You’ll want to make sure search engines know what’s going on with your website. That’s where sitemaps come in handy — particularly XML sitemaps.
What is a WordPress XML Sitemap?
Sitemap is a list of pages on a website that is accessible to all users. An XML sitemap is a way for website owners to tell search engines about all the pages that exist on their website. WordPress XML sitemap also tells search engines which links on your website are more important than others and how frequently you update your website. While sitemaps do not boost your search rankings, it allows search engines to better crawl your website.
Why You Need an XML Sitemap
From a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) point of view sitemaps are extremely important. First we would like to clearly state that adding a sitemap does not affect search rankings. However, if there is some page on your site that is not indexed, then sitemap provide you a way to let search engines know about that page, so it can be indexed properly.
Sitemaps are very useful for new websites and blogs. As most new blogs usually don’t get many backlinks to their individual posts, it becomes harder for search engines to discover all of their posts and pages. Sitemaps allow those websites to help search engines crawl their sites more efficiently.
For popular websites, sitemaps allow your website to interact with search engines more effectively. Search engines can guess how often your site is updated, which parts of your website are more frequently updated than others, set crawl rate for your site, etc. This improves the overall visibility of your site to search engines.
An XML Sitemap is not to be confused with the HTML sitemap. The former is for the search engines, while the latter is mostly designed for human users (although it has other uses t00).
XML Sitemap serves two purposes:
- This helps search engines find your site’s pages more easily.
- Search engines can use the sitemap as a reference when choosing canonical URLs on your site.
Picking a preferred (canonical) URL becomes necessary when search engines see duplicate pages on your site, as we saw above.
So, as they don’t want any duplicates in the search results, search engines use a special algorithm to identify duplicate pages and pick just one URL to represent the group in the search results. Other web pages just get filtered out.
Now, back to sitemaps. One of the criteria search engines may use to pick a canonical URL for the group of web pages is whether this URL is mentioned in the website’s sitemap.
So, what web pages should be included in your sitemap? For purely SEO reasons, it’s recommended to include only the web pages you’d like to show up in search. You should include a more comprehensive account of your site’s URLs within the HTML sitemap.