Embarking on a new WordPress project is incredibly exciting. You’re probably full of ideas for your site and what you hope it will achieve. You may even have content or products for an online store ready to go.
It’s tempting to only focus on the creative side of things, or the business aspects of building a site. But there are some equally important technical tasks that you should spend some time fine-tuning, and one of those is building a sitemap.
In this post, you’ll learn what a sitemap is, why you need one, and how to create it. Most importantly, you’ll learn how Jetpack does a lot of the heaving lifting for you!
Sitemap basics: what they are and what they do
A sitemap is a page that lists the content on your site, including links to where it can be found. It won’t look anything like the rest of your site, and may not use your theme.
Many sitemaps use a file type known as an “XML page” that’s designed to hold data — in this case, the data is a list of the pages on your site. This includes posts and archived pages, as well as static pages.
Sitemaps are XML pages rather than normal ones because they aren’t designed to be viewed by human site visitors — although, you can take a look if you want to. Instead, their purpose is to interact with technology.
As you can see, it’s not very exciting or user-friendly, unlike a site’s regular navigation menu. But sitemaps do have a very important purpose.
Sitemaps help with SEO
Your site needs a sitemap for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. Search engines crawl sitemaps regularly to ensure they know when you add or remove content, or amend your site’s structure.
This ensures that you’re providing Google and other search engines with a full, accurate, and up-to-date list of the content within your site. This in turn can help improve your visibility in rankings for relevant keywords or phrases, as search engines will find it easier to process your content.
This also means that your most recent content can be found in search results soon after you publish it, and any content that you delete will eventually be removed from search results. Sitemaps are more reliable sources of search engine information than the navigation menu on your site, which doesn’t include every single change made within every page, post, and archive.
Not only that, but the very existence of a sitemap will give you an SEO enhancement and improve your rankings. Sites without sitemaps rank lower in search results, no matter how good their content is.
Adding a sitemap: Jetpack handles it for you!
A sitemap is automatically built when you install Jetpack. So if you’re already using Jetpack, you already have a sitemap!
To confirm that Jetpack is generating your sitemap, select Traffic in your Jetpack settings and make sure the Generate XML sitemaps option is toggled on.
Once you’ve done that, try visiting your sitemap. Jetpack will automatically generate a page with a link for you to use.
Once a sitemap is activated, you don’t need to update it or make any changes when you add or delete content from your site — Jetpack will automatically keep it updated for you.
Linking your sitemap to Google News
If you want Google News to index content from your site, you’ll first need to register with the Google News service as a publisher. Google will approve you for inclusion if you’re publishing news posts — so don’t worry about this step if your site isn’t a news blog.
Google News has a process to follow, which includes ensuring your content meets its guidelines and then applying to be included. Once approved, Google will crawl your Google News sitemap regularly and include relevant content on its own platform. Your news sitemap will only include posts you’ve published within the last 48 hours.
Improve your SEO with a Jetpack-powered sitemap
Now that you have an understanding of how important sitemaps are for your site’s SEO, let Jetpack do the work for you. You’ll automatically receive a sitemap that will enhance your site in search engine rankings — and it’s all free.
Do you have any questions about sitemaps or examples of how one helped your SEO? Let us know in the comments!