisite system as well, so you won’t have to install any other plugin for your multisite to make sitemaps.
With over one million downloads, Google XML Sitemaps is the most popular dedicated sitemap plugin for WordPress. Creating sitemaps shouldn’t be hard, so Google XML Sitemaps keeps things simple.
As the name suggests, this plugin generates XML (and HTML) sitemaps that help your pages and posts get indexed by Google and other search engines. It’s a great choice for WordPress users who want sitemaps without the baggage of a comprehensive SEO plugin.
Google XML Sitemaps is easy to use but very capable nonetheless — it supports all kinds of WordPress posts, including general posts or any custom post type, and allows for basic and advanced customization in its settings menu. For example, you can set the plugin to automatically notify Google and Bing when your content updates.
All in One SEO Pack is another free, widely used, and comprehensive SEO plugin for WordPress with an XML sitemap option. With over 2 million downloads since its launch in 2007, this plugin has proven its value over time.
The sitemap module in All in One SEO Pack comes with several setup options out of the box — you can set the plugin to schedule updates, notify Google and Bing about new posts, and include or exclude the post types and taxonomies per your needs.
You’ll also have access to more technical options like compressing the sitemap or creating an image sitemap to help your media appear in search results.
Jetpack by Automattic is one of the most acclaimed WordPress plugins available today. It offers extensive solutions to many common WordPress challenges, including security, performance, analytics, and SEO.
Jetpack’s marketing tools can create four different sitemaps: a general map with public pages, an image sitemap, a video sitemap, and a news sitemap (for Google News). The process to make one is quite straightforward, ideal for beginners who don’t need as much control over their sitemap output.
Jetpack’s sitemap tool is more limited than other dedicated SEO tools in this list. For instance, you’ll need to submit your sitemaps to search engines yourself. Still, it’s a useful addition to a very capable plugin. Read more about what this plugin can do in our Jetpack review.
Our second dedicated sitemap plugin on this list, Sitemap by BestWebSoft helps WordPress admins easily and quickly generate XML sitemaps to send to search engines. URLs from pages, posts, categories, tags, and custom post types and taxonomies are all added to your maps. This plugin can also build media sitemaps and connects to Google Search Console, so you can easily push sitemaps to Google.
Upgrading to the premium version of the plugin lets you exclude pages and posts from your sitemaps, set the frequency of new sitemaps, add custom URLs to your sitemaps, and add external sitemap files.
Premium SEO Pack is a comprehensive paid SEO plugin for WordPress that offers sitemap functionality along with many other useful features. For a one-time payment of $44, this plugin can improve the overall SEO of your site.
Premium SEO Pack automatically creates sitemaps, which cover everything from normal posts, to pages, to images, to videos. You can choose to include or exclude any of these from your maps.
Also, this plugin provides detailed on-page optimization features, and internal link building feature to improve the link network on your site, and an image optimization feature to help you acquire more traffic through images.
Until this point, we’ve covered plugins that focus on generating sitemaps in XML, which are ideal for submitting to search engines for indexing. Sitemaps can also aid visitors by giving a clear list of all your web pages — to navigate, they can just click a URL in the list. This is where HTML sitemaps come in handy.
Simple Sitemap is a free plugin that creates and adds a basic HTML sitemap to your website. You can place a sitemap with two available blocks and five shortcodes, and configure your map inside the WordPress editor. This way, visitors have a convenient alternative to navigating your website.
Getting Started With Sitemaps
Sitemaps are undoubtedly the most important components of any WordPress SEO strategy. If search engines can't find and crawl your content, you’ll miss out on valuable organic traffic.
As with any other WordPress-related problem, there are several plugin solutions for your site’s unique needs. When picking one, consider how much control you’d like over the contents of your sitemap, whether you’ll need alternative image/video sitemaps, and, of course, budget.
Regardless of your preferences, installing any of these plugins will increase your rankings, visitors, leads, and conversions.
Originally published Oct 21, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated October 21 2020