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What is an XML Sitemap? How to Create a Sitemap in WordPress?

Are you wondering what is an XML sitemap, and how to add it to your WordPress website?

An XML sitemap helps search engines easily navigate through your website content. It gives them a list of all your content in a machine-readable format.

In this article, we will explain what is an XML sitemap, and how to easily create a sitemap in WordPress.

What is an XML Sitemap and how to create one for your WordPress site

What is an XML Sitemap?

An XML sitemap is a file that lists all your website content in an XML format, so search engines like Google can easily discover and index your content.

Back in the early 2000s, government websites used to have a link on their main pages, titled “Sitemap”. This page usually contained a list of all the pages on that website.

While some websites still have HTML sitemaps today, the overall usage of sitemaps have evolved.

Today sitemaps are published in an XML format instead of HTML, and their target audience is search engines and not people.

Basically, an XML sitemap is a way for website owners to tell search engines about all the pages that exist on their website.

It also tells search engines which links on your website are more important than others, and how frequently you update your website.

While XML sitemaps will not boost your search engine rankings, they allow search engines to better crawl your website. This means they can find more content and start showing it in search results thus resulting in more search traffic, and improved SEO rankings.

Why You Need an XML Sitemap?

Sitemaps are extremely important from a search engine optimization (SEO) point of view.

Simply adding a sitemap does not affect search rankings. However, if there is a page on your site that is not indexed, then sitemap provides you a way to let search engines know about that page.

Sitemaps are extremely useful for when you first start a blog or create a new website because most new websites don’t have any backlinks. This makes it harder for search engines to discover all of their content.

This is why search engines like Google and Bing allow new website owners to submit a sitemap in their webmaster tools. This allows their search engine bots to easily discover and index your content (more on this later).

Sitemaps are equally as important for established popular websites as well. They allow you to highlight which part of your websites are more important, which parts are more frequently updated, etc, so search engines can visit and index your content accordingly.

That being said, let’s take a look at how to create XML sitemap in WordPress.

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How to create a Sitemap in WordPress?

There are several ways to create an XML sitemap in WordPress. We will show you three popular methods to create an XML sitemap in WordPress, and you can choose one that works best for you.

Method 1. How to Create an XML Sitemap in WordPress without a Plugin

This method is very basic and limited in terms of features.

Until August 2020, WordPress didn’t have built-in sitemaps. However in WordPress 5.5, they released a basic XML sitemap feature.

This allows you to automatically create an XML sitemap in WordPress without using a plugin. You can simply add wp-sitemap.xml at the end of your domain name, and WordPress will show you the default XML sitemap.

Default WordPress XML sitemap

This XML sitemap feature was added to WordPress to make sure that any new WordPress website does not miss out on the SEO benefits of an XML sitemap.

However, it is not very flexible, and you cannot easily control what to add or remove from your XML sitemaps.

Luckily, almost all top WordPress SEO plugins come with their own sitemap functionality. These sitemaps are better, and you can control which content to remove or exclude from your WordPress XML sitemaps.

Method 2. Creating an XML Sitemap in WordPress using All in One SEO

The easiest way to create an XML sitemap in WordPress is by using the All in One SEO plugin for WordPress.

It is the best WordPress SEO plugin on the market offering you a comprehensive set of tools to optimize your blog posts for SEO.

First, you need to install and activate the All in One SEO plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Note: Sitemap feature is also available in AIOSEO Free version. However to get advanced news sitemap and video sitemaps, you’ll need the Pro version.

Upon activation, go to the All in One SEO » Sitemaps page to review sitemap settings.

Enable sitemap in All in One SEO

By default, All in One SEO will enable the Sitemap feature for you and replace the basic WordPress sitemaps.

You can click on the ‘Open Sitemap’ button to preview it to see what it looks like. You can also view your sitemap by adding ‘sitemap.xml’ to the URL such as www.example.com/sitemap.xml.

All in One SEO XML sitemap preview

As a beginner, you don’t need to do anything as the default settings would work for all kinds of websites, blogs, and online stores.

