XML sitemaps have been standardized and are recognized by Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft. According to the official sitemap site, sitemaps.org, “Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling.”
Google, the originator of the xml sitemap protocol, says, “You can use a sitemap file to tell us about all the pages on your site, and optionally, to provide information about those pages, such as which are most important and how often they change. Sitemaps are particularly helpful if your site has dynamic content, pages that aren’t easily discovered by following links, or if your site is new and has few links to it.”
Google then goes on to clarify that other factors affect crawling and indexing, such as how many backlinks you have, whether your content is unique and relevant, and your pages don’t have anything hampering their crawlability.
I’ve always been fairly ambivalent about using Google sitemaps, usually only doing so when a site seems to be struggling. There are various opinions about whether or not one should use Google sitemaps, and while I’m not a big fan of giving Google too much information, I have found submitting sitemaps to generally be slightly helpful, although not necessarily greatly so. Would I recommend a Google sitemap for a blog? Yes, in most cases, it can help to attract a little attention from Google, especially if your blog is new or not highly popular. I’ll leave the decision up to you, but if you decide to use a sitemap, here is the best way to go about it.
Because I’m a firm believer in “easy”, I recommend using a WordPress plugin to create and maintain your Google sitemap file. Simply install and activate the Google Sitemap Generator for WordPress, set any options on the Options / Sitemap page, and click the rebuild button to run it for the first time. (Creating or editing a post will automatically rebuild the sitemap now and in the future). This plugin creates, rebuilds, and submits the sitemap every time you post without you having to ever think about it again. That’s automation at its best. (Note that the file is not user-friendly and is not intended to be seen by your readers. It is a coded file intended only for search engines).
For my DazzlinDonna blog, I used the default options which will probably be right for most people. Still, there are lots of options you can change if you need to. Below is a screenshot of the basic options, but more are available.
One thing you should note before installing the plugin. Either your blog folder needs to be writable, or you need to create two text files (sitemap.xml and sitemap.xml.gz), upload them via ftp, and make them writeable via chmod (666) before installation of the plugin. Most ftp programs allow you to easily change file permissions on files and folders. Simply right-click the file or folder and choose File Attributes (for FileZilla). (Other FTP programs may label this differently. Look for chmod or permissions as alternatives).