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When Was the Last Time You Talked to Google?

So you’re not sure if your site is really getting indexed like it ought to. You’ve got a couple of options here. You can:

  1. Hope for the best :)
  2. Do something about it!

Experience has taught me that relying on hope to generate results is about as effective as trying to get in shape without lifting a finger.

And since we don’t have a magic pill here, I think it’s best that we try something we know will help our site get indexed by our friends at Google, Yahoo!, and Bing.

Today, you’re going to strike up an ongoing conversation with the search engines by adding an XML sitemap to your soon-to-be-awesome Web site.

How do you generate an XML Sitemap?

Unless you have some experience writing XML, then generating a sitemap to spec would prove to be a real challenge. And even if you were able to pull this off, you’d still have to figure out a way to automate sitemap updates.

Drag.

As if there weren’t already enough reasons to switch to WordPress, then hopefully you’ll find this one compelling enough to get over that hurdle.

There are WordPress plugins for damn near everything, and if you’re talking about standardized Web site features (such as a sitemap), then I can pretty much guarantee that there’s a plugin out there to solve your problem.

That said, it should come as no surprise that there is an extremely handy plugin available that takes care of our XML sitemap issue. It’s called the Google Sitemap Generator, and you’ll want to download the latest version.

Implementing the Google Sitemap Plugin for WordPress

I’m going to take a leap of faith here and assume you’re familiar with the process of installing and activating WordPress plugins, but if you need help with those details, please check out WordPress hacks 2–5 to see how that process generally works.

Once you’ve activated the plugin, you’re basically good to go. The default settings will work fine for just about every site, but if you’re the type who likes to tinker and tweak every little detail, then the Google Sitemap Plugin options page ought to make you positively giddy.

How the Plugin Works

The Google Sitemap Plugin automagically pings Google, Yahoo!, and MSN Search at regular intervals, notifying them of new content and/or changes to your site. You literally don’t have to do anything in order to make it “work.”

Personally, though, I recommend that you take one extra step and actually link to the sitemap from your home page. For an example, check out the very bottom of this page to see my XML sitemap link.

While I don’t know that there’s any direct benefit from doing so, I link to my XML sitemap for two reasons:

  1. I want to showcase the fact that I support this standardized format.
  2. As a reference point (albeit a small one) for this industry, I want to make public all of the “best practices” that I employ so that I may help others do the same.

And I guess ultimately, I do want you to know that I’m talking to Google on a regular basis. Maybe one day we’ll do lunch.

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82 comments… read them below or add one

zoltandragon December 5, 2006

Chris, I noticed a couple of days ago that you put this xml sitemap into your footer, but the xhtml did not seem to work – I see it does now. Will you also talk about how you generate that? The xml is really easy with this plugin, I think it’s simply great. And thanx for the first “tutorial”!

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awesome anbu December 30, 2011

Hi there,

Just wondering if someone can explain how to set up a sitemap.

step by step please have vb 4.02.

When the sitemap is set up how do users access it?

kind regards and thanks,

Kozzie – Caroline

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hiren March 9, 2014

Very nice information google is number 1 search engine. also nice tutorial for xml site map thanks for sharing.

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Alex December 5, 2006

Google Sitemaps are indeed an essential tool for bloggers. However, I fail to see the necessity (or even the potential benefit) of linking to your XML sitemap. The XML is meant for Google to read, and most readers probably aren’t interested in parsing it by eye.

I can’t imagine the typical internet user finding anything but confusion with an XML link. I agree that meeting standards should be noted and credited- but having valid XHTML and CSS is a little different from installing a sitemap plugin.

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Steve December 5, 2006

Great Post Chris,

I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing some of the great plug-ins your currently using for Wordpress. I’m just starting to get my own blog put together and see the value in some great addons.

Thanks,

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Katy October 29, 2012

I am new to website building and am approaching this with the “teach myself” attitude. Your posts are awesome, and I am interested, as well, in what plug ins you utilize, and for what reasons. You may have a post about that, but I am very curious!

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Chris P. December 5, 2006

Zoltan — That’s the next post :)

Alex — As I indicated in the post, I don’t see any real benefit to including that link on the home page. Like I said, though, I just want to put it there so people will see that I am abiding by what I consider to be best practices for SEO.

