Help search engines find your content with XML sitemaps

  • An XML sitemap helps Google find your content
  • Yoast SEO automatically adds an XML sitemap
  • You determine what does and doesn’t appear in the sitemap
  • Works perfectly ‘out of the box’
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Search engines discover new pages and updated content by following links. That works well, but search engines cannot find all content this way. It’s also not always the fastest way for them to discover new or changed pages. Instead of just following links, it’s much more efficient for search engines to follow a map. An XML sitemap generated by Yoast SEO is a treasure map for search engines. It gives them directions to all of your content and tells them about when your pages were last updated.

Even small sites with few pages can benefit from having an XML sitemap, as it prevents search engines from having to guess where your content is, or when it was last updated. For more significant sites, having an XML sitemap is essential. If your website consists of thousands of pages, if you are in the news business, or if you are just not that good at internal linking, you need to help search engines to discover and prioritize your content.

That’s why Yoast SEO you automatically creates rich, robust and complete XML sitemaps for all of your content types.


Why do I need an XML sitemap in WordPress?

According to Google: “Search engines like Google read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. A sitemap tells Google which pages and files you think are important in your site, and also provides valuable information about these files: for example, for pages, when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and any alternate language versions of a page.”

Bing says: “Sitemaps are an excellent way to tell Bing about URLs on your site that would be otherwise hard to discover by our web crawler.”

Read more: What is an XML sitemap and why should you have one? »

Keep reading: The sense and nonsense of XML sitemaps »

Did you know?

While XML sitemaps are an important addition to any site, there aren’t many content management systems that add one automatically? Not even WordPress! That’s why this was one of the first features we built into Yoast SEO. Now, all these years later, we’re working with Google to add base support for XML sitemaps in core as of WordPress 5.5.

✅ They give search engines an overview of your content

An XML sitemap is technically little more than a file with a list of URLs on your site. If you have many posts and pages in WordPress, the list will be very long, and if you don’t have many, the list will be short. More sophisticated sitemaps, like the ones we produce, use categories and multiple pages to break things up into smaller, more digestible pieces. 

The XML sitemap is a standardized way of offering these overviews to search engines. Because this is standardized, search engines know exactly where to find them and what to expect in these files. Therefore, this file helps search engines discover your content.

Noindexing XML sitemaps

Keep in mind, XML sitemaps do not need to be indexed by search engines in order to be read or parsed by them. That’s why Yoast automatically adds HTTP headers to these files, saving you from crawl budget issues and index bloat!

✅ Sitemaps can provide some back up in case of bad internal linking

Internal linking is vital for your users as well as search engines. Search engines use links on your pages to discover new content and to determine which pages should get more weight.

But even though internal linking is important, not many people do it well. On some sites, there’s content that never gets any links. You should fix this, but in these cases, an XML sitemap in WordPress can serve as an alternate way for search engines to find your content.

✅ WordPress XML sitemaps can assist with crawling

Instead of merely letting search engines crawl every page on your site, a sitemap can help to prioritize your more important pages — saving your crawl budget. By default, Yoast SEO excludes several posts, and content types from the XML sitemap as these pages have no place in a sitemap. Also, you can determine what you do and don’t want to add to your sitemap.

✅ Sitemaps give important information

It’s not just the simple list of URLs that’s important to Google. The additional metadata is essential as well. Search engines can read when your content was last updated if there was any new content added and how all this content ties together. This last part is especially important if the content on your site is not properly linked together.

Extra features

✅ Yoast SEO lets you determine what goes into the sitemap

Yoast SEO has a set of sensible defaults for what goes into the sitemap — excluding many pages that shouldn’t end up in sitemap in the first place. If you need to have more control, you can determine what appears as you see fit. For instance, if you would like to exclude a specific content type from appearing in the XML sitemap, you simply have to flick a switch in the settings. Go to Search Appearance, find your content type, and set the Show X in search results switch to No.

You can use Yoast SEO to easily set what your want to appear in the XML sitemap

✅ Yoast SEO splits up large XML sitemaps to keep them fast

While a single sitemap can hold up to 50,000 URLs, Yoast SEO chooses to break these up into smaller sitemaps. Our sitemaps hold up to 1,000 URLs and we’ll make sure to connect them. That makes our XML sitemaps in WordPress speedy and efficient.

✅ You can add your sitemap to Search Console

Once you’ve installed Yoast SEO and your XML sitemap is activated, you should add your sitemap to Google Search Console and other webmaster tools. Simply add your website to Search Console first and after doing that, you can add your sitemap. You’ll notice when Google has come around to check the sitemap and if it found any issues with it.

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