Devs from Google and from Yoast have collaborated on a new project proposal that will automatically generate XML WordPress Sitemaps by default. The proposal for the integration of XML Sitemaps to the WordPress Core has been gaining mixed reactions across the SEO community and I have been observing each one of them.
Now, here’s my take on this new feature proposal. Since most of my clients use WordPress, it would be a beneficial move to stay in the loop of things and I think you should be updated as well. Here’s what you need to know about the XML Sitemap WordPress Core Feature proposal.
What are Sitemaps?
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s backtrack and have a brief section about sitemaps. A sitemap pertains to the list of web pages that are accessible to users. Your sitemap can help you filter out the good quality pages and separate them from the pages that are not worthy of indexation. Webmasters can use the sitemap to ping Google and tell them that the pages included in this list are more important than the others. Sitemaps are also very valuable in maintaining relevance to your site because this can tell the search engines how frequently you update your website.
You can see your sitemap index by putting /sitemap.xml together with your homepage URL:
There is a common misconception that just because you have a sitemap, it automatically qualifies you as a success for a ranking factor. Google does not give out favors to those who have sitemaps just because they are diligent enough to create one and submit it to the search engine. It does not affect the search rankings. However, the search engines can easily find the most important content in your site because it can allow the system to better crawl your website.
The integration of XML Sitemaps to WordPress Core as a feature project
WordPress has long established itself as a great foundation for SEO because of its handy features. For one, you can customize metadata pretty easily with this site. Now, with the proposal to integrate sitemaps into its core system, this would further highlight the platform for SEO efforts.
Sitemaps greatly supplement crawling because it can improve site discoverability and accessibility. Search engines would have a better idea of what URLs are relevant to your site and what their purpose is thanks to the associated metadata.
WordPress does not generate XML sitemaps by default, which is why a team of developers from Google and Yoast proposes that the WordPress Core include their own implementation of XML sitemaps. According to them and those who echo an affirmation of this initiative, there is a universal“ need for this feature and a great potential to join forces.”
Google and WordPress came up with the proposed solution of integrating basic XML sitemaps in WordPress Core through the introduction of an XML Sitemaps API to automatically enable sitemaps by default.
The enablement of the XML sitemaps by default will make the following content types indexable:
- Posts Page
- Core Post Types (Pages and Posts)
- Core Taxonomies (Tags and Categories)
- Custom Post Types
- Custom Taxonomies
- Users (Authors)
You can further digest this information clearly through this diagram from wordpress.org:
It is also important to note that the robots.txt file tagged to the WordPress will reference the sitemap index. The Sitemaps API aims to further extend its use and according to the developers, these are the list of ways that the XML Sitemaps can be maximized via the proposed API:
- Add extra sitemaps and sitemap entries
- Add extra attributes to sitemap entries
- Provide a custom XML Stylesheet
- Exclude specific post types from the sitemap
- Exclude a specific post from the sitemap
- Exclude a specific taxonomy from the sitemap
- Exclude a specific term from the sitemap
- Exclude a specific author from the sitemap
- Exclude a specific author with a specific role from the sitemap
Once the project proposal has been rolled out fully, it can cater to most WordPress content types and it can help webmasters fulfill the minimum requirements to be indexed in the search engine. However, there are some items that the developers are not prioritizing for the initial integration:
- Image sitemaps
- Video sitemaps
- News sitemaps
- User-facing changes like UI controls in order to exclude individual pages from the sitemap
- XML Sitemaps caching mechanisms
How can the API help you maximize your sitemap?
Sitemaps are an important factor especially if you want to stay ahead of your competition in the SERPs. You should pay special attention and care to it because it can make the difference between a success in your site’s performance and its stagnant growth.
In addition, the XML sitemap proposal also highlighted that there can also be a form of leverage for the standard internationalization functionality provided by the WordPress Core which will help all those sites to be competitive in terms of localized content. The sitemap is a bold promotion of the best web development practices for SEO. Knowing Yoast, this would be a good reach into the way people do SEO since the API can greatly affect optimization of sitemaps.
Although it is not a direct ranking factor, you should take it to mind that you would not rank for your most important content without a sitemap. This is why the integration of an XML sitemap to WordPress by default can be a step above the usual SEO practices. Additionally, the feature will be at home in the core of the WordPress site because they can be especially useful for caching during optimization. It goes on to show that it can also improve the speed and performance of your site.
The team is still in the middle of crafting this API, as evidenced by Thierry Muller, Developer Relations Program Manager at Google and Former Engineering Program Director at WordPress, his parting words were:
Your thoughts on this proposal would be greatly valued. Please share your feedback, questions or interest in collaboration by commenting on this post.
There is a wide audience of webmasters who are interested in working on the project as evidenced by the make.wordpress.org comment section on this particular post and the buzz in the Twitter community, so we cannot review this proposal accordingly until it is fully integrated into WordPress.
It would be nifty to enable sitemaps by default but you also have to think about the cons of this; one of which is that this API might clash with the plugin you installed to generate a sitemap. The question for this would be, “Would this API disregard these kinds of plugin features if this would be fully implemented on WordPress?”
Since this is still in the works, let’s just stay tuned for more updates.