Steve — A colophon for this site is in the works, and it will include a list of the plugins I use and the purpose that each one serves. When I finally finish it, I’ll cover it in an aside.

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Mike December 6, 2006

Chris,

Very informative post and easy to implement. Also, are meta tags important for SEO. Some say no but put them in anyway. Whats your take?

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Chris P. December 6, 2006

Mike,

Without question, meta tags seem to be falling out of favor, at least in a lot of SEO conversations that I’ve witnessed over the past few months.

Despite that, however, I still think it is a good idea to generate dynamic meta tags on each page if possible. I definitely think that Google is assigning less and less importance to this aspect of Web sites, but since it’s still out there, you may as well take advantage of it.

I’m all about gaining as much leverage as possible, ya know?

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Sharon December 6, 2006

I’ve noticed your not doing any google ads on your newest articles. Why?

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Mark Forrester December 6, 2006

Very helpful article Chris. I’ve been looking for a sitemap generator for a while, knowing I now have one that has been tried and tested makes me feel much more confident about it.

Lets hope Google likes my site.

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Andy December 6, 2006

MSN and Yahoo announced they were going to jump on the sitemap bandwagon.

I guess that means my parents will actually be able to find my site now :)

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Chris P. December 6, 2006

Sharon,

I’ve got about a month of ad placement testing under my belt now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is only one location where ads are ever going to be effective on this site. Where, you ask?

Flush left in the post copy, directly underneath the title, and the text of the article must wrap around the ads. Furthermore, I’ve achieved the highest CTR by using the medium rectangle, which “weighs” in at 300 x 250 px.

That said, I am using the SEO for Everybody image to brand this series of posts, and the image really cannot occupy its current position if I place the ads where they’ll be most effective.

I haven’t bothered with an alternative yet, but I may tinker with that today. On one hand, I hate to leave money on the table. On the other hand, though, I hate to mess with the overall presentational qualities of my posts. I’m sure there’s a happy medium in there somewhere; I just have to find it :)

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David Airey December 8, 2006

Hi Chris.

I have a question. My blog is a directory of my portoflio site. So, if I place the sitemap in the directory will it also include the original portfolio pages?

My portfolio is http://www.davidairey.com whereas my blog is http://www.davidairey.com/blog (where the wordpress sitemap is added).

Many thanks.

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David Airey December 8, 2006

Ah, excuse me, I just checked the plugin options in wordpress and that has helped.

I’ll leave the sitemap in the /blog directory and add the few pages ‘above’ it that form my portfolio.

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Chris P. December 8, 2006

David,

You’re on the right track. The XHTML Sitemap for WordPress is only capable of picking up pages (and posts) that have been created within the WordPress architecture.

Anything else would have to be hard-coded into the sitemap.php file.

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David Airey December 8, 2006

Ah ok, I notice that the XML sitemap has the ability to pick up pages ‘above’ the homepage directory however, by simply ‘adding a new page’ in the wordpress plugin options.

Here’s a question for you Chris. I wonder if you’ve come across it:

Is there an ideal relationship between a particular ‘change frequency’ for sitemaps and the ‘sitemap priority’?

For instance, say I set a page on the sitemap to change monthly, is there an optimum priority setting?

If so, I think it could be useful to publish a table along the lines of:

Frequency = daily / priority = 1.0
Frequency = yearly / priority = 0.1

To be honest I was guessing when I filled that one in.

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Chris P. December 8, 2006

David,

I really have no idea about that. When I first added the sitemap here, I briefly looked into those options. Ultimately, I decided that it wasn’t going to make a whole heck of a lot of difference to Google either way.

Google offers Webmaster tools that allow you to check how often your site is being indexed. I’m currently watching this, and I’ll be writing a post about it in the not-too-distant future.

Potentially, there may be some correlation between your sitemap settings and how often your site gets crawled, but we’ll have to wait and see.

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Alpesh December 11, 2006

Hi Guys!
I am trying to use this. My host is same – MidPhase. And I cannot use this plugin!
Gives me the following error

# December 11, 2006 9:03 pm: Could not write into /home/eashnak8/public_html/alpesh/blog/sitemap.xml.gz: fopen(/home/eashnak8/public_html/alpesh/blog/sitemap.xml.gz) [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: Permission denied

# December 11, 2006 9:03 pm: Could not write into /home/eashnak8/public_html/alpesh/blog/sitemap.xml: fopen(/home/eashnak8/public_html/alpesh/blog/sitemap.xml) [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: Permission denied

What am I missing here?
Cheers!

