A year ago Google developers and Yoast started collaborating with other contributors on a proposal. To add XML sitemaps to the core of WordPress. The XML Sitemaps feature plugin went to test at the end of January. And the feature is now on deck for inclusion in WordPress 5.5.

A basic version of sitemaps that plugin developers can either build on. Or disable has been merged by contributors this week.

“This core sitemaps feature aims to provide the base required functionality for the Sitemaps protocol for core WordPress objects, then enables developers to extend this functionality with a robust and consistent set of filters,” Google engineer Pascal Birchler said in the merge announcement.

Sites have implemented sitemap

Millions of WordPress sites have already implemented sitemaps using an SEO plugin or a plugin dedicated to sitemaps. Plugin authors encouraged to re-architect their solutions to comply with the core sitemaps standard. But users need not worry about conflicts. Birchler said he expects many users to no longer need additional plugins to meet the needs of their sitemap.

“If for some reason two sitemaps are exposed on a website (one by core, one by a plugin). This does not result in any negative consequences for the site’s discoverability,” Birchler said.

Although native XML site maps have received a largely favorable response from the community. And the leadership of WordPress, there are some who think that plugins would be better left with this feature. Luckily for anyone concerned, there’s an easy way to turn it off. Users that do not want to have sitemaps activated can change WordPress settings to prevent site indexing by search engines. This can be disabled by Developers using a filter.

Implementing simple site maps does not provide any UI controls for more customization, such as missing any posts or sites. Birchler explained this isn’t part of the project’s scope. The plugin ecosystem will still have plenty of latitudes to cope with more complex sitemap needs:

The project was originally introduced

Since the project was originally introduced, user-facing improvements were considered non-target. Because merely omitting a specific post from the sitemap is not a guarantee. That the search engines won’t crawl or index. Any rationale to remove posts from sitemaps is better done by dedicated plugins (i.e. SEO plugins) within the spirit of “Decisions, not Options”. Plugins that implement a UI for the relevant areas can use new filters to enforce their settings. E.g. only query content that has not been marked with an option called “noindex”.

When the project initially proposed, the performance was one of the key technical concerns. Especially in response to the number of URLs per page and the last mod date in the index.xml file. Contributors for capturing URLs per sitemap landed at 2,000. The solution they introduced for the last mod date adds a cron task running twice a day. Retrieves the lastmod dates of each sitemap, and stores them in the options table.

“The addition of this feature [core sitemaps] does not impact regular website visitors, but only users who access the sitemap directly,” Birchler said. “Benchmarks during development of this feature showed. That sitemap generation is generally very fast even for sites with thousands of posts. Thus, no additional caching for sitemaps was put in place.”

More information about extending core sitemaps is available in the merge announcement, along with FAQs. This feature expected to be released with WordPress 5.5 in August.

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