However, you can customize the sitemap settings to control what you want to include in your XML sitemap.

Simply scroll down to the Sitemap settings section.

AIOSEO Sitemap settings

This section gives you options to manage sitemap indexes, include or exclude post types, taxonomies (categories and tags). You can also enable XML sitemaps for date-based archives and author archives.

All in One SEO automatically includes all your WordPress content in XML sitemaps. However, what if you have stand-alone pages like a contact form, a landing page, or Shopify store pages that are not part of WordPress?

Well, AIOSEO is the only plugin that lets you add external pages in your WordPress sitemap. Simply scroll to the Additional Pages section and turn it on. This will show you a form where you can add any custom pages that you want to include.

Adding additional pages to your WordPress XML sitemap

You simply need to add the URL of the page that you want to include and then set a priority where 0.0 is the lowest and 1.0 is the highest, if you are unsure then we recommend using 0.3.

Next, choose the frequency of updates and the last modified date for the page.

You can click on the ‘Add New’ button if you need to add more pages.

Don’t forget to click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your settings.

Excluding Specific Posts / Pages from your XML Sitemap

All in One SEO allows you to exclude any post or page from your XML Sitemaps. You can do this by clicking on the Advanced Settings section under the All in One SEO » Sitemaps page.

Excluding items from your WordPress XML sitemap

You can also remove a post or page from your XML sitemaps by making it no-index and no-follow. This will block search engines from showing that content in search results.

Simply edit the post or page that you want to exclude and scroll down to the AIOSEO Settings box below the editor.

Removing a post or page from XML sitemap using robots.txt

From here you need to switch to the Advanced tab and check the boxes next to ‘No Index’ and ‘No Follow’ options.

Creating Additional Sitemaps

All in One SEO allows you to create additional sitemaps like a video sitemap or a news sitemap.

You can create a video sitemap if you regularly embed videos in your blog posts or pages. It allows search engines to display posts in search and video search results along with a video thumbnail.

Video search results showing video thumbnail

You can also create a News sitemap if you run a news website and want to appear in Google News search results.

Simply go to All in One SEO » Sitemaps and switch to the Video Sitemap or News Sitemap tabs to generate these sitemaps.

Generating video and news sitemaps in All in One SEO

Overall, AIOSEO is the best WordPress plugin because it gives you all the flexibility and powerful features at a very affordable price.

Method 3. Creating an XML Sitemap in WordPress using Yoast SEO

If you are using Yoast SEO as your WordPress SEO plugin, then it also automatically turns on XML sitemaps for you.

First, you need to install and activate the Yoast SEO plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, go to SEO » General page and switch to the ‘Features’ tab. From here, you need to scroll down to the ‘XML Sitemap’ option and make sure that it is turned on.

Yoast SEO XML Sitemap option

Next, click on the save changes button to store your changes.

To verify that Yoast SEO has created an XML Sitemap, you can click on the question mark icon next to the XML Sitemap option on the page.

View XML Sitemap created by Yoast SEO plugin

After that, click on the ‘See the XML Sitemap’ link to view your live XML sitemap generated by Yoast SEO.

You can also find your XML sitemap by simply adding sitemap_index.xml at the end of your website address. For example:

https://www.example.com/sitemap_index.xml

Yoast SEO sitemap

Yoast SEO creates multiple sitemaps for different types of content. By default, it will generate sitemaps for posts, pages, author, and categories.

How to Submit Your XML Sitemap to Search Engines

Search engines are quite smart in finding a sitemap. Whenever you publish new content, a ping is sent to Google and Bing to inform them about changes in your sitemap.

However, we recommend that you submit the sitemap manually to ensure that search engines can find it.

Submitting Your XML Sitemap to Google

Google Search Console is a free tool offered by Google to help website owners monitor and maintain their site’s presence in Google search results.

Adding your sitemap to Google Search Console helps it quickly discover your content even if your website is brand new.

First, you need to visit the Google Search Console website and sign up for an account.

After that, you will be asked to select a property type. You can choose a domain or a URL prefix. We recommend choosing URL prefix as it is easier to setup.