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Chris P. December 11, 2006

Alpesh,

It looks as though you need to change the permissions on your /blog to allow it to be writeable by the server.

If you’re familiar with that process, you can do it yourself. It’s fairly simple, and there should be lots of tutorials online that explain how it’s done.

Otherwise, you can call MidPhase, and I’m sure one of their techs will be happy to help you out.

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Pathos December 20, 2006

Chris,

One thing I missed in your post is that you have to tell Google and Yahoo that you have a sitemap.xml ready for them…

For Google you can do this by logging with your Gmail account name into webmastercentral and then webmaster tools (find it via Google’s About).
For Yahoo you have to login and use there Site Explorer.
Microsoft is still eveluating how do wil do this.

But it is not picked up if you just publish it…
http://blog.design-cars.com/sitemapxml-standard-like-robotstxt-for-google-live-and-yahoo-and-others/

As for the Metatags, there is a plugin as well
http://wordpress.uberdose.com/wordpress/another-wordpress-meta-plugin.html

I always fill the description tag, and up to five keywords I used in the post content for the keywords tag….

There are more search engines then Google and the use the Metatag descriptions, as sometimes Google does as well.

P.s. There is more information te be gathered from Webmaster tools.
Maybe I will write a post on that on blog.design-cars.com.

Hope this helps on your SEO as well

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HART (1-800-HART) December 21, 2006

Hi Chris .. I’ve finally had time to add the google sitemap plugin to my sites without a sitemap .. and one of them is kicking up tons of errors..
Paths don’t match .. Do you know offhand of an easy way around this? It’s on the site linked above.

t.i.a.

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Pathos December 21, 2006

Hello Hart :-)

If you check in to Webmaster central and then pick your site with the problem.

In the diagnostics tab there is a tools section with the item “preferred domain” you could tell Google how to handle the www. extensions. In you case this shoul be the upper choice.

My favorite solution is to ask you provider (or do it yourself from your control panel) to set a redirect the http://hart-network.com/ to http://www.hart-network.com/

Most people use the www. before the domain name.
And if the don’t, Some browsers will place it before the domain name automaticly.

Hope this helps to solve your problem.

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Chris P. December 21, 2006

Hart,

Have you checked out the discussion on the sitemap plugin site, or perhaps tried Googling “WordPress sitemap plugin?”

I’m not really sure why you would be experiencing that particular problem, but hopefully someone else has fought the same battle and figured out an answer!

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HART (1-800-HART) December 21, 2006

That was my next step, although .. I figure it wouldn’t hurt to ask :) just in case there was an easy solution. // thanks!

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HART (1-800-HART) December 21, 2006

Pathos .. that was quite a few helpful tips! But, why do you think it’s better to include the www?

I believe I know where to set the redirect in my cPanel of all my accounts .. I was of the thought that NO www would be the way to go .. although, I see in the URL here at pearsonified that www is included.. and will lean towards that for google purposes. Thanks.

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Pathos December 21, 2006

To Hart,

Glad I could help.

the www is used because vistitors are mostly “trained” that way… :-)

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Glenn Nicholas December 23, 2006

Chris,
I’ve been using this plugin on 2.0.5, but have noticed it doesn’t produce correct links for child pages.
In other words, create a page with a parent, then run the sitemap, and the child page appears with the incorrect link. This causes Google to report it wrongly as well.
Is this just my setup? Or do you see problems with child pages as well?

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Chris P. December 23, 2006

Glenn,

I’ve never created (or tested) child pages, so I can’t answer that reliably!

Despite that, I’d venture to say that the plugin probably doesn’t handle child pages properly, as I can see that being a test condition that is rarely encountered (or accounted for, if you will).

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Glenn Nicholas December 23, 2006

Chris, I’ve tested and also reviewed the code – its clear parent pages were reported incorrectly.

I’ve posted a patch for this error (tested on WP2.0.5) on our blog.

