New Plugin: Comprehensive Sitemaps

Map of Boston by Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL

We’re excited to announce the availability of a new plugin for WordPress.com VIPs: Comprehensive Sitemaps.

All WordPress.com sites come with XML sitemaps built-in. These files are automatically generated, cached for a 24-hour period, and updated whenever a post is published, updated, or deleted—however, they are also limited to the 1,000 most recent posts.

With Comprehensive Sitemaps, you can now build and serve sitemaps encompassing all of your content, to help give search engines an extra boost when crawling your site. This is done by using sitemap indexes and breaking down the files into years, months, and days. Additional care was taken to optimize the plugin for quick and fast delivery (individual sitemap files are pre-generated), and the plugin smartly handles post changes by updating only the affected sitemap files, so you’re always serving up-to-date content.

The code was originally written by the development team at Metro UK. Here’s what Paul Kevan, a Metro engineer, had to say about the plugin:

The sitemap plugin spawned out of a requirement to maintain our indexing when migrating over from our in-house CMS to WordPress.com. The default plugins only output 1000 posts and considering the Metro site had over 300k posts, we were worried about the indexing drop when we not only moved hosting but also changed the structure of our permalinks.

Three months later, thanks in part to the plugin, we had fully reindexed the whole site in Google with only a few minor problems.

When the VIP team got in touch to discuss open sourcing the plugin, we were only too pleased to say “yes”. The Metro development team is able to be very lean thanks to the services of WP.com VIP and we were conscious that the best way to repay this was contribute back to the community.

We worked closely with Paul and Metro’s development team to get the plugin into a shareable state. Other VIPs like Maker Media and Service Partners like Alley Interactive and 10up also offered to help and contributed code that helped further clean up or optimize the code or introduce new features.

Installing the Plugin

The plugin needs to be installed via your theme code:

wpcom_vip_load_plugin( 'msm-sitemap' );

Setting up Sitemaps

Once you’ve committed the code change to activate the plugin, please open a ticket so that we can generate the sitemap for you. We need to run a one-time process to generate the full archive; it’s rather resource-intensive and something that we can help run in a smooth manner.

Note: if you’re using custom post types and want to include them in the sitemap, you need to explicitly include them via the msm_sitemap_entry_post_type filter.

Follow Along

You can follow development on Github. If you come across problems, we ask that you first check the issues on Github and if the problem hasn’t already been reported, go ahead and create a new one. There are several fixes and improvements planned; pull requests are welcome and highly encouraged.

A big thank you to Metro UK for contributing this code back to the VIP community!

Map of Boston courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the BPL.

All About SEO on WordPress.com

On the WordPress.com Blog, we recently published a post on Search Engine Optimization for WordPress.com. It has a ton of great information relevant to authors on WordPress.com VIP, so please check it out and feel free to forward it to your colleagues.

All About SEO on WordPress.com, by Elizabeth Urello

Excerpts:

Common Myths about SEO

Myth: I need a plugin for SEO.

Fact: WordPress.com has great SEO right out of the box — you don’t have to do anything extra. In fact, WordPress takes care of 80-90 percent of the mechanics of SEO for you, according to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team. All of our themes are optimized for search engines, which means they are designed to make it easy for the Googlebot (and other search engines) to crawl through them and discover all the content.

Smart ways to increase your SERP rank

Make sure to use short, easy-to-read post slugs that accurately describe what your posts are about. On WordPress.com, the post slug is the last part of your post title, which you can edit to be anything you like. For example, the slug “/buying-sailboats” is better than “/how-to-buy-a-beautiful-inexpensive-sailboat-on-Craigslist” or “/354.”

Read the full post here.

Only 5% Of Publishers Use The Google News Keywords Meta Tag

Danny Sullivan reports on Search Engine Land that only 5% of news publishers are using the Google News Keywords tag, which Google introduced back in September—are you one of them? If not, it may interest you to know that WordPress.com VIP comes with support for the news_keywords tag built-in, via the Add Meta Tags plugin available from your WordPress dashboard.

Google introduced the new tag a few months ago to help publishers make their content more easily discoverable, without having to modify their headlines to inject keywords:

The goal is simple: empower news writers to express their stories freely while helping Google News to properly understand and classify that content so that it’s discoverable by our wide audience of users.

Similar in spirit to the plain keywords metatag, the news_keywords metatag lets publishers specify a collection of terms that apply to a news article. These words don’t need to appear anywhere within the headline or body text. News keywords such as “stocks”, “stock market”, or “crash” would be helpful in allowing Google News to better understand the article content for ranking without forcing the editors to water down the creativity of a great headline. Because the metatag appears only as part of the HTML code of a page, visitors to a site won’t ever see the magic under the hood.

Head over to VIP -> Plugins & Services from within your WordPress dashboard to activate the Add Meta Tags plugin and the Google News meta tag on your site—happy SEO’ing!

And thanks to our friends at Metro.co.uk who added the support for news_keywords to Add Meta Tags!

WordCamp SF: Google & What You Need to Know

For publishers looking at the search traffic benefits of WordPress, Matt Cutts from the Web Spam team at Google, offers his take:

WordPress takes care of 80-90% of (the mechanics of) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Below is a great video of Matt speaking at WordCamp SF 2009 about how Google search works and what publishers should be doing to ensure proper indexing:

[ Slides from Matt’s presentation available on mattcutts.com ]