Why is my WordPress Sitemap not Working? One Simple Answer.

Ah sitemaps.

They play an essential role in WordPress SEO by telling Google and friends what pages to crawl.

When they work, we love them. When they don’t, well, just thinking about all that lost traffic makes us shake our fists and want to smash our keyboards.

My WordPress Sitemap isn’t working, what do I do?

So you’re running a WordPress site and you got a faulty sitemap that’s not working?

There are a lot of different reasons why a sitemap might not function correctly in WordPress.

Some are technical, such as issues with an integrated WordPress ache plugin like WP Super Cache or developer code that went a little awry in its implementation.

Others could be much more mundane, such as having an out of date plugin generating your sitemap, or even something as simple as the box for sitemaps being unchecked by accident.

However, if you’re running a WordPress site and having issues with the sitemap that’s being generated, I’m willing to bet that it’s a plugin conflict issue.

I’ve had tons of issues with sitemaps over the years, and from my own experience (not to mention what I’ve read from browsing around the net), I’m gonna say this is one of the top culprits for faulty sitemaps.

What plugins are causing my sitemap to malfunction?

From my experience, the two main plugins that typically lead to a broken sitemap are Yoast SEO (or other comprehensive SEO plugin) and Google XML Sitemap.

Now don’t get me wrong. Both of these are great plugins. Yoast is the most popular WordPress SEO plugin for a reason, and Google XML Sitemaps does a great job at, well, making sitemaps.

The issue is when you have both of them installed and activated at the same time. The reason for this is because Yoast has a built-in sitemap feature.

If you try to activate two different sitemap plugins, your site simply won’t know what to do with itself.

What seems to happen is that one sitemap becomes static, frozen, while each time you try to update it causes a duplicate sitemap or backup to be created in your root directory.

The problem here is that the one frozen in time, never updating or completing itself, is the one bots will crawl and not the other file.

Fixing this is fairly simple, if not exactly straightforward.

Just going into your WordPress backend and disabling one of the two conflicting sitemaps won’t solve the issue. Neither will deactivating one of your plugins.

You’ll notice if you have Yoast installed and Google XML Sitemaps too, and you disable the latter, the conflict will persist in your sitemap file.

The only solution as far as I know is to delete one of the plugins. Not disable, actual DELETE.

In my case, when this happened to me, Google XML Sitemaps and then installed Yoast and didn’t even notice the issue for months. It was only when I replaced Yoast with the SEO Framework did I realize how bugged my sitemap was.

So if you’re in the same situation try:

  1. Double check to see if you have two plugins that both generate XML sitemaps.
  2. Disable / un-check all your sitemap creation tools.
  3. Delete one of the plugins. If you’re running Yoast, I would recommend deleted Google XML Sitemaps simply because it affects less of your posts.
  4. Reactive one sitemap tool.
  5. Refresh your page and maybe even clear your browser’s cache just to be sure.
  6. Verify that your sitemap is now correct and voila!

An optional step, in case your issue lasted for an extended period of time, is to re-submit your sitemap.xml file to your Google Search Console. That way Google will be able to discover all the “lost” pages that might not have been getting crawled or indexed correctly.

Of course, if you’re not sure where to look for your Yoast sitemap in the first place, try this:

Open WordPress and find Yoast:

Next, go to features:

Third, scroll down and see if Sitemaps is activated.

Hope this helps. If it does (or doesn’t), leave a comment below and let others know.

Google Adds Star Wars Easter Eggs to Search Console May 4th

It’s almost May the 4th – the official day celebrating George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise – and it looks like Google added a couple of Easter Eggs this year.

I happened to be doing some work on a client side when I noticed this little guy up here in the top right of the header.

At first I thought it was some some-sort of DJ. I don’t know why. Maybe it looked like a head wearing headphones?

Either way it’s C3PO and you can go right up there and give him a click. When you do, you’ll get a little title crawl asking if you want to activate the Easter Eggs.

Once you do, not a lot is different around the console, but there’s a couple of nice touches and one that scared the hell out of me.

