XML sitemaps are one of the crucial pieces of information that search engines rely on to read your URLs accurately.
The most significant advantage comes to fruition when your URLs aren’t linked throughout your website. In such scenarios, you can have more of an assurance that your URLs will be indexed.
Having that stated, outside of the core principle of indexation, XML sitemaps are a favorite tool of any SEO, mainly because of the following two benefits:
- Search engines can read them very quickly.
- You can bulk upload URLs. Literally, in one XML sitemap, Google can support up to 50,000 URLs, and or a maximum of 50 MB uncompressed file. Chances are, those 50k URLs will be read within seconds. And yes, you can have more than one XML sitemap.
For this post, we’re primarily going to learn how to create and submit XML sitemaps to Google via Yoast (if you’re using WordPress), and how to do so manually as well, if not using Yoast, or WordPress, for that matter.
If you might not have guessed already, I am using Yoast. In fact, I absolutely love it!
And before we discuss why Yoast is incredible for XML sitemaps (amongst many other features), let’s first understand what the two standard methods of sitemap generation are. Not to be confused with sitemap formats or types.
Method 1: Static XML Sitemaps
As the name suggests, these XML sitemaps are a bunch of URLs manually compiled into one file. A typical example of such an occurrence is when someone crawls a website, gathers however many URLs they need, makes an XML sitemap out of it, and eventually uploads and submits to search engines.
Method 2: Dynamic XML Sitemaps
These sitemaps are dynamically updated on-the-fly, every-time a new post/page, etc., is created (depending on the settings, or the programming). All you have to do is submit the XML sitemap URL once to search engines, and everything else will be automated.
Let’s talk about a real example. For this site, I have the following 5 XML sitemaps:
- https://feedthecuriosity.com/sitemap_index.xml, an index sitemap essentially functions as a host to all other XML sitemaps. The index sitemap will not have the URLs of your website, but rather, will consist of the URLs of your sitemaps. Feel free to navigate there, so that you can get an idea.
The URLs seem pretty self-explanatory. All I had to do was submit all 5 to Google once, and then the rest is taken care of on its own. For instance, when I publish this blog post, it will automatically be added to my number 2 sitemap above. This, in turn, will get synced to the main index sitemap (number 1).
How to Create and Submit a Sitemap With Yoast?
Mostly everyone knows about Yoast. To create and upload XML sitemaps with Yoast, follow the steps below:
Install the Yoast SEO plugin. For this intent and purposes, both free and premium version would suffice.
Honestly, that’s it. Simply by installing the plugin, Yoast starts doing its magic. Plus, if you aren’t aware of where to find your XML sitemaps, Go to SEO > General > XML sitemaps. Hit the question mark symbol, and the view will expand to show you where it’s at. See the screenshot below for reference.
Head over to your Google Search Console account, navigate to “sitemaps,” and at the top for “Add a new sitemap,” plug-in your last path of the URL, and hit Submit. Screenshot below.
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How to Create and Submit XML Sitemaps Manually
The submitting process here is actually the exact same. You’ll eventually end up submitting the last path of your URL in Google Search Console.
Let’s learn how to create it. I prefer to use Screaming Frog. Super respected SEO crawler out there! The ability to generate an XML sitemap is available in both the Free and Paid Version. However, in the former, I believe there is a limit of 500 URLs.
In any case, there are two common approaches you can take with Screaming Frog.
Approach 1: Spider Crawling
In this tool, you can either have its spider crawl your website (most typically from the homepage), and then once it’s finished, you can take account of those URLs, and create the XML sitemap. Keep in mind about the 50k and or the 50 MB size limit. I’ve never faced this situation with Screaming Frog yet, so not aware if there is some sort of an automatic setting for it. But even if there isn’t, you can always work with a set of 50K URLs at once. Either way, point being, even for large websites, this tool is more than capable of doing the job!
Anyhow, as you can see from the screenshot above, begin crawling your website. Once done, hit the “Sitemaps” menu, and then click on XML Sitemap. You’ll see a window pop-up where you can customize your options, and can even include images. Personally, I’ve stopped including the priority, and, change frequency within the sitemaps. Even Google has openly stated that both these attributes don’t matter much.
Approach 2: Uploading URLs
If you can scroll back up just a little to Approach 1, you’ll see that for the Mode menu, there was also an option for “List.” The difference here is that instead of having the spider crawl your website, you can upload the URLs you want.
Afterward, repeat the same process of saving your XML sitemap file, and submitting it to Google.