Select property type

Enter your website’s URL and then click on the continue button.

Next, you will be asked to verify ownership of the website. You will see multiple methods to do that, we recommend using the HTML tag method.

Google Search Console verify site ownership

Simply copy the code on the screen and then go to the admin area of your WordPress website.

If you’re using AIOSEO, then it comes with easy webmaster tools verification. Simply go to All in One SEO » General Settings and then click the Webmaster Tools tab. After that, you can enter the code from Google there.

AIOSEO Site Verification

If you’re not using AIOSEO, then you need to install and activate the Insert Headers and Footers plugin. For more details, see our step by step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you need to visit Settings » Insert Headers and Footers page and add the code you copied earlier in the ‘Scripts in Header’ box.

Add your verification code in the header section

Don’t forget to click on the save button to store your changes.

Now, switch back to the Google Search Console tab and click on the ‘Verify’ button.

Google will check for verification code on your site and then add it to your Google Search Console account.

Note: If the verification is unsuccessful, then please make sure to clear your cache and then try again.

Now that you have added your website, let’s add your XML sitemap as well.

From your account dashboard, you need to click on ‘Sitemaps’ from the left column.

Add sitemap to Google Search Console

After that, you need to add the last part of your sitemap URL under the ‘Add new sitemap’ section and click the Submit button.

Google will now add your sitemap URL to your Google Search Console.

It will take Google some time to crawl your website. After a while, you would be able to see basic sitemap stats.

This information includes the number of links Google found in your sitemap, how many of them got indexed, a ratio of images to web pages, and more.

Sitemap stats in Google Search Console

Submitting Your XML Sitemap to Bing

Similar to Google Search Console, Bing also offers Bing Webmaster Tools to help website owners monitor their website in the Bing search engine.

To add your sitemap to Bing, you need to visit the Bing Webmaster Tools website. Here, you’ll see two options to add your site. You can either import your site from Google Search Console or add it manually.

Create account in Bing Webmaster Tools

If you’ve already added your site to Google Search Console, we suggest importing your site. It saves time as your sitemap will automatically be imported for you.

If you choose to add your site manually, you need to enter your site’s URL and then verify the site.

Bing will now ask you to verify the ownership of your website and will show you several methods to do that.

We recommend using the Meta tag method. Simply copy the meta tag line from the page and head over to your WordPress admin area.

Copy meta tag to verify site in Bing Webmasters Tool

Now, install and activate the Insert Headers and Footers plugin on your website.

Upon activation, you need to visit Settings » Insert Headers and Footers page and add the code you copied earlier in the ‘Scripts in header’ box.

Add Bing verification code

Don’t forget to click on the Save button to store your changes.

How to Utilize XML Sitemaps to Grow Your Website?

Now that you have submitted the XML sitemap to Google, let’s take a look at how to utilize it for your website.

First, you need to keep in mind that the XML sitemap does not improve your search rankings. However, it does help search engines find content, adjust crawl rate, and improve your website’s visibility in search engines.

You need to keep an eye on your sitemap stats in Google Search Console. It can show you crawl errors and the pages excluded from search coverage.

Sitemap coverage

Below the charts, you can click on the tables to view actual URLs excluded or not indexed by Google.

Sitemap URLs reports

Normally, Google may decide to skip duplicate content, pages with no content or very little content, and pages excluded by your website’s robots.txt file or meta tags.

However, if you have an unusually high number of excluded pages, then you may want to check your SEO plugin settings to make sure that you are not blocking any content.

For more details, see our complete Google Search Console guide for beginners.

We hope this article helped answer all your questions about XML sitemaps and how to create an XML sitemap for your WordPress site. You may also want to see our guide on how to quickly increase your website traffic with step by step tips, and our comparison of the best keyword research tools to write better content.

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Reader Interactions

261 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. I only get options that say Dashboard Search Console and Go Premium I don’t see site map as an option how do I get it to do the site map so I have to pay the 97$

  2. i already have my sitemap XML , but i need to regenerate it .
    what is the best way to do that ?