Head down to your Coverage and…

This little ditty with the lightsabers honestly spooked the bejesus out of me.

I was wearing headphones with the volume turned high, with my music turned low. Needless to say, it sounded like someone was drawing a lightsaber right next to me.

Depending on what you have selected, it will change colour from red, to orange to green and even a really odd-looking grey one.

Fortunately, the others are less intense and kinda fun.

When you go to examine errors, warnings or other indexation issues, you get greeted by these little guys.

Very apt observation there, Chewbacca. (and may he rest in piece)

Most are iconic characters and some are pretty well played.

There’s another couple of secrets hidden around the search console that are worth looking up.

I haven’t checked to see what other products have Easter Eggs like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this wasn’t the only one.

5 Essential SEO Optimizations for WordPress Websites in 2019

So you’re using a WordPress website. Awesome!

Honestly, that’s no surprise. WordPress is a great platform for launching and managing all kinds sites – especially for blogging.

Heck, I’m using one myself.

Anyways, you’re not here to listen to me gush over this platform. You’re here because you want some essential SEO optimization tips for your site.

Just so that we’re on the same base, these five essentials listed in this guide are considered fairly basic. So if you’ve never done any SEO to your site before, this is the right place to begin.

For everyone else, I’ll be sure to post more advanced tips in the near future.

What is SEO and why do I need it?

Just so we’re all on the same page. SEO stands for search engine optimization.

The two key parts of this are “search engine” and “optimization”.

Search engines (notably Google) are how we find most of the information and websites on the web these days.

Optimization means ensuring that your website gets found in the search engine results page (SERPs). The more optimized you are, the more traffic you should be receiving.

If you’ve got great site that no one’s visiting, it could mean your site needs a little SEO love.

Where do I begin with WordPress SEO these days?

There’s lots of ways to optimize your site, but with WordPress, it’s highly recommended that you install an SEO plugin.

These plugins let you modify your main SEO tags (more on these soon) and get your basic pages up and optimized in no time.

Anyone will do, but if you’re not sure where to begin, Yoast SEO and All-in-One SEO are two of the most used. If you want more advanced options Yoast is the way to go, while All-in-One is slightly more beginning friendly.

Here are the 5 essential optimizations for your WordPress Site:

Titles

Titles are, obviously, the titles given to your web page (note: not your entire site). These appear at the top of your browser tabs, and more importantly, feature prominently into search results.

Titles are one of the most important factors in SEO as they tell both search engines and human visitors what your page is about.

How long should my title tags be?

Goodle technically uses pixels to measure the maximum length of title tags. However, since most of us can’t easily measure that, using characters is an easier way of estimating the maximum length.

It’s possible to write keywords with as many as 70 characters, but the ideal comfort zone is between 55-60. This ensures that they appear properly on all devices and that there’s plenty of space to get your message across.

How do I write better title tags?

Ideally, you’ll want to feature the keyword your targeting, some additional info and lastly some branding.

A standard format would be:

First Keyword - Second Keyword | Brand Name

For example, here’s a title about a fictional sauce called awesome (and that clocks in at 60 characters):

Awesome Sauce - The Best Sauce Around | Awesome Sauce Makers

Alternatively, if it’s a blog post you can aim to have a single phrase for your title – like I did with this page, which also clocked in at 60 characters.

Pro Tip: if you’re looking for an easy way to count characters, try using a text editor with a built-in character counter.

NotePad++ is the editor I use for virtually all my writing. Not only does it count characters as you write, but it’s got tons of other awesome features. Plus it’s free! I whole-heartedly recommend it for literally everyone.

Headers

Headers often the biggest, boldest text on a web page. They’re eye catching and help visually define sections on a page.

Headers come in multiple sizes, ranging from H1 as the largest, down to a very minute H6.

Like the title, they play a significant role in SEO as well as calling attention to your site and conveying information to your human readers.

What are the right types of headers to use?

