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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

263 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. Thanks so much for this it was a massive help! Because I verified and uploaded to Google Console first, I managed to verify and import my website/sitemap to Bing by just connecting my google account (Bing gives you an option for this when you click on sign up) – it was done in less than 30 seconds! I wouldn’t have thought to do Bing, so thank you so much for covering that too!

  2. This is honestly the most helpful article I’ve ever seen. I’m not a developer (just new home business owner trying to figure out the rabbit hole that is web dev) and this guided me through all the unknowns I’d had about importance of a sitemap, let alone how it would benefit my site. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  3. I rarely write comments on articles but this was easily one of the most helpful I’ve ever read. Thank you!

  4. I have my site with only one post published, so is it necessary to submit a sitemap each time when I added a new Article/Post?
    And how often should I submit sitemap?

    • You only need to submit your sitemap once unless there is an error, it will update as you add posts.

      Admin

  5. Great article!
    Yt’s a pain that the Yoast plugin (as with all plugins) are only offered on the WP’s Business Plan. I’ve been on the Premium Plan and not allowed to install plugins.

    • Yoast has updated their interface so you should find it under SEO>General>Features at the moment.

      Admin

  6. Hello,

    Recently I added the sitemap for my website. But, while checked with the tool, it’s showing, no sitemap is added. Why it’s showing like this. I added Yoast SEO plugins.

    • It could be their caching or if your site has caching that you haven’t cleared it could be part of the issue.

      Admin

  7. Hi,
    I have a problem with sitemap submitting….I am using Yoast SEO when I submit a sitemap to google webmaster it says “couldn’t fetch”…….. but i have successfully submitted sitemap to bing and Yandex without any errors …what to do please help me

    • For an error like this, you may need to reach out to Yoast’s support to see their recommended troubleshooting for specifically Google not being able to crawl your sitemap.

      Admin

  8. I am really happy to get this article about sitemap.
    I am using Yoast SEO for sitemaps. Some SEO auditor is saying that I should improve it immediately. But Google search console is showing a green success and assuring that all is ok.

    Can you please suggest me what should I do right now?
    Thanks for the article..

    • We’re using the Yoast sitemap without any issues at the moment. If you would prefer what the auditor wants then you could certainly try that if you wanted.

      Admin

  9. I have Yoast SEO but XML sitemaps does not appear on the menu, which indeed looks very different from yours. Any suggestions as to how to find it?

  10. I need some help please,
    some pages on my website are not showing on sitemap.xml

    I entered it manually to google console, It showed an error that the sitemap format is HTML and that I should change the format

    how do I change sitemap format, please?

    • If you’re using a caching plugin you may want to try to disable it to see if it could be a conflict between Yoast and the caching plugin you’re using.

      Admin

  11. Hi, awesome tutorial, I did same as your instruction and working fine. But there’s a problem with this, check out the details.

    my website is yahoonewsz.com and when I type “www.example.com/sitemap_index.xml”, it works fine but it says page not found when typed “example.com/sitemap_index.xml”.

    Why?

    • You may want to check with your hosting provider that there is not a setting preventing the non www version from redirecting properly

      Admin

  12. Thanks for your best tutorial!

    I recently have a wordpress blog and have created xml sitemap using yoast seo, according to this tutorial in previous month. Yesterday I happend to see my xmlsitemap file at my wp-admin. There are only 5-6 lines which covers my new posts only. What about my old posts? Is there any problem? And how come I know that there is any problem? Because I have more than dozen posts till now.

    Kindly let me know.

    Arun Dixit

    • You may want to clear your caching and reach out to Yoast if your sitemap is refusing to update your older posts if you’re not excluding them.

      Admin

  13. I am using All in One SEO pack Plugin. If I download Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin should I use both?

    • No, we would not recommend having multiple SEO plugins active as they can conflict with each other.

      Admin

  14. THANKS FOR SHARING THIS INFORMATION!
    one thing I want to know is that whether after every single update in pages, posts or change within a post, we need to submit the sitemap???
    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    • You should not need to resubmit your sitemap as long as Google does not run into any errors with your sitemap and with the method from our article it should over time update your sitemap.

      Admin

  15. I followed these steps but search console is giving me a 404 on the sitemap. I never had such problems submitting sitemaps

  16. In my website, I generated sitemap using this tutorial, however I want to remove one particular non-existent URL from the sitemap as it’s giving 404 error and google adsense is showing crawl error. How do I remove one particualr URL from sitemap and ask google to stop crawling that URL?