  3. Very informative content. It is a good information with good knowledge, my most of doubts get cleared with this.

  4. Amazing article! no-one could explain the Sitemap thing better than you. Thanks so much!! I’ve just followed all the steps (for the verification method, I chose “Domain Name Provider”, by the way)

    So my website is roughly a month old and I’ve only just added the YOAST plugin and sitemap today. How much time does it take for Google to recognize it? Right now, I have this message in my Webmaster Tools:

    “Error details: 1 Errors, 0 Warnings.

    “We encountered an error while trying to access your Sitemap. Please ensure your Sitemap follows our guidelines and can be accessed at the location you provided and then resubmit.

    “Network unreachable: Network unreachable”

    What does it mean, please?

  5. First off, I`d like to say “thank you” for all your support and guidance to the new WP users.

    I`ve created a sitemap, however Google is telling me that the URL is restricted by robots.txt

    My robots.txt file look like this:

    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /

    Sitemap: http://www.example.com/sitemap.xml

    Checks:
    sitemap.xml has been tested and is working as expected.
    I`ve checked the site variants (www and non-www)
    I understand that in WP Admin, under Search Engine Visibility it is possible to encourage search engines to index the site. My understanding is that doing so will modify the robots.txt file and will allow all robots to crawl my site – including the “bad” crawlers (I`ve read this on other tutorials).

    Any further assistance will be greatly appreciated.

    Regards,

    Toma.

  6. The yoast sitemap page is showing “Warning: Class __PHP_Incomplete_Class has no unserializer in /home/content/n3pnexwpnas01_data02/78/3160178/html/wp-content/object-cache.php on line 520”, followed by url’s. This is the case with sitemap_index as well as sitemaps contained within. Sometime it shows right format and sometimes the similar error for the same post/page/index sitemap. How can I fix this?

  7. Hello,

    Your tip is very detail. But can i ask some more thing. I am new wordpresser from Viet Nam, I meet the problem with sitemap of Yoast seo.

    After Save changes the Sitemap of Yoast, Then i go to Google console to add ” sitemap_index.xml ” for index.

    After add sitemap_index.xml, It just show the blue color culumn, dont have any red color column for Index.

    It is PASS or FAIL? How can i know google console indexed my sitemap or Not index for this case.

    Nice day
    Quangle

      • dear sit iam seeing ur video and tutorial, using how to seo wordprees ytoast. i have done it, but when i try to see xml file it tell error/page not found but when i test this link on google sitemap it say no error found, but its empty. what should i do. and also i am getting problem using wordprees, i think i have done some mistake to install wp. i have install via Android phn.and sometime when i want to delete some plugin it tell error database,can u guys help me to reinstall wordprees pls it will be greatfull. tnx

  8. Hi guys,
    do I still need a dedicated plugin for the sitemap or does the latest version of WP come with something for the sitemap too?

  9. After installing Yoast plugin i got the below msg!

    The plugin Yoast SEO has been detected. Do you want to import its settings into All in One SEO Pack?

    wat do i need to do?

  10. Thanks guys!
    This was really helpful.
    You’re making my stress levels deflate immensely with all your assistance on getting my site all SEO set up.
    Cheers

  11. Thank you for the step-by-step instructions – really helped me to understand WP and Google further.

    Keep up the good work!

  12. “If you have a sitemap that is located on example.com/sitemap.xml, your sitemap is not being generated by our Yoast SEO plugin. It is probably generated by Google XML Sitemaps or another XML sitemaps plugin. Please disable other sitemap plugins and remove any sitemap files via FTP before enabling the sitemaps in our plugin.”

    How do i get around this?

      • I really can’t figure out if any of my plugins are making a sitemap, i don’t think i have installed any that do. So terribly confused.

        • Then try disabling all plugins except Yoast SEO. Then try go to sitemaps, if you don’t see the message then this means one of the plugin was causing that. You can then activate plugins one by one and visit the sitemaps screen to see if the error reappears. Do that until you find the plugin causing it.

          On the other hand if you see the message even after deactivating all plugins, then it could be your WordPress theme or a manually created file on your server.

