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Lesson 13 – Part 1 – Create a Sitemap

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Good evening everybody and welcome to Lesson 13 of How to Build a Website with WordPress and Genesis. Tonight, we’ll be talking about how to integrate your Genesis site with Google. We’re going to start that right off the bat by downloading and installing Google XML Sitemaps plugin. This is a plugin that will create a sitemap for your site that tells Google what pages you have, tells it when those pages are updated and that sort of thing.

Install Google XML Sitemaps Plugin

We’re going to do that here on our demonstration site and we’re just going to come into the dashboard here, come down to plugins, add new then we’ll search for Google XML Sitemaps. There are a bunch of different plugins available but for the kind of plugin that we’re working on, the XML Sitemap is fine so we install it and activate the plugin. We are going to go down to settings and XML Sitemap and we’ll deal with the sitemap options.

Now, what the sitemap does is every time you make a post or a page, every time you change something, every time you update your site, it updates the sitemap and once a day, it sends the updated sitemap to Google so that Google knows what pages you want indexed. We’re going to start off here with the basic options and we’re going to retain the default which is write a normal XML file and also write a gzip file.

Customize the Sitemap Options

We want to rebuilt the sitemap if we change the content of the blog, we want to notify Google about updates to the blog, we want to notify Bing about updates to the blog and we want to add the sitemap URL to our virtual robots.txt file. We are not going to limit the number of posts in the sitemap and we’re not going to worry about the memory limit at the moment. If you have a problem with the memory limit then you can increase it but that’s probably not something that we’re going to deal with here.

Same thing is true with execution time. Unless you are very restricted to execution time, you can ignore this. We’re also going to ignore the XSLT stylesheet because that’s not going to be necessary here. We’re also going to not check box, Enable MySQL standard mode but we will Build the sitemap in a background so all of the default settings, we’re going to leave as they are. Here in this Additional pages section, you can specify pages that you want to include that are not necessarily inside of the WordPress installation.

Let’s say you had pages that were static HTML pages and they were part of your site, you could add those here but we’re not going to do that now because we don’t have anything like that. In terms of our post priority, what we’re going to use is, “Do not use automatic post priority calculation” so every post to have the same priority. We won’t use Comment Count, we won’t use Comment Average, we’re going to make them all the same primarily because in this case, our site isn’t fundamentally a blog site.

Our site is fundamentally a small business website and probably the number of blog posts we’re going to have isn’t going to be huge so we don’t really need to distinguish between blog posts with priority. Under Location of your sitemap file, we’re going to leave “Automatic Detection” checked and we’ll let our file name be sitemap.xml and this is where we’re going to look to make sure we have it. You could also specify a Custom location but we’re not going to worry about that. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t just use sitemap.xml here.

What Pages to Include in the Sitemap Content

In terms of our Sitemap Content, we are going to include the homepage, we’ll include our posts and we’ll include our static pages. I think the only other thing that may make sense for us to do is include our categories. That means that we’re going to be indexing our posts once as posts and once as categories but I think that’s probably okay. We won’t bother with archives, author pages or tag pages but we will include the last modification time. What that does is it changes the sitemap everytime when your page or one of your posts have been updated or changed.

We also have the opportunity to exclude some categories, now, we’re going to exclude uncategorized. We could also exclude posts if we wish so if there is something on our site that we didn’t want in this index, we could list those here. It’s not just post, it could be post or pages, it doesn’t really matter. You just post your page ID in here and it would happen. In terms of change frequency, we’re going to change this up a bit.

Our homepage, because this is not really a blog, we’re going to say our homepage changes for the time being, weekly. We’ll say posts change monthly, static pages change weekly, categories change weekly, the current archive of this month which we’re not indexing so it doesn’t matter, our older archives, we’re not indexing so they don’t matter and we’re not doing tags or author pages so these things don’t matter. These are the ones that matter here and we may as well just make them all weekly, it’s probably good enough.

Setting Page Priorities

In terms of our priorities, the homepage will have the highest priority, our posts will have a priority of 0.6, the same as our static pages. We’ll go ahead and let our categories have a 0.3, otherwise, we can just leave these alone. We’ll go ahead and set update options and we’ve now set all of the primary options. Now the thing is that at the moment, we don’t have a sitemap. In order for us to have a sitemap, we need to generate for the first time so we’ll generate that by clicking here.

Install the Sitemap Generator

You can see it says, Your sitemap was last built on September 11, 2012, Your sitemap was zipped, Google was successfully notified about changes, Bing was successfully notified, The building process took 0.24 seconds and 38 MB of memory so we were fine with all of our normal stuff. If we’ve made some change here that is really important, we can choose to rebuild the sitemap but it’s also important not to do that more than once a day.

If you change something on your homepage and you click, “Rebuild the Sitemap”, then you go change something on another page, don’t go click, “Rebuild the Sitemap” at that point. Go ahead and let the sitemap rebuilding happen automatically because what the generator does is, it collects all the sitemap rebuild information and does it all in one fell swoop. Google considers pinging them with their sitemap more than once a day to be spam so it’s just as well that if you’ve got something where you need to rebuild it, go ahead and rebuild it but don’t rebuild it more than once a day.

Verify that the Sitemap Exists

So we have our sitemap and we’re going to verify that the sitemap is there by going to it. Remember that was sitemap.xml and here is our sitemap. This sitemap shows us our homepage and each of our pages so we have finished-projects/west-seattle-view-home, finished-projects, finished-projects/edmonds-view-remodel, design-ideas/craftsman-front-porch and so on and so forth.

We have all of those things in here, they’re indexed the way we want them to be and they have nice semantic URLs, services/builder-home-design, services/custom-home-design, services. You’ve got nice semantic URLs and this is our sitemap. That’s the first part of getting the site integrated with Google, is just actually installing the sitemap generator and creating our sitemap.

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