I will show step by step how to create a sitemap for your WordPress site. A free sitemap that once the setup is complete you do not have to do anything more. This sitemap is created through a plugin called Yoast. Every time you change something on your blog, Yoast will update the sitemap automatically. When you have your sitemap you submit it to both Google and Bing.
Let’s get started.
- What is the sitemap generator called?
- How to install Yoast.
- Activate Yoast.
- Yoast configuration.
- How to find your sitemap in Yoast.
- How to submit your sitemap to Google.
- Yoast automatically updates your sitemap.
- You can check when Google reads your sitemap.
- How to submit your sitemap to Bing.
- Bing dashboard.
- Frequently asked questions.
- Further reading.
Free sitemap generator
The free sitemap generator is part of the Yoast SEO plugin. I use this plugin on all my sites and really like it. It is a fantastic tool to have.
Yoast has many great features but in this post I will just talk about the sitemap feature.
The first thing you need to do is install the Yoast plugin. To do that you need to hover your mouse over the word ‘Plugins’ in the menu of your WordPress admin.
Once you hover over ‘Plugins’ you will get a popup menu. In this popup you will see ‘Add New’, click on that.
After clicking ‘Add New’ you will come to this page.
To search for the Yoast plugin all you need to do is type the word ‘Yoast’ into the ‘search plugins’ box on the top right of the screen.
As you are typing WordPress will start a search of plugins based on the letters you type.
Once you finish typing ‘Yoast’ your display will show you ‘Yoast SEO’. On my screen it is the first box on the top left.
I have already activated Yoast on my website so you can see the word ‘Active’ in the top right of the Yoast SEO square.
Install and activate Yoast
If you have not installed Yoast on your website you will see ‘Install Now’. You need to click on that.
Once Yoast is installed this same square will change to say ‘Activate’. Click on ‘Activate’. After a few seconds, you will see ‘Active’. The same as my screenshot above.
Yoast configuration wizard
After you install and activate Yoast for the first time you will need to run through the ‘Yoast Configuration Wizard’.
The configuration wizard helps Yoast understand what your site is about.
The Yoast configuration wizard starts off like this.
There are a few questions to answer. To make this part of the setup easier for you. Here is a Yoast tutorial from WPCookHouse. He gives a great run through of the configuration wizard.
How to find your sitemap in Yoast
After you activate Yoast. You will see an extra option in your WordPress menu. You will see ‘SEO’
If you hover your mouse over the word “SEO’ you will see a popup menu like this.
From here click on ‘General’. Then you will come to this page.
This is your Yoast dashboard. To find your sitemap you need to click on the ‘Features’ tab. This tab is just above the words ‘Need help?’.
After you click on ‘Features’ you come to this page.
Half way down this list of features you will find ‘XML sitemaps’. These are the sitemaps for your website.
Yoast will generate these sitemaps automatically, it will also update the sitemaps every time you make any changes to your content.
Yoast makes generating sitemaps so easy. You just install the plugin and Yoast does the rest for you.
To view your sitemap you click on the question mark symbol to the right of ‘XML sitemaps’.
After you click on the question mark you will see two links. To see the sitemap for your site click on the link that says ‘see the XML sitemap’.
Your XML sitemap
After you click on this link a new tab opens and you get this.
You can see your sitemap for your pages and posts. If you click on one of them you will see a list of your post and page titles.
Once you have your sitemap. Then it is time to submit to submit it to Google and Bing.
I will show you step by step how to submit your sitemap to both Google and Bing.
How to submit your sitemap to Google
To submit your sitemap to Google you need to have a Google search console account. If you have not set one up yet. You need to do that first.
Go to Google search console homepage. The homepage looks like this.
If you are not sure how to apply to Google search console. Leave me a comment and I will do a post on how to do that.
Google will also ask you to verify your site. If you need help with that drop me a comment and I will do a post on that too.
Once you have your account and are signed in. Your dashboard will look like this.
From the menu on the left you can see the word ‘Sitemaps’, click on that and you will come to this page.
It is on this page that you can submit your sitemap to Google.
On the top of this page you can clearly see the place where you need to submit your sitemap.
Google already knows your website address but it doesn’t know where to look for your sitemap.
To help Google you just need to copy and paste the details after the ‘.com/’ part.
So let’s go back to look at our sitemap page and see what that is.
In the address bar, you can see that after .com/ we have ‘sitemap_index.xml’. Just copy that and then paste it into the box on Google search console.
Once you complete the details in the box. Then the ‘Submit’ box on the right turns blue and lets you know that you can submit your sitemap.
Once you click on ‘Submit’. You get a message from Google to let you know that you have submitted your sitemap successfully.
You only need to submit your sitemap to Google once. Google will frequently come to view your sitemap without you having to ask.
Yoast automatically updates your sitemap
Yoast will update your sitemap every time you make changes and Google will keep checking your sitemap to see what changes you have made. It is all automatic.
