There is one plugin that I use for every single client site, and that is WordPress SEO by Yoast. It helps you get your on-page SEO right, but there are many people that don’t realize it takes care of XML sitemaps as well.
XML sitemaps help search engines find all the pages on your website. The Yoast plugin updates them automatically. But you have to submit them to Google and Bing’s Webmaster Tools, so they know where to look.
What I like about having WordPress SEO by Yoast installed is it eliminates the need for a separate XML sitemap plugin. This makes submitting pages to search engines clean and simple.
Walkthrough Setting Up XML Sitemaps
1. Install the Yoast SEO plugin and activate it. Find the SEO icon on the admin menu in your WordPress backend and go to XML Sitemaps.
2. Check Enable XML sitemap functionality. The button immediately to the right will link to your sitemaps. We will use this later.
3. Decide what author roles you want to exclude. You can exclude adding pages created by various roles. If there are just a few people writing for your site, this may not apply. If you have a large community site, or have dozens of people contributing in smaller roles, this may apply to you, but it is not usually common.
4. Do you need to ping Yahoo! or Ask.com? The Yoast plugin automatically pings Google and Bing. (This means they tell the search engines that something new has been published for them to crawl and index.) Bing shares some information with Yahoo already, but it does not hurt to ping Yahoo! and Ask, as they still combine for about 12% of the search engine traffic.
5. Choose what Post Types and Taxonomies to exclude. I generally exclude anything that you wouldn’t want a visitor to see as it’s own page. This means I exclude attachments and certain Post Types. You may wish to exclude archive pages for Categories and Tags if you have an excessive amount of these.
6. Choose the maximum entries per XML sitemap. This defaults to 1000. If you have 1001 posts, a second sitemap for posts would be created. This continues down the line as your site expands.
For Good Measure: Webmaster Tools
Though WordPress SEO by Yoast automatically pings Google and Bing to come crawl your site, crawler bots only spend so much time digging through links on your site. It all depends on how important your site is perceived to be by the individual search engines.
If you have a Webmaster Tools account with Google and Bing, you can submit your XML sitemaps to them. This ensures that they are always up to date with every single piece of content that you publish on your site. Please note that it takes up to 48 hours for new results to show in search results. You can always see what pages Google has indexed from your site by typing in site:yourwebsitehere.com
You can submit your sitemaps to Google and Bing by loggging to those respective accounts and clicking on the site you want to manage.
For Google, you will find sitemaps under Crawl > Sitemaps. For Bing, this is located under Configure My Site > Sitemaps.