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The Google XML Sitemap plugin will generate a special sitemap which will help search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask.com to better index your blog. Your SEO will be greatly improved if you use sitemaps, in fact, it's one of the first things you should do to get indexed faster.

With such a sitemap, it's much easier for the crawlers to see the complete structure of your site and retrieve it more efficiently. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs. Additionally it notifies all major search engines every time you create a post about the new content.

What are Sitemaps?

If you're unfamiliar with them here's the description from sitemaps.org. If you want detailed information on sitemaps their FAQ section is very helpful.

"Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site."

We'll go through the setup step by step and make a few suggestions that will explain the basic setup options so you'll understand what the basic options will do for you. When you're done, the sitemap will be created and the search engines will be notified.

Step 1: Install the plugin.

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Go to plugins and search for Google XML Sitemap. Click "Install" and activate the plugin. After activation you will find access to it under Settings on the dashboard menu.

Step 2: Create a sitemap.

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Click Click here. The sitemap will be created for you.

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The results screen gives you the details and notifies you if there are any problems.

Step 3: Basic Options

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Sitemap files: You can create either or both types of files. You only need the .gz file. The "sitemap.xml.gz" is a compressed version of the "sitemap.xml" file. It has the same content, but is significantly smaller than the other one. All search engines support compressed sitemaps, you actually don't need the "sitemap.xml" but keeping it won't hurt anything.

Building mode: If you have a lot of posts and lots of activity, automatically rebuilding the sitemaps is going to slow your site down. Small sites get by well with the automation. Clicking the "?" will open a link so you can manually build a new file periodically.

Update Notification: With these checked the search engines will be pinged every time you make a change to your sitemap file. This might slow down the building of the sitemap the first time or when you use the manual method. If it is causing you a problem you'll get a message to disable these during the build.

Advanced Basic Options

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  1. Limit the number of posts -If you have problems with the maximum execution time or memory limit you can limit the number of posts which will be included in the sitemap. Newer posts are included first so your sitemap will stay up-to-date.
  2. Increase the memory limit - Building the sitemap needs a lot of memory. If the memory size is limited via configuration and the script can't finish the sitemap, you can try to increase this limit by entering a higher value. The values are in megabytes so you can start with "2M" for smaller sites and raise the number until it works. However, it could be that you don't have the permission to change this value so if it still doesn't work and you already tried a very high value like 16M, you will need to contact your webhost and ask him to raise it for you.
  3. Increase the maximum execution time - Like the memory, the maximum execution time can also be limited. If the script doesn't finish, try to set the time limit to "0" which means unlimited or a high value like "30" seconds.
  4. Include a XSLT stylesheet -The plugin ships a default XSLT stylesheet which makes your XML sitemap human readable. You can specify you own by entering a full or relative URL. Please note that the XSLT stylesheet must be on the same server for security reasons.
  5. Enable MySQL standard mode - Per default, the plugin uses a separate MySQL connection to query the post data in a very effective, memory-saving way. If this doesn't work on your hosting configuration you can enable the MySQL Standard mode which uses much more memory but should always work.
  6. Build the sitemap in a background process - If your blog contains a large number of posts you may experience a delay after editing or saving a new post or page since it needs some time to generate the sitemap. If you activate this option, your sitemap will be built in background using wp-cron which will avoid the delay. Your sitemap will be generated a few seconds after you've hit the save button so the sitemap status at the administration panel won't show the changes immediately.
  7. Exclude posts or pages - Here you can enter the IDs of posts or pages which will not be included in your sitemap. You can see the IDs of the post or pages in the corresponding management pages. Separate multiple IDs by comma.

This guide should help you get your first sitemap installed and working on your WordPress site. Here are some references that will help you learn about sitemaps. These are very important to SEO, it's worth the time to learn how to to get the most out of them.

If you want to know more about sitemaps: