Should You Be Excited About the New WordPress 5.5 XML Sitemap Feature?
With as many as 35% of websites using WordPress, new features added to this ubiquitous tool tend to gain a lot of attention. Many online magazines, such as ZDNet, are speculating on the importance and relevance of a particular feature in WordPress 5.5, due for release in August 2020. The web hosting platform plans to support built-in XML sitemap capability.
XML sitemaps list all of your website pages, tags, blog posts, and other content. Bing, Google, and other search engines reference sitemaps to query the site’s content, and most sitemaps use an XML format. Although WordPress has been around since 2003, it previously left sitemap generation to plug-ins. Site administrators typically use a sitemap-generator plugin to create XML sitemaps. They can then upload the sitemap to help web crawlers find their URLs. Whether or not this impacts actual ranking seems to be a matter of debate.
Developers may find the new feature useful if they plan to build functionality on top of the SML sitemap. I know our team at Tektonic in Toronto is pretty excited.
What About Your Existing Plugins, Will They Still Work?
WordPress 5.5’s built-in XML feature will create a wp-sitemap.xml index file that has the links to all sitemap files generated. The feature supports taxonomies, post types and author archives. Taxonomies are tags and categories on the page. Although this covers basis functionality associated with XLM sitemaps, it won’t map pictures and videos as all modern sitemap plugins currently do.
Sites that use plug-ins to generate their sitemaps may need to test their websites to make sure the new feature won’t interfere with existing plug-ins. If you use an SEO plugin for your WordPress sitemaps, you probably don’t have much to worry about. For example, SEO plugins All in One SEO Pack and Yoast SEO plan to continue offering their sitemap tools, which have advanced features that can improve rankings.
How Many References Will the WP 5.5 XML Sitemap Support?
The WordPress announcement for the new feature states that each WordPress site will create a sitemap index capable of holding up to 50,000 XML sitemaps, and each of those can have 2,000 entries that index page content. That’s 100 million links. Despite the lack of mapping for images and videos, that’s a lot of mapping power.
The new sitemap files integrate with standard formats employed by Google and Bing. This means site admins can create content prepared for indexing when the site goes live. Having the sitemap generation happen within WordPress could streamline the launching process by minimizing errors due to customizatons.
Does Google Care About Sitemaps?
The Google Webmaster Central Blog states that an XML sitemap barely impacts Google rankings directly. However, XML sitemaps do get recognition for important URLs on your website. If you have a dense website with lots of pages, this can help the more obscure pages connect with web crawlers. In other words, the new XML sitemap feature could increase your site’s visibility. Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily improve your organic ranking.
Sitemaps do hit the radar of Google’s Search Console, though. Additionally, Google recommends building site maps to emphasize pages for Google web crawlers. If you decide to build a sitemap, test it in Google’s Search Console Sitemaps. You can also make sitemaps generated with the new WordPress feature available by including it in your site robot.
Where Can I Find More Details on the WordPress 5.5 Sitemaps Feature?
For technical details on WordPress 5.5’s sitemap generation tool, refer to the company’s official announcement.