To the outside world, your WordPress website looks like a collection of files on a server. Each file is a web page represented by a URL. Web users move from page to page through links within your site and from other sites. The link is the only way web clients — including browsers and software clients like web crawlers — have to find your site’s pages.
What happens if some of your pages don’t have links to them or have links that are difficult to find? From the perspective of web clients, they might as well not exist at all.
Imagine you publish recipes on your site. You have hundreds of recipes, but there’s no particular reason for those recipes to link to each other. Nor is it feasible to link to all of them from the homepage.
Users find recipes by searching from them. Your site knows these recipes exist and can present them to users in its search interface, but Google has to find the site’s pages through links. Because most of your recipes don’t have incoming links, Google will never find them and they will never appear as search results.
This is an extreme example of a common problem. Many sites have pages which don’t have links, but which the site owner would like to make search engines aware of.
A sitemap is exactly what it sounds like: it’s a map of your site — a list of all the URLs — that search crawlers can use. Sitemaps are created so that Google and other search engines know about all the pages you want to publicize, not just the one’s it’s easy to find.
Adding A Sitemap To Your WordPress Site
Let’s have a look at the three most popular options for adding a sitemap to your WordPress site.
This is probably the quickest and simplest way to add sitemap functionality to your WordPress site. There are minimal configuration options, and it generally does a good job of generating a useful sitemap that includes all the pages that Google should be made aware of. It’ll also ping Google to let it know when pages have been updated.
Google XML Sitemaps does basically the same job as the first plugin we looked at, but it gives users more fine-grained control over the creation of sitemaps. You have more options to deal with, but the plugin provides sane defaults and it should give the desired results without too much fiddling, while giving you greater control.
WordPress SEO from Yoast is probably the most popular WordPress SEO plugin available, and along with all its other features, it includes the ability to generate sitemaps. If you want an all-in-one SEO solution, this plugin is a solid option.
If you are already a WordPress SEO user, this tutorial will tell you what you need to know about configuring the sitemap functionality.
Telling Google About Your Sitemap
Creating a sitemap is only the first step; you also have to let Google know where it is located. This is done with Google Webmaster Tools. There’s a complete guide to configuring Webmaster Tools for sitemaps on Google’s support pages.