XML vs HTML Sitemaps

XML and HTML sitemaps are often skipped as part of the web development process by many web design agencies and freelancers and sometimes have their definitions mixed up.

Both sitemaps are similar in that they list all the live pages that are part of a websites architecture and assist in making content discoverable by search engines. Let’s take a look at the differences.

Adding HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps to WordPress websites is easy. There are several plugins available in the WordPress plugin library  which can add needed functionality such as HTML or XML sitemaps within seconds.

What is an HTML Sitemap?

An HTML sitemap is a web page that lists links to all core pages within a website. It can enhance user experience by assisting visitors in navigating a website and provide SEO benefits by assisting web crawlers find web pages.

Creating an HTML Sitemap in WordPress

If your website is developed in WordPress there are several plugins which can create an HTML sitemap pages with just a few clicks. Most of them all provide a very simple implementation of adding a short code to a page and choosing which content to be displayed.

HTML sitemap plugins in WordPress

I recommend adding the HTML sitemap as part of the sites footer along with links for privacy and terms of service.

Adding an HTML Sitemap:

1. Visit plugins->Add New
2. Search “HTML sitemap
3. Install and Activate “WP Sitemap Page
4. Select Settings -> WP Sitemap Page
5. Copy the necessary shortcodes such as:

Copy to Clipboard

6. Create a new page by choosing Pages -> Add New in the WordPress dashboard side menu
7. Add shortcode into new page and Publish
8. Link the HTML sitemap in the footer.

What is an XML Sitemap?

An XML sitemap is protocol that is used to inform Google and other major search engines as to what pages to crawl within a website. Unlike an HTML sitemap, it is not mean for users.

Sitemaps also inform search engines when your site was last updated, how often site changes are made the order of importance among web pages. XML sitemaps are not linked to within a sites architecture but usually accessible by visiting yourdomain.com/sitemap.xml.

How to create an XML Sitemap in WordPress

XML Sitemap

If you manage a WordPress website adding an XML sitemap is easy. Much like HTML sitemaps, there are several plugins that can quickly generate an XML sitemap page.

YOAST for SEO is the most widely used SEO plugin for WordPress and provides an XML sitemap. It allows administrators to choose which taxonomies to be included into the XML sitemap such as pages, posts, categories, authors etc. If you aren’t using certain taxonomies then I would recommend disabling it.¬† This can be performed in the WordPress dashboard by following the instructions below:

  1. Choose SEO -> Tools on the side menu
  2. Click the “taxonomies” tab
  3. Disable any taxonomies your website isn’t using.

If your website isn’t developed in WordPress, you can easily create an XML Sitemap using the Screaming Frog software or using xml-sitemaps.com.

Creating an XML Sitemap on XML-Sitemaps.com

Generating XML Sitemaps Online

  1. Visit https://xml-sitemaps.com
  2. Enter your domain
  3. Save generated XML sitemap file locally as sitemap.xml
  4. Upload to root folder of website

Creating an XML Sitemap using Screaming Frog

  1. Open up Screaming Frog
  2. Enter domain and hit “Start” button
  3. Select Sitemaps -> Create XML Sitemap
  4. Save file locally
  5. Upload Sitemap XML file to root folder

How to submit an XML sitemap to Google Console

Once the XML sitemap page is created it can then be submitted to Google Console using the following steps:

xml sitemap submission

1. Create an account with Google Console (https://search.google.com/search-console/)
2. Once logged in, click on “Sitemaps” on the left hand menu
3. Enter “sitemap.xml” next to the domain at the top
4. Click the submit button

It can take minutes or even weeks to process the XML sitemaps depending on the size of the website.

Conclusion

Now that you understand the purpose and installing both types of sitemaps, you can now add both of them to improve your websites user experience and search visibility.

Installing both HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps is simple to accomplish, especially if your website is developed in WordPress.