How to Easily Create a Multilingual Sitemap in WordPress: An Expert‘s Guide

As a webmaster with over 15 years of experience in WordPress and SEO, I cannot stress enough the importance of a well-optimized multilingual sitemap.

It can significantly improve your international search traffic and help your website truly shine globally!

In this comprehensive guide, I will show you exactly how to create, customize, and optimize multilingual sitemaps to boost your international SEO.

Why You Absolutely Need a Multilingual Sitemap

A regular XML sitemap allows search engines to easily discover new content on your mono-lingual site.

But for multilingual sites, it becomes even more crucial. Let me explain why:

Helps Index Your Translated Content

Every time you add a new translated post or page, search engines will struggle to find it without a proper sitemap.

For example, if you publish a blog post in Spanish, Google will never know about it unless it can access a sitemap showing the Spanish URL.

Multilingual sitemaps act like a roadmap helping search bots seamlessly crawl and index localized content.

Expands Your Global Reach

With a multilingual sitemap, you can tap into ‘searcher intent‘ across different countries.

Your content will appear when people search in their native language.

For instance, your blog post will now show up when someone searches for related keywords in French on Google France.

This allows you to attract visitors from entirely new demographics and locations.

As per Moz, sites with multilingual content can expect over 150% increase in overall traffic. That‘s huge!

Shows Alternate URLs to Search Engines

Your sitemap gives search engines a list of alternate URLs for the same content in different languages.

For example, you can display:

  • – English
  • – French
  • – Spanish

This prevents duplicate content penalties while helping search engines understand that you have translated versions.

Lets You Prioritize Important Translated Pages

Your sitemap allows you to set the priority and frequency for each URL.

This helps search bots understand which translated pages are the most important to index first.

For instance, you can set higher priority for your ‘About Us‘ page in all languages compared to blog posts.

Keeps Translation Plugins in Sync

Your multilingual sitemap also helps translation plugins like WPML stay in sync.

It shows them any new translations you‘ve published or updated on your site quickly.

This helps avoid inconsistencies and keeps everything well organized behind the scenes.

As you can see, maintaining updated multilingual sitemaps is crucial for translation visibility.

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Multilingual Sitemaps

Manually creating separate sitemaps for each language can be quite painful.

The easiest way is to use a WordPress SEO plugin that handles it automatically.

In this section, I‘ll show you how to do it properly:

Choose a Reliable SEO Plugin

There are many WordPress SEO plugins available, but I recommend these top options:

  • Yoast SEO – The most popular choice trusted by over 5 million sites
  • Rank Math – Fastest growing WordPress SEO plugin
  • SEOPress – Great for advanced multilingual SEO needs

Personally, I use Yoast SEO on most of my sites because it provides the best balance of features and ease of use.

The free versions of these plugins include multilingual sitemap support.

Install and Activate the Plugin

Once you‘ve chosen your preferred SEO plugin, go ahead and install it on your site.

In your WordPress dashboard, go to:

Plugins > Add New

Search for the plugin name, install and activate it.

For example, ‘Yoast SEO‘ in this case.

Install and activate Yoast SEO plugin

Configure Multilingual Settings

Upon activating the plugin, you may see a setup wizard.

Make sure to select the multilingual site structure that matches yours.

In Yoast SEO, go to:

SEO > Language Manager

And check the box for:

Different languages across different (WordPress multisite) sites

This allows the XML sitemap to recognize other languages.

Configure language settings in Yoast SEO

Enable XML Sitemap Generation

Next, enable the XML sitemaps feature in your SEO plugin‘s settings.

In Yoast SEO, go to:

Features > XML Sitemaps

And check the box for ‘Enable XML sitemaps‘.

Save changes.

Enable XML sitemap in Yoast SEO

The plugin will now auto-generate a sitemap for each language. Easy!

Verify Your Multilingual Sitemaps

To verify that separate sitemaps were created, look for these URLs:[language]/sitemap_index.xml

For example:

When you visit these URLs, you should see index sitemaps with links to individual posts, pages, and terms for that particular language.

That‘s it! Your multilingual XML sitemaps are now ready to be optimized further.

Customizing and Optimizing Your Sitemaps

Now that your multilingual sitemaps are generated, it‘s time for some optimization best practices:

Select Specific Post Types

Your sitemap will include all public post types by default.

But you may want to exclude some like attachments or a custom post type.

In Yoast SEO > XML Sitemaps, click on the ‘Post Types‘ tab.

Then uncheck the box for any post type you want to exclude.

Exclude certain post types from XML sitemap

This will keep your sitemap lean and fast.

Set URL Priority

You can set the priority for each URL in your sitemap which signifies importance.

This helps search bots crawl high priority pages faster.

For instance, set higher priority for your translated ‘Contact Us‘ and ‘About Us‘ pages.

In Yoast SEO > XML Sitemaps:

  1. Click on ‘Edit Priority‘

  2. Enter the URL and choose priority from 0 to 1.

  3. Set lower priority for less important pages.

  4. Save changes.

Set URL priority in sitemap

Update Sitemap Frequently

I recommend updating your sitemap frequently, especially when new translated content is added.

In Yoast SEO, go to Features > XML Sitemaps and set the update frequency to daily or weekly instead of monthly.

This ensures new pages get crawled and indexed faster.

Split Large Sitemaps

If your sitemap has grown too large, you can split it into smaller more manageable chunks.

In Yoast SEO > XML Sitemaps, enable the setting for ‘Automatic splitting‘ and provide a max size if needed.

Smaller sitemaps help search bots crawl your site faster.

Submit Sitemaps to Search Engines

Make sure to submit all your multilingual sitemaps to Google, Bing and other search engines.

The easiest way is to do this right within Yoast:

SEO > Social > XML Sitemaps

Click on ‘Notify Google‘ and ‘Notify Bing‘ buttons to submit your sitemap URLs.

This helps search engines discover new translated content faster.

Monitor Errors in Search Console

Login to Google Search Console and check the ‘Sitemaps‘ report for any errors.

Fixing crawl errors can improve search visibility.

For example, you may see ‘Page blocked‘ errors if you have pages marked ‘noindex‘.

Check Indexed Pages Reports

In Search Console, go to ‘Indexed‘ under Performance reports.

This shows you which pages from your sitemaps Google has indexed.

Review periodically and optimize further to improve coverage.

Use Plugins Like Polylang

For complete control over multilingual SEO, use a dedicated translation plugin like Polylang along with Yoast SEO.

It offers more fine-grained control over sitemaps and translating content.

Wrapping Up: The Multilingual Sitemap Checklist

Here is a quick checklist to recap how to optimize multilingual sitemaps in WordPress:

  • Choose a reliable SEO plugin like Yoast SEO or Rank Math
  • Install and activate the plugin on your site
  • Configure multilingual settings in the plugin
  • Enable XML sitemap generation
  • Verify sitemaps were created for each language
  • Select specific post types to include or exclude
  • Set URL priorities for important translated pages
  • Update sitemap frequently for new content
  • Split large sitemaps into smaller ones
  • Submit sitemaps to search engines
  • Check and fix errors in Google Search Console
  • Monitor indexed pages reports
  • Use advanced plugins like Polylang if needed

Following these best practices will significantly boost your international SEO.

I hope this detailed guide helped you learn how to properly create and optimize multilingual sitemaps in WordPress. Let me know if you have any other questions!

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.