Photo courtesy of roger4336
Let’s take another step back from building our website and focus on getting our site discovered. By now, we’ve come a long way towards completing our project. We’ve got a home page, an About page, menu for site navigation, subscription icons, added a color scheme, and maybe we’ve started adding some content. You may have looked at your Google Analytics and noticed that you are getting a few visitors to your website. For the next couple of steps we’ll set up a sitemap and start working on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Both of these topics will address ways to get your site noticed by the search engines, and ultimately by your target audience.
The first thing we’ll work or for SEO purposes is a sitemap. Sitemaps are hidden documents in a special format that tell search engines where all the pages of your website are. Sure, Google engineers are the best at what they do, and will likely find all your content anyway, but why not make their job a little easier? Just like road maps help you find your destination, sitemaps tell search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing) the address of every page on your website. This way, the search engines can quickly find all your pages and add them to their index without having to “crawl” your site, and hope they find all your content.
We’ll use a WordPress Plugin to help with this task. I don’t like to use very many plugins, as they can have negative consequences on your site if poorly written or are poorly supported. However, Google XML Sitemaps (not affiliated with Google) is a popular plugin that seems to be well supported. Things I look for with plugins:
- How many times has it been downloaded?
- When was it last updated?
- Does it support the version of WordPress I’m running?
- How long has it been around?
You may recall when we set up the comment spam plugin, Akismet. This will be a similar process, as all plugin installs work much the same way.
From your WordPress Dashboard, navigate to Plugins menu. Click the “Add New” button.
Enter “google xml sitemaps” in the search box and click the “Search Plugins” button.
When you find the right plugin, click the “Install Now” link. If you aren’t sure this is the plugin you are looking for, you can click the “Details” link to read more about the plugin.
You will get a confirmation pop-up from WordPress. Click “OK”.
After it installs you will get a screen listing some details and confirming that the install worked. Click the “Activate Plugin” link.
The Google XML Sitemaps plugin will show up in your list of plugins. Click the “Settings” link.
You should be OK taking the default settings as installed by the plugin.
Let’s create our first sitemap. Click the “Click here” link at the top of the Settings page.
Unless your site already has lots of content, the sitemap generator should run quickly. You will get a confirmation page with some stats on it. If you click on the “sitemap” link you will see what a sitemap looks like.
Your sitemap will look something like the picture below. It may render differently in different browsers. Don’t worry about it, this isn’t something your site visitors will ever see. It is only used by the big search engines to help with the indexing of your website.