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Lesson 13 – Part 4 – Create a Sitemap

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The next thing we’re going to do is create a sitemap because the title of today’s lesson is how to coordinate your site with Google and I can tell that this is not going to all get down today but we’ll go ahead and get started in any case. This actually starts off with a plugin again. We’re going to add a new plugin and search for Google XML Sitemaps.

Why a Sitemap is Important

This is the top one and we’ll install it. A Sitemap is absolutely essential for you. Google doesn’t need a sitemap but if you don’t have a sitemap and you don’t submit it to Google, what you’ll be doing is waiting around for Google to accidentally find you because Google finds people either by submitted sitemaps or by links. Until it finds a link that it’s interested in following to find your site, it’s not going to find your site without a sitemap.

Once we’ve got it installed, we go to settings and XML Sitemap and go through these basic settings. In terms of sitemap files, we want to write a normal xml file and we also want to write a gzipped one, it’s going to be the one that Google actually downloads. Then we’re going to rebuild the sitemap every time we change content on the site.

Customize Sitemap Settings

We’re not going to enable manual sitemap building via a GET request, that’s a technical thing that’s irrelevant to us but we do want to notify Google about updates to the blog. Every time we update something and every time the sitemap gets revised, it will notify or ping Google and will do the same thing with Bing.

It’ll also do the same thing with ask.com and it’ll create a virtual robots txt file which will just tell everybody that the sitemap is there for any random crawler that is out looking and crawling the site.

Look at this advanced options, that we can essentially ignore except for the one that’s already checked, “Build the Sitemap in the Background”. We’ll just let it happen as it happens, we don’t need to wait for it to be built. Under Additional Pages we’re not going to bother with this.

It’s possible that you’ve got some pages associated with your site that are not controlled by WordPress. If that were the case, this is where you would list those pages. In our situation, we’re not working with that so we’re not going to be worried about that.

Automatic Post Priority Calculation

In terms of post priority, we don’t care about post priorities so we’re not going to use “Automatic Post Priority Calculation”. It’s primarily something that’s blog centric and we don’t care, we’re just going to not use priority calculation and we won’t have that resource taking that space.

Sitemap Name

This is where we specify our sitemap name however, this is the standard sitemap.xml so we may as well leave it like it is. This is its detected path and in terms of its URL, it’s going to be sbywh13byobtutorial.com/sitemap.xml. We could create a custom location for it if we wish but we won’t because I don’t know of any value in doing that so we’re just going to let that stuff be automatic.

Sitemap Content

In terms of our sitemap content, we will include our home page, we’re going to include posts, we’re going to include all of our static pages and then we can choose to include categories and other archives if we wish. Generally, I include categories, I just don’t include anything else but I do include the last modification time.

Exclude Categories

Under exclude categories, we just exclude uncategorized because they’re irrelevant. Under exclude posts, if there were posts or pages that you didn’t want indexed by Google and you didn’t want them to show up on your sitemap, you could indicate those down here as well as do other things. For excluded posts you just put post or page ID in here that will exclude those from the sitemap.

Change Frequency

In terms of change frequency, your home page probably doesn’t change daily, not in our case so our home page is probably going to change weekly. Our posts, you could leave as monthly, our static pages as weekly, categories as weekly, we’re not doing a current archive for the month so it doesn’t matter, we’re not doing older archives so they don’t matter, we’re not doing tag pages or author tag pages so that doesn’t matter.

This is an indication to Google that if it doesn’t see us, that it should come check the site and check these things this frequently. If you make a change to your home page today and you press Save, what will happen is, your sitemap will be rebuilt and Google will be pinged if there was a change so the chances are, Google is going to come right away.

Building a Sitemap

Then there are your priorities where if you have lots and lots of different things and Google had to prioritize what it was going to crawl, it would use these priorities in prioritizing its stuff but it’ll just leave the priorities alone. Hit Update Options and we’ve saved the option but we still don’t have a sitemap so what we do here is click here to build our sitemap.

Now what we have is this message, “Your sitemap was last built on March 13th”, your sitemap was zipped on the same time, Google was successfully notified about the changes, Bing, Ask and it took three quarters of a second to build it. If we for some reason feel like it’s necessary, we can always come back and rebuild the sitemap again manually although we have told this to do it automatically upon changes which is undoubtedly good enough at this point.

Verify a Sitemap

That is setting up our sitemap. Now the one thing we want to do is verify that we actually have a sitemap. We would verify that by simply coming over to the front side of our site and typing in sitemap.xml. Here is a sitemap that was created with all of our pages.

I could have excluded sample page from this, that would have been a good thing to exclude actually. Let’s go ahead and do that. Go to sample page, edit page, this is post number 2. Over here in our sitemap generator, down under things to exclude, we’re going to exclude the sample post. We should also exclude Hello World, which is going to be post number 1.

Update Options, we can come back over and look at our sitemap and we can see here that all of our pages are here. All of our pages and posts have now been written into this sitemap. I don’t know if you find this interesting but if we go to byobwebsite/sitemap.xml, our sitemap is pretty big. Our sitemap is big enough that it has been broken up into pieces and so we’ve got for example, a sitemap based on our taxonomy.

There is a lot of material here in this sitemap because of the size of our site and it has broken the sitemap up into this 7 different pieces so that each sitemap doesn’t exceed the maximum of 50,000 entries per map.We’re never going to be close or at least we’re not close to that, but that’s what’s going on here.

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