  17. My site has been verified but can’t find site map near to it .What to do for it ?

  18. I did your step for the sitemap. Awesome! Also, for my robots.txt file I have the following, should I change that first line of sitemap to what yoast says? I am not even sure where I got that old sitemap from but don’t want to mess anything up.

  19. Hi.
    Very helpful information.
    I want to ask if it is okay to submit my site to other webmasters like bing, yandex and others.
    Thanks so much.

  20. Is there any one who can help me to change sitemap.xml to some new url like sitmap_page_xml

  21. Yoast SEO must have been updated because the check boxes are now sliders – at least on my site. When I enable the stiemap function, then click the link to view the site map, I get a 404 Not Found error. Did I do something wrong?

  22. Really helpful article! I have just having trouble when it comes to viewing my site map, it’s coming up with 404 error and I’m not sure why?

  23. Hey, there’s nothing like SEO>XML Sitemap in my WP dashboard. Does this feature work on the Premium version of Yoast SEO only? Please help!

    • Hi John,

      It works with free version as well. You will need to enable ‘Advanced settings pages’. Go to SEO » Dashboard page and then click on ‘Features’ tab. Scroll down to Advanced settings page section and click to enable them. Don’t forget to click on the save changes button.

      After reload you will see new menu items in under SEO menu. Hope this helps.

      Admin

        • Having the same exact problem. This option does not appear anywhere on my wordpress dashboard. Were you able to get any help with this?

      • there is not sitemap option, please help, in fact if i go on “mysite.com/sitemap_index.xml” there i can find the sitemap but settings are not in my dashboard.

        • Under SEO > General > Features, down by where it says XML Sitemaps, click on the question mark to expand some text.

          Click on See the SML sitemap. Then, you can add the URL for your sitemap to the Google Search Console.

        • UPHOARIA, not all heroes wear capes, my friend. Thank you!!! After an hour of trying to figure this out, this was immensely helpful!

  24. after implying the details as clearly elaborated in the blog within a month i saw the changes in my rankings this trick works no hassle. there is a great improvement in my SEO optimization ranking.

  25. Thank you for putting this up nicely, i have one question though for which i need help.
    If once i have submitted a sitemap to google and i also have my yoast SEO completely configured, then on adding new content will yoast only update the sitemap or will it automatically submit it to google as well? Or is it that i should submit the sitemap manually to google every time there is new content.

    • Hi Prakash,

      The sitemap generated by Yoast SEO automatically updates itself. You only need to submit your sitemap to Google once. However, if you move your website to a new address, then you will need to resubmit your sitemap.

      Admin

  26. A site map is a kind of interactive table of contents, in which each listed item links directly to its counterpart sections of the Web site.

  27. I have submitted my site map to google
    But still not getting organic traffic
    What should I do now???
    Plzz help me

  28. Useful manual.
    My sitemap only shows the homepage, and not the 29 other pages of my website. Any ideas on how I can solve this?
    Thanks.

  29. Great post for beginners. Thanks.
    I have a question – my site has a subdomain if i create a sitemap for the subdomain will it be part of the whole site (root plus subdomain?)

  30. My Yoast Seo XML Sitemaps won’t work with google search console.

    “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.”

    Any ideas?

  31. Ok- your site is my new favorite best friend on the internet!! Thank you sooo much! I’m beginning to feel like a dangerous beginner ;-) Thanks for the great tutorials…

  32. Thank you so much for your instructions.
    it was very useful for me.i did all steps and i could put my site map on webmaster tool and also my blog pages only because of your helpful article.

  33. Error while submitting sitemap generated by yoast: sitemap_index.xml

    Sitemap is HTML

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

  34. Hello, thank you for the detailed article, finally I understood how it works!

    I think I did all correctly, but when I submitted the sitemap I received an error from Webmaster Tool, saying: “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.”

    Certainly the location is correct, and their guidelines don’t give me a clue of what is happening :(

    Any idea? Thank you in advance.

    Bruna

      • HI to wpbeginner team. 1st of all thank you for your excellent work and helping beginner in such a great way. I am using All in one Seo and came to know you use for your sites Yoast Seo. Can you guide me how do I shift to Yoast without messing up my sure??
        Thank you in advance

  35. i am trying to create sitemap and i created a lot of sitemap using different plugins but when i click on sitemap it says nothing found.
    how to solve this issue

  36. Under sitemaps, for webpages, it’s saying 104 were submitted, but only 14 were indexed. Yoast SEO gave me 3 sitemaps which I added.

  37. I’m having lots of duplicate content on my website. I’m thinking that i didn’t fix the Yoasts SEO very well. How can i remove them?
    Thanks in advance

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