When you have a website, the most important thing is that your content reaches your audience. It is key for this to get search engines to index your content as soon as it is published. To accelerate this work we have the XML sitemaps.

What Are XML Sitemaps?

An XML sitemap is nothing more than an XML file that lists all the URLs of your web page. It is aimed at helping search engines to find them easily and quickly.

Web crawlers usually discover pages from links within the site and from other sites. Sitemaps supplement this data to allow crawlers to pick up all URLs in the Sitemap and learn about those URLs

If you want to take a look at an XML sitemap, you can inspect the one we have on our website here. BTW, if you’re an expert in this subject and you see something that we do wrong about it, please leave us a comment below or the karma will chase you 🙂

XML Sitemaps in WordPress

You can create the XML file of the sitemap and upload it to your server via FTP or generate it automatically. If you are in WordPress, there are several plugins that allow you to generate the XML sitemap for your website in a simple way. We use Yoast SEO for this task, but there are others.

Many times we hear experts say that WordPress is one of the best content management systems when it comes to SEO. But one of the features it does not provide is, precisely, the generation of an XML sitemap by default. You have to rely on plugins for this purpose, which is not a big deal, but it’s not ideal either.

Fortunately, this seems to change in the future thanks to the new project in which Google, Yoast, and other contributors are starting to work. It’s about bringing the generation of XML sitemaps to the WordPress core. And you can read the initial proposal they have made here.

The Project Proposal for the Inclusion of XML Sitemaps in WordPress Core

According to Thierry Muller, the fact that WordPress core does not generate XML Sitemaps by default affects a high number of WordPress websites search engine discoverability. Also, 4 out of the top 15 plugins on the WordPress plugin repository currently ship with their own implementation of XML sitemaps, which is an indicator that this is something that is needed in the core.

The purpose of the proposal is to include the following sitemap structure in WordPress core:

XML sitemap proposed to be part of the WordPress core in the future.
XML sitemap proposed to be part of the WordPress core in the future.

As you can see, the XML sitemap structure that contributors want to include in WordPress by default contains pages, posts, custom post types, categories and tags, custom taxonomies and users. This is everything that WordPress already provides by default. Note that the robots.txt file that WordPress already exposes will reference the XML sitemap.

In addition, the plan is to develop an API for XML sitemaps in WordPress. That will allow developers to extend the previous functionality. Note that the project does not include any user interface in which to exclude individual elements out of the XML sitemap (such as specific posts or pages that you don’t want to have in the list). But all this can be done through plugins that will use the new XML sitemaps API.

So, if you think that by having XML sitemaps directly in the WordPress core you may stop using a plugin on your site for that purpose, I’m afraid that won’t happen soon. The plugins for XML sitemaps still have a bright future since what will be included in WordPress core is very basic.

As always, the general idea is that what gets into the WordPress core is something simple that is useful to the vast majority of users. If you want to modify certain aspects of that core functionality, that’s where the plugin territory begins.

How to Participate in the Project?

If you think you can contribute to this project to help including XML sitemaps in the WordPress core, my advice is to look at the proposal, leave a comment explaining your opinion about it and follow the conversation on the #core channel in the Slack of Make WordPress.

Maybe you can think that something like that is too complex for you to participate. But I encourage you to try if you have the desire and the time for it. Keep in mind that big companies like Yoast and Google are supporting this. Who knows if participating in this project can end up with you collaborating with any of them. Surely just by following the conversation in Slack you will learn a lot 😉

To Sum Up

XML sitemaps are an essential tool for search engines to find our web content more easily and quickly. If you use WordPress, keep in mind that contributors are working on bringing XML sitemap generation into core soon.

Remember that the project is in a initial stage. If you want to contribute to its realization, now is the right time to do it.

Featured image by Capturing the human heart on Unsplash.

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