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Pathos December 23, 2006

Hello Glenn,

I did some testing on this mather, and I have no problems.
Sitemap.xml and parent and child pages, all fine by Google.

But then I run the stable version 2.7.1. of the plugin, and you are running version 3.0b4.

Now the b in this number stands for Beta….

I myself, am always more happier running the stable version for my live websites.

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Glenn Nicholas December 23, 2006

That is a good point. I’m testing on WP 2.0.5 and using the 3.0b4 version and noticing the error. The 2.71 version uses a different approach to getting the URI, and gets the right result for child pages using WP2. I’ll update my post accordingly.

V2.71 was last changed in July 05 in the plugin change history, The beta version is a continuation of 2.7, and has updates all through 2006. This includes excluding future posts, excluding password protected posts and performance/memory fixes (possibly getting the post name via the select – a key difference between 2.71 and the beta – was part of the performance improvement).

Google moved the goalposts on ‘beta’. A while ago I would be 100% with you on not running beta for live sites, but these days avoiding beta software altogether would mean missing out on some good software.

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Trevin Chow February 6, 2007

I tried 3.0b6 of the plugin but the sitemap is produces is not valid. When the sitemap is submitted to Google, it gives the following error: “Unsupported file format
Your Sitemap does not appear to be in a supported format. Please ensure it meets our Sitemap guidelines and resubmit”.

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Martin July 19, 2007

Chris, hi,

I’m pretty new to all this, so please excuse these 2 newbie questions…!

1) Is there any security benefit to putting a writeable sitemap.xml file and a sitemap.xml.gz file into the /blog directory rather than making the whole directory writeable?

2) I was confused by an earlier post that said you had to notify Google and Yahoo if you place the sitemap files, as it seems to contradict the documentation on the plugin which says that Google and Y are pinged automatically. Can you confirm whether or not I need to notify them if I place these files..?

Many thanks!

Martin.

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Pathos July 19, 2007

@Martin

yes, the security should only be on those files, otherwise some Bad,bad guys could take over your blog by using indirect rewrites off for example your index.php…

As for the Notification of Google and Yahoo, you can do this by login in the Google webmaster tools and Yahoo explorer.

Its easier to tell them, so you can track if every thing works out fine.

Otherwise look at http://blog.design-cars.com/sitemapxml-and-autodiscovery-by-google-ask-yahoo-and-live-via-robotstxt/ for an explanation of the autodiscovery of sitemap.xml

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Martin July 19, 2007

Pathos, thanks!

Again – please excuse my dumb questions but this is my first time doing this…

My blog is in a sub-directory (wealthydragon.com/blog) but there is no robots.txt file there. Am I correct to assume that there is only 1 robots.txt file in a site – i.e. in wealthydragon.com there will be only 1 robots.txt file..?

If so, I guess this will be in my root directory and therefore I need to add the full url of my blog’s sitemap.xml file into the robots.txt file in my root directory… Is that correct..?

Again – apologies for my dumb questions and many thanks for your patience and help!

Martin.

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Pathos July 19, 2007

@Martin

You can create or copy (and edit) the one from your main site into your Blog directory without any problems, the Searchbots will find them.

You can have different xml files for each of the sites.

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Richard Schulz December 18, 2007

Terrific,
Simple to install, easy to configure
My WP is in the main directory so I made the 2 files necessary and gave them write permission and everyhing worked fine,

Thanks

Richard Schulz
“Americas Most Opinionated Man” :)

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Roy December 27, 2007

Google’s Webmasters Tools are an essential part of any webmasters arsenal, yet trying to literally talk to them is nigh on impossible.
After a mishap with some advertising accounts, trying to rectify the problem with contacting them took 6 days!

There are no phone numbers for Google’s Adwords

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Capello February 28, 2008

Criss i always talk to google praying for a higher pagerank on our free site Barca4ever.mysites.nl
Maybe its simple for all the people here but for us
using a low budget and no seo experience a disaster!
Can you help us or its better to praying
harder to Google for a better pagerank?

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Dave April 3, 2008

Found this post from a link on the new thesis theme. Can’t believe I missed it earlier. I’ll be installing that plug in soon.