The two headers that see the most action are H1 and H2. H1 are the largest and most useful. Every page should have at least one header in the content for both the keywords and providing value to visitors.

H2 are also very useful. They carry less weigh than H1, but are great for introducing your subsections, or highlighting important information for your visitors.

H3 and beyond really only need to come out and play if you’ve got multiple levels of sub sections. For instance, H2s under your H1, and then H3s under your H2s, and so forth.

For instance, this page opened with an H1, then followed with some H2s, and then under each section I’ve been categorizing the content with H3s and H4s.

How do I write better headers for SEO?

Ideally, you want them to be clear, descriptive and pack a little “oomph” – something to get people excited. This latter part is important, because all good SEO is written for people too – and not just search engines.

There are no character limits for headers like there are with titles, but that doesn’t mean you should go all out with the verbosity. Keep them short and sweet, without adding more words than are necessary.

Most headers should be straightforward. Try to put your keywords near the start of your headers.

For example, if you’re discussing the future of ice cream in 2019, you might want to put this in your H1:

Ice Cream Flavours to Watch out for in 2019

Then, down in your H2 headers, you can start sorting them by type (chocolate, berries) or whatever else you want to say about them.

URLs

URLs are the locations of webpages that appear in your search bar and in the SERPS.

URLs play a big role in SEO, so it helps to make sure they are accurate and contain keywords.

It also helps to keep them “clean” as opposed to “messy.”

What do I mean URLs?

Well, clean URLs don’t have all kinds of unnecessary characters or words in them.

For example, a messy url might look like this:

/these-are-top-8-of-the-most-best-tips-for-your-seo-april-12-2019-post-43434

Whereas the clean URL would be better written like:

/top-8-seo-tips

The good thing about most WordPress SEO plugins is that when you’re drafting a page or a post you can manually write in your URL. It helps to have them short and concise, but not so much that they don’t mean anything.

Try to strip them down to their bare essentials before you publish them.

If you’re not using one, a good alternative is to make sure your permalink structure is set to post name:

How can I change my URLs after I publish a page?

Changing urls after they’re live can cause problems. If there are any links pointing to that page before you change it, they will all end with 404 page not found errors, and these aren’t good.

Make sure you add a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. If you’re not sure how to do this in WordPress, I previously wrote about performing 301 redirects in WordPress.

Meta Descriptions

Meta descriptions are short paragraphs of text that appear under the website’s title in the SERPs.

These snippets of text don’t play a direct role in ranking, however they are vital to informing visitors what your page offers and why they should visit your site and not someone else’s.

What is the ideal length for Meta Descriptions

Like titles, Google uses pixel length to determine their maximum length. Again, since most of us don’t think in pixels, a better target would be to aim for 155-160 characters in length.

Anything longer risks getting cut off, and shorter descriptions mean valuable space is left empty.

How should I write Meta Descriptions?

They should be descriptive of your page content, but also contain a hook or selling point that will cause visitors to click your link.

Simply putting a long, dry abstract of your page won’t build excitement and drive visitors to your site.

For instance, which of the following is more likely to grab your attention and get a click.

This one:

On this page, we will list the benefits of eating ice cream during the day. We will cover a list of flavours and then spend some time discussing ingredients.

Or this one:

Discover this season's exciting new ice cream flavour and
the craziest ingredients makers are using. Also learn how your night-time
eating habits are all wrong.

Be sure to also include keywords in your description, as they appear in bold in the SERPs and really help catch the visitor’s eye.

First Paragraph Content

The titles, headers, urls and descriptions should all be indicitive of the content of the page.

The first paragraph or two (let’s say, first 100 word) needs to have keywords. This isn’t just so that Google knows you’re being genuine about your titles and other tags, but so that readers can quickly get to the point of your page too.

A good article starts at the most interest parts of your topic. There’s no reason to hide all your most important information at the end.

And there you have it.

Five essential SEO optimizations to get your WordPress site started. I’ll be back soon with more advanced optimizations. Feel free to comment below, or request any features you might want to see covered.