  13. Thank you for this informative article.
    I have notice that some of my pages are not included in the sitemap generated in WordPress using the Yoast SEO – XML sitemap tool. Is there a way to manually enter the missing pages or to update the sitemap to include these pages?

  14. Thank you! I think I have created what was needed and it was easy. Instructions were clear and easy to follow, thank you.

  15. Hi there,
    I’ve read through a lot of pages trying to explain what you did, but seriously, yours is BY FAR the best. Easy to understand, one-by-one explanations. Thanks for your great help, you probably just saved me hours and hours of work.
    Cheers,
    Annika

  16. Hi,

    It was easy to understand. My question is , how can i edit my blog current sitemap?

    Regards,
    kksilvery.

  17. SUPER useful article! I really appreciate the info! This saved me so much time and hassle. I had looked at a couple other guides and they were just confusing.

    I used this on my site and it really saved us!

  18. Hi Syed Balkhi,

    Great post over sitemaps. I have one question for you.
    I have sitemap_index.xml for my website (without www ) but now I set my website to www version. I can see that all pages automatically changes with www version but sitemap_index dosn’t. Any specific reason.

    Also it shows nothing on but at sitemap_index.xml page I have complete sitemap.

    What is the mistake?

  19. My site map shows the staticstics of web page but not show the staticstics of images. why not show image in my site map help me please.

  20. Whenever I submit the sitemap this is the message I get:

    “Your Sitemap does not contain any URLs. Please validate and resubmit your Sitemap.”

    Can you tell me what to do? Thanks.

  21. I am having serious problems regarding sitemaps for a few months ago. I am using a wordpress hosted by godaddy. I’ve installed SEO by Yoast and did the sitemaps tutorial you had. Site’s is connecting, the sitemap is there, but the specific links (posts, pages, author, etc) are pending.

    We wait 48 hours, and none. We try it so many times, re-submitted, and yet Google search console is not crawling our site correctly.

    I don’t know what to do! Does it has to do with our theme? Godaddy told us there’s nothing blocking it on their side. And every time i look on the internet, many people are still having the same issue. Noticed that our site is working correctly and so are the feeds. But we are not crawling anything… Please if somebody already solved this, tell us, maybe someone else will going to solve this terrible issue

  22. Thanks for this! It’s the clearest explanation I’ve seen. How long does it take for Google to crawl it? I can’t seem to get to that final visual you showed with the total number of pages and images indexed, although I haven’t gotten any sort of message that google is still working on it. Like, should I check back tomorrow? And if so, can you tell me exactly what to click on to find the confirmation that the site has been fully crawled? Thanks again!

  23. Thanks for the info. As an addition: if the sitemap url gives a 404 then try lowering the default value of 1000 for the maximum number of lines. Worked for me.

    • Thank you for your solution. I changed the default value to 200 and it works! I have spent the last week trying to get my head around this stuff being a complete beginner. You have saved my sanity.

  24. please, after i clicked on the XML Sitemap

    what i got is error,

    Error 404 Not Found
    Oops! We couldn’t find this Page.

    Please check your URL or use the search form below.

    Please what can i do to get mu sitemp. thanks

  25. thank you for the great article .

    i am having a problem . i am using free wordpress of name ( free domain sitename.wordpress.com ) i am not understanding how to add the site map at now

  26. Hi,

    Thank you so much for the easy-to-follow instructions and well explained topic about sitemaps.

    My question is How to add a ‘single’ page or post which displays all your posts. I hope you got what i mean.

    I saw a blog, at the bottom of the page there is a clickable link called ‘sitemap’. when you click it, it will bring you to a page containing all the published post or articles or i suppose, “the sitemaps”.

    How can i do these type of ‘clickable link’???

    Thank you very much.

  27. I just want to say a big “THANK YOU” for your efforts providing the internet wordpress users with useful, and relevant information, articles, and tutorials. Wishing you and your team more of God’s blessing. Shalom!

  28. Thank you for this explanation. I am indeed grateful for it.
    Your tutorials in this site has always been helpful

  29. Your Sitemap appears to be an HTML page. Please use a supported sitemap format instead. need help

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