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teresa July 29, 2008

Hi I was wondering if you could look at my site and give me any tips on how to improve google search etc, anything would be greatly appreciated, google comes by once a day but I am still unable to find my vintage clothing, the linens are in a nice position. Teresa

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Chris August 22, 2008

teresa,

Honestly, I think you would be better off using the Thesis theme for your site that Chris has, and just simply set your homepage up as a static page, and have a page for your blog. His theme will give your site a much better appearance, and allow you to enjoy the SEO benefits of using Wordpress.

But that’s just my opinion. Take it for what you will.

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Filmari Nunti March 4, 2009

I used for my site an xml sitemap generator online. It works very fine it seems. One time I had a broken link and the generator showed to me that broken link. I write down the link, maybe someone will need it.

http://www.xml-sitemaps.com

Regards.

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Mike March 11, 2009

I really like the Sitemap generator and its going to go well with Wordpress, SEO-all-in-one-pack and Google’s Webmasters Tools.

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rich March 18, 2009

when was the last time google ever responded?!

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Vito Botta April 27, 2009

Hi Chris,
I was looking to customise a brand new Thesis-based blog with the hooks etc, and then found this site through the guide – am now hooked myself to it!
Excellent blog, beautiful design and extremely helpful content. Thanks!
A little question about this plugin, provided that its main purpose is to help improve SEO. A few days ago I installed it on the blog I am customising, but if I remember rightly the XML sitemap it generates doesn’t reflect the permalink structure (/blog/yyyy/mm/dd/title) I have chosen, and instead outputs the basic URLs with query string.
As long as the HTML of a page contains the canonical URL in the format I want, is this enough to make sure the ranking won’t be compromising using a sitemaps with URLs that differ from the ones I use on the blog?

Many thanks in advance, and again many thanks for this amazing blog!

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Vito Botta April 27, 2009

(I meant: “[...]won’t be compromised[...]“)

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Gurcell May 13, 2009

Alexa ranking for the top works. Already one is important .. Google pagerank of the site indicates charisma really does not matter much.

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Glen May 14, 2009

Another tips is to have a robots.txt file and Google and other search engines check this first before crawling your site.

If you want to check loads of ranking details about your site, check out this Pagerank Checker, it’s fantastic.

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Zach May 15, 2009

I’m using your PressRow theme for my site. I’d suggest coding it to pull the “Tagline” into a meta description as it was originally intended. I’ve been doing SEO for years and understand how meta tags have become devalued but it would be nice to have a little more control over the description shown in search via the description meta tag.

And thanks Glen for the Pagerank checker link – that is better than many others I have seen.

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Herbert-Jan van Dinther May 15, 2009

@Zach, WordPress.com where you blog resides has fewer options then when you would host your own WordPress installation.

I the later case you could use a great plugin like Headspace2 or Platinum SEO which give you even better options to do Search Engine Optimization, you as an SEO person should know that :-)

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steven vargas August 11, 2009

Excellent advice. Starting out learning SEO this is another step in my learning curve…

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canon-5d-photographer December 10, 2009

Thanks for posting this article. I am crossing my fingers that a sitemap will increase my ranking on the web.

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Rob McCance December 26, 2009

I’m using this plugin on my killer 6-page (so far) WP site and it works well.

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creativegirl February 17, 2010

hey Chris,

I am using Thesis and did create an xml Sitemap for my site. However, I would like to create a static page on my site that would be used as kind of a Site Directory. I used to have one when I used the Neoclassical theme that showed a list of links to every site page and then showed a listing of links to all the site categories. Since I have so much stuff buried in my site, i think its good to provide a quick reference for people to find posts by topic without cluttering the sidebar of every page. How would I create a Site Directory using Thesis that appears on a page of my site. Can you point me in the right direction?

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Howard February 27, 2010

Hi Chris,

I was hoping you could help me with a problem I am having with my sitemap. I am using the Google XML sitemap plugin which I use on all my Thesis sites but this time I am getting the following message when I open my sitemap:

This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.

I would appreciate any help you could offer.

Thank you!
Howard

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Chris Pearson February 27, 2010

Howard, XML files do not have style data associated with them, so that’s to be expected. As long as your file looks similar to mine, you should be good to go.

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Kurzurlaub April 1, 2010

The Google XML Sitemap is genius XML File, but you have also to register at Webmastertools and register der Sitemap at webmastertool

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Pakbits April 19, 2010

Once question, I am using Google site map generator, but after some time (after a month) I have to rebuild that Sitemap. This is because of any issue with plugin?

