It’s pretty common knowledge that using Site Maps are an important part of getting your website or blog ranked highly in the Search Engines. They help the Search Engines find and index all of your content, they give you an opportunity to create keyword-laden internal links, and they also help your real-world visitors find what they are looking for.

There is some confusion however about the topic – mostly because there are actually two very different types of Site Maps (or Sitemaps) that should be utilized on every website.

The good news for WordPress users is that there are a couple of plugins that make it very easy for you to take advantage of both types of Site Maps. Let’s take a look at both types of Site Maps and how to implement them using WordPress.

Onsite Site Maps

The first type of Site Map is what most people are more familiar with. This Site Map is simply a page on your site that has a link to every other page on your site. This is helpful to search engines as they follow links in order to find all of your content so having all of your content listed in one place makes it easier for them to find all of your pages. This type of Site Map also helps your visitors find the content they are looking for.

XML Sitemaps

Sometimes referred to as ‘Sitemaps’ instead of ‘Site Maps’, this type of Sitemap is similar in that it is a list of all the pages on your site. However, instead of publishing this as a page on your website, you actually submit this type of Sitemap directly to the major search engines. This not only makes damn sure they know of all your pages, but also gives you an opportunity to tell them which pages are most important and how often your pages change.

What’s more, using the Sitemap systems of the major search engines, you also get a ton of information about your site ‘straight from the horse’s mouth’. These systems will let you know if they are having any problems crawling your site, what terms your pages are ranking for, and much, much more. Be sure to check out Google Webmaster Tools, Bing Webmaster Tools, and Yahoo Site Explorer.

WordPress Plugins

As is often the case, WordPress makes it very easy to implement both of these types of Site Maps via a couple relatively simple plugins. Both of these plugins automate much of the process freeing up your time to focus on other areas of your website. For instance, they both update the Site Maps automatically when you add new pages or posts. You just need to set-up the plugins and then the system will handle everything from there!

The plugin I use for my onsite Site Maps is called ‘Dagon Design Sitemap Generator Plus’. This handy plugin gives you a number of options for your Site Map such as whether to show pages or posts or both, how you want them ordered, if there are any pages you don’t want included, and if you want to use a multiple-page Site Map for larger sites.

Once you have installed and configured the plugin, you simply take the ‘shortcode’ they provide, create a new page in your WordPress called ‘Site Map’ and paste the shortcode into the content area. The system will then replace that shortcode with your actual Site Map when visitors click on that page. With this plugin, your Site Map will always be up to date as you add or delete new pages on your site.

For XML Sitemaps I use the ‘Google XML Sitemaps’ plugin, which actually works also with Yahoo, Bing, and Ask.com. This plugin will automatically build the XML Sitemap for your entire site AND publish it directly to the search engines once you set it up. This plugin also offers several settings to customize how the plugin operates based on your particular website and preferences.

There you go, install and set-up these plugins and you will have an automated system to make sure that the search engines and your visitors will be able to find all of your content. Getting your site ranked high in the search engines is a lot of work, but this is one simple step you can take that can certainly strengthen your efforts.

Best of luck!

Philip Light is the founder of WordPress Central Station – a single place to learn WordPress yourself or to have WordPress Professionals help you along. Check out our illustrated Using Site Maps with WordPress guide for step-by-step help setting up the plugins mentioned above.

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