You do not have to do anything after you submit your sitemap the first time.
You can check when Google visits
After you click ‘got it’ to the popup that lets you know that you have submitted your sitemap.
You will go back to this screen.
The second box gives you information about when you submitted your sitemap and when Google came to read it.
You can see from my screenshot above. I submitted my sitemap on the 6/2/2019. Then Google came to read the sitemap on the same day, 6/2/2019.
You can also see that the status of my sitemap is ‘Success’ That means Google found my sitemap and was able to read it.
Google also tells you how many URL’s they found. In my case, Google found 43. That will be all my posts and pages.
How to submit your sitemap to Bing
As with Google search console you need an account.
To sign up for a Bing account you need to go to Bing webmaster homepage.
The homepage looks like this.
If you already have an account you just need to sign in. If you do not have an account then you will need to sign up.
Once you open a new account you will need to verify ownership of your website. If you are unsure how to do that drop me a comment and I will do a post on how to verify your account.
Once you have an account and have verified your site. Your Bing dashboard will look like this.
Once here you can see the sitemap section half way down the page. To the right, you can see ‘SUBMIT A SITEMAP’ option. Click on that. Then a box will open for you to enter your sitemap address.
When I showed you how to submit your sitemap to Google, they only wanted the last part of the sitemap address. With Bing, they want the whole address.
Once you have the whole address in the box then click ‘SUBMIT’.
Once you have submitted your sitemap the status will show pending. This means that Bing has accepted your sitemap but has not read it yet.
Once Bing comes to read your sitemap pending will change to success and you will see the date of the ‘crawl’.
Frequently asked questions
How can I add a sitemap?
Adding a sitemap to Google or Bing is very easy.
If you use the Yoast WordPress plugin as I talk about in my post. Then all you have to do is go to Google and Bing and let them know the address of your sitemap.
Once you have have submitted you sitemap. You do not have to do it again. Google and Bing will sent a bot to scan your sitemap frequently.
Yoast will generate a sitemap for you and will also update the sitemap every time you change or create new content.
Follow my beginners step by step guide above to create and submit your sitemap.
How can I view my sitemap?
In the Yoast plugin you have an option to view your current sitemap.
From your WordPress admin menu on the left. You hover your mouse over ‘SEO’ and select ‘General’.
Once the ‘General’ page has opened. You will see three tabs Dashboard, Features, and Webmaster tools.
Select the features tab. Once you select features. You will get a list. On this list you will find XML sitemaps. To the right of this is a question mark. Click on the question mark.
Once you click on the question mark you will then see an option to view your sitemap. Click on this link and your sitemap will open in a new tab.
How do you update a sitemap?
If you use the Yoast plugin there is no need for you to update your sitemap. Yoast will update it for you.
Every time you create new content or update current content. Yoast will update you sitemap for you.
Then when Google and Bing come to scan your sitemap they have the latest information about your site.
Do I need to submit a sitemap to Google?
I always submit a sitemap to Google and Bing.
If Google and Bing both have options in their consoles for website owners to submit their sitemaps then they think it is important, right?
If i isn’t important to submit a sitemap then why do they have this option?
Submitting a sitemap takes seconds to do. It isn’t hard work.
What is a sitemap XML?
A sitemap XML is a sitemap file. It is a file that lists all of a websites important posts and pages.
This is important for SEO because it lets Google and Bing know what is on the website and where to find it.
If Google and Bing can understand what the site is about then the quicker they can decide what searches will be best suited for that sites posts.
Here is an excellent post from Yoast. They explain what an XML site map is and why you should have one.
Here is a great video from Neil Patel. He explains why Yoast is a great plugin for your site. He also talks about sitemaps and how to create eye catching titles for your blog posts.
Submitting your sitemap to Google and Bing is important. The sitemaps give them a clear understanding of how your site looks and its content.
You do not have to worry about Yahoo because Yahoo uses Bing.
If you only want to submit your sitemap to one search engine then make sure it is Google. They are the monster of search engines.
Once you submit your sitemaps to Google and Bing you only need to do it once. After submitting for the first time, both Google and Bing will come to your site often to read your sitemap to look for any changes.
Having webmaster accounts with Google and Bing help you monitor problems with your site. If Google or Bing have a problem they will show an alert in your webmaster console dashboard.
I have had messages from Google in relation to being unable to crawl posts on my site. I have also had issues with images not being mobile friendly.
These error messages give you a chance to fix things that will stop your site showing in search results.
I make a point of checking my Google and Bing dashboards daily for any error messages.
Don’t forget to keep your menu organized. If you would like a little help on setting up your menu in WordPress. Check out my post, ‘how to set up menus in WordPress‘.
Do you submit your sitemap to Google and Bing?
How do you submit your sitemap?
I hope you found my step by step guide useful. If you did let me know in the comments. IF you found it hard to follow let me know so that I can revise my post to make it better.
I look forward to reading your comments.