Improve Site Navigation With a Sitemap.xml File

If you haven’t heard of a sitemap before, now is probably a good time to start learning about them if you run a blog. A sitemap is a XML file originally created by Google for webmasters to use to create a “map” of their website.

A good sitemap is dynamic, keeping the freshest content at the top. This way Google knows to index any new posts or updated posts. Google’s spiders then use your Sitemap.xml file when they index your website to ensure they get everything new or that has changed. A sitemap also helps ensure pages get indexed that use JavaScript or Flash, but do not contain HTML links (without a sitemap, these normally would not be discovered by a search engine).

Eventually the Sitemap.xml file was adopted by Yahoo, MSN, and Ask.com, making it as important for webmasters to use as a Robots.txt file to get their website maximum exposure and control what is indexed.

If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to assume you are a WordPress user. If you’d like to create a sitemap for your WordPress blog, look no further than the Google Sitemap WordPress plugin. This is the WordPress plugin I use for this website. When activated, it will create a sitemap on http://yourdomainname.com/sitemap.xml and do all the maintenance work for you. You’ll want to then log in to your Google Webmaster Tools account and add your sitemap, or make sure your homepage links to your sitemap somewhere (usually the footer) so the search engines can find it.

For those that are curious what they look like, you can see what our sitemap looks like here. Are you using a sitemap for your blog(s)?

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  • 10 WordPress Plugins Every Blog Should Be Using

    When it comes to WordPress, there are many things that separate it from the competition. My personal favorite, though, is the WordPress community, which has contributed all sorts of WordPress plugins to anyone using the WordPress software. These are available for free without any obligation.

    Many plugins are situational, either for certain types of blogs, or for certain particular functions, and probably don’t have a place on every WordPress blog. There are a few, however, that every WordPress blog should be using in some form.

    Here is my list of the top plugins all WordPress blogs should be using, in no particular order:

    • Related Posts – Arguably the most important plugin WordPress has to offer. This plugin shows a designated number of related entries below your post (or wherever you want to place it). This is ideal for anyone, but especially for those that get a lot of search engine traffic. It goes a long way to keep web surfers on your site.
    • Add Related Posts to Your Feed – Adds the above mentioned Related Posts to your feed (requires the Related Posts or Ultimate Tagging Warrior plugin(s) to be installed in order to work).
    • All-in-One SEO Pack – This is the ultimate SEO plugin for optimizing your blog for search engines. It automates the SEO process and gives you control over individual title, tags, and description information.
    • Permalink Redirect – This plugin does a permanent 301 redirect. This will ensure that search engines don’t penalize you for duplicate posts when they index your site (with and without the www, as well as posts that don’t include the trailing /). This plugin now also redirects your site’s default feed to your Feedburner feed and allows you to set up custom redirects.
    • WP-Contact Form – Many e-mail spammers search the web looking for e-mail addresses to use for spam purposes. Having your e-mail address available on somewhere on your website (including in the code somewhere) makes you vulnerable to these people. This plugin creates a contact form that people can use to contact you, so your e-mail address is not displayed. It also includes spam protection and some other optional features.
    • WP-DB Manager – This plugin gives you full control of your database, including how to back it up, restore it, and deleting tables when necessary. If this plugin proves to be to advanced, the alternative is WordPress Database Backup, which allows you to backup your database, but doesn’t make it easy to restore it if something comes up.
    • Google Sitemaps – Generates an XML-Sitemap file of your website that Google, Yahoo!, and MSN will use to index your blog. This ensures Google is aware of all of your new posts, as well as any updates you’ve made to posts that were previously indexed and need to be updated.
    • Akismet – This plugin comes by default with all current WordPress installations, but requires activation. You can obtain a free key to activate it. It will catch most spam and place it in a approval queue so you can view it before it is posted on to your website.
    • Bad Behavior – Prevents known spam bots from accessing your website and is compatible with Akismet (mentioned above).
    • Gamer’s Pack – As video game technology continues to increase, this plugin will be more and more important. This plugin that makes your website easily viewable on the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, and Sony PSP gaming systems. I’ve also found it helps people trying to view your website on a cellular phone.

    So, there is my list. 10 plugins that I feel all WordPress users should use regardless of what type of blog they are running. I intentionally did not include any plugins that use comments, as many blogs do not accept comments, making these plugins not needed for them. My goal with this post was to cover only plugins that should be used regardless of the type of blog is being run.

    Is there a plugin that you feel should have been included on this list? Let me know in the comments below!

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