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Chris Pearson April 19, 2010

Pakbits, it’s probably your server configuration. Your PHP memory_limit likely needs to be raised to a larger value, and this should allow the script to rebuild itself automatically. If you continue to have problems, please direct your questions to the plugin author himself.

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Michael Pedzotti May 21, 2010

GSM is probably the first plugin I would install when I set up a new blog. Followed closely by the comment subscriber.

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Jack May 31, 2010

I noticed the XML sitemaps won’t help you always. It matter how old and if you have enough PR juice to index every page of your blog, not to mention the need for a good internal linking.

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Ron July 28, 2010

I am using google sitemap generator plugin. Beside using that, will an html sitemap help my site’s seo?

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Chris Pearson July 28, 2010

Ron, I no longer recommend using an HTML sitemap. My research suggests that optimized title tags, semantic HTML markup, and minimizing WordPress page bloat have a far greater impact on your site’s SEO.

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Ron July 28, 2010

Great to hear from you Chris. Thanks for the answer.

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Gavin August 6, 2010

I can confirm from my testing also that using XML sitemaps increases the speed and frequency with which your sites pages are indexed.

Google allocates ‘crawl budget’ towards a site, and if your links are buried too deep, or as Chris says, there is too much code bloat, your Googlebot bandwidth allocation is wasted on redundant information and not used to spider your site fully.

XML site maps, particularly when submitted through Google Webmaster Tools have the best effect for maximal, rapid indexing.

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Torrfriend August 6, 2010

how to create sitemap for static web pages created using dream weaver..?

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faridgem September 12, 2010

I think it is very clear fact now why word press is better than blogger. however i still in blogger and if i want to build a xml sitemap for my site what should i do first?

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jerel barnes December 23, 2010

Hey Chris,
Love thesis first and foremost. Every time I update my site I get an error code in my sitemap. Do you know the cause of this

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Chris Pearson December 25, 2010

Jerel, the Google Sitemap plugin often triggers a memory shortage when compiling your sitemap (which it tries to do every time you post). To combat this, you can try raising the PHP script memory limit on your server to something like 24 or 32MB.

Typically, you’ll raise the script limit within your server’s php.ini file. If you’re not sure how to edit this file, you should contact your Web host—they’ll know precisely what you need to do and should be able to help.

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adrian January 5, 2011

Hi,

There is a link in one of your comments to check your website ranking and tried it out and my site has an embarrassing 0 (zero) ranking. Can anyone tell me how I can get my page to rank at least 6? Your help is greatly appreciated.

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ntaka March 16, 2011

I’m using this plugin in a WP site and it works well.

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Scott June 15, 2011

Hi Chris,

If I have XML sitemaps installed, do I need to use services like pingoat also, or does this plugin alone suffice?

Thanks, love your work.

Scott

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Chris Pearson June 15, 2011

Hi, Scott. Personally, I don’t use any pinging services, and I question how much value they have in a world with XML Sitemaps.

That said, some people still advocate the use of pinging services, so at this point, it’s really just a matter of preference. But like I said, I don’t really see a point anymore :D

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Alex Lee June 15, 2011

XML sitemaps are definitely a good thing to do — at the same time, it’s also a good idea to make sure your site’s internal linking is good as well.

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nick p June 17, 2011

very easy on wordpress blog installed the plugin with seo development and page is ranking better than most removal companys im up against

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boogeyy August 11, 2011

Thanks. Installed and ready!

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Marvin Sykes August 28, 2011

Great info. I will be adding this info to my blog ASAP. Thanks for sharing.

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Sean Davis September 28, 2011

Thanks for this!

I usually run vBulletin forums and I use vBSEO to handle things like this. I just recently starting blogging (and taking it seriously) so I was looking for something automated like this.

I went ahead and threw my sitemap link in the footer. Thanks for the great advice!

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Ahmad Awais February 17, 2012

A great article indeed , i corrected my sitemap reading this

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Cameron Bell April 17, 2013

This is what I’m looking for, I have two websites and wondering if any method to get my sites indexed. But now have no issues as my site doing a great job. Thanks for information!

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