Google XML Sitemaps vs Yoast SEO

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Google XML Sitemaps by Arne Brachhold is a well known and extremely popular plugin, but is it necessary if you’re using Yoast SEO (formerly known as ‘Yoast SEO’)? In this post, we’ll take a look at the sitemap capabilities of both plugins and the ups and downsides of using one or the other.

Before we get started, however, it’s important to be extra-clear that Yoast SEO provides many more features than simply the ability to create sitemaps. Put simply: Yoast SEO is about the best SEO plugin available… In this article, I’ll be looking at only Yoast’s sitemap features (and comparing them to those of Google XML Sitemaps).

About Sitemaps

Before getting into the specific plugins, let’s dig a little deeper into what a sitemap is. Sitemaps.org is a good way to get started — this is the official page for the XML sitemap format. The first paragraph sums things up well:

Sitemaps are an easy way for webmasters to inform search engines about pages on their sites that are available for crawling. In its simplest form, a Sitemap is an XML file that lists URLs for a site along with additional metadata about each URL (when it was last updated, how often it usually changes, and how important it is, relative to other URLs in the site) so that search engines can more intelligently crawl the site

I recommend reading the protocol and the FAQ sections for a full description about the format sitemaps are expected to be in and some of the nuances of the specification. Take a look at the example sitemap below (from sitemaps.org), this is the format all sitemaps should be in.

An example sitemap from sitemaps.org

Google XML Sitemaps

As the name suggests, Google XML Sitemaps is an extremely focused product. It has one simple goal: creating a sitemap for your website. Because of this, it offers a lot more sitemap-generating options in comparison.

The plugin has been downloaded over 17 million times. This is 2 million less than Yoast, but it does have a higher rating, at 4.9. Although I don’t think the rating is that important here, because a plugin that does only one thing is less complicated and therefore easier (for the author) to get just right.

Options include modifying notification settings, XSLT stylesheets, additional custom pages, priorities, sitemap content types, excluded items, change frequencies and priorities. There is a lot to do, check out the gallery below for some screenshots of all the options sections.

(note: click one of the above images to enlarge it)

That’s a whole load of options! It gives you granular control over your content to get the sitemap you need. You can visit the sitemap by clicking the very first link in the top box. The URL is usually http://yoursite.com/sitemap.xml. It looks something like this:

Google XML Sitemaps

Remember, this file is not for human consumption, so it doesn’t really matter what it looks like. It’s nice to be able to browse it in a human-friendly view though, so that you can check that it works.

Yoast SEO

Yoast is a mega-huge plugin with a barrage of options that cover everything SEO-related. The sitemap functionality is a just tiny facet of the full spectrum. Comparing Yoast and Google SEO Sitemaps as-is, in their entireties, would be a bit silly, so throughout this section I’ll be focussing on only the sitemap capabilities of Yoast.

Yoast SEO has a whopping 19.6 million downloads with 100K being added every week! It’s rated at 4.6, which is a bit less than Google XML Sitemaps, but due to the huge number of features and the difficulty of setting up SEO properly, a lower score is really kind of inevitable.

I have two major issues with Yoast. The bigger one is that it only works if you use pretty permalinks. If you leave your permalink structure on the default setting, it simply won’t work! It should really, in my opinion, be either made to work without pretty permalinks or it should detect your permalink structure and let you know what to do, instead of simply generating a 404 error.

My second issue is that Yoast gives you a huge warning about using Google XML Sitemaps when it is activated — even if you’ve set Yoast to not generate sitemaps for you. This does only show up once, but my issue is really that the popup should mention that this is only a problem if you’re actually using the sitemap functionality of Yoast in conjunction.

Yoast sitemap warning

Apart from that, Yoast produces a perfectly fine sitemap. The plugin contains a lot fewer options, but I’m pretty sure that you won’t be able to boost your SEO using only your sitemap settings in most cases anyway. Here’s a few screenshots of some of Yoast’s settings:

(note: click one of the above images to enlarge it)

Yoast’s sitemap looks a bit different. To be honest, if forced to choose, I like Google XML Sitemaps layout a little more simply because it has a bigger font — thereby enabling you to scan your sitemap more easily. Although this is, of course, completely irrelevant to anything SEO-related.

Yoast Sitemap

Comparing The Sitemaps

As you can see, the sitemaps follow a different logical structure. Yoast uses type archives like, i.e. post-sitemap.xml, page-sitemap.xml, category-sitemap.xml and so on.

Google XML Sitemaps have more sub sitemaps. It sections your content into monthly archives, for example: http://wordpress.local/sitemap-pt-post-2015-06.xml.

There aren’t a lot of specific resources on sitemap best practices that go into this level of detail but if I had to choose, I would go with the way Google XML Sitemaps does it. My reasoning has to do with limits imposed on the format. The specification says that:

Each Sitemap file that you provide must have no more than 50,000 URLs and must be no larger than 10MB

With the month-based separation that Google XML sitemaps uses, the corresponding file is more likely to have no more than 100 or so URLs — which will then be small enough to be measurable in kilobytes rather than megabytes. This will lower the strain on the server when generating the files and is also likely to be more easily digestible by Google itself. That said, however, for regular websites creating just a few new posts/pages a day, this argument is basically negated anyway.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that both products generate a valid XML sitemap that Google, Bing, and other search engines will love. Google XML Sitemaps does give you more options, which is nice, but most of us won’t really need such granular control over our content.

If you do need the additional options, I suggest using Google XML Sitemaps in conjunction with Yoast — in which case, just be sure to switch Yoast’s sitemap features off.

For the rest of us, the answer is pretty clear: if you’re already using Yoast, there’s really no real need to use Google XML Sitemaps as well.

By Daniel Pataki

Hey, my name is Daniel! I develop things for the Internet and then proceed to write or talk about them. I am the CTO at Kinsta and I write for a bunch of amazing online magazines. When not coding or writing you'll probably find me playing board games. Drop me a line on Twitter or visit my personal website.
Comments (policy)
  1. Nirmala Santhakumar says:

    Hello Daniel,

    I’m using Google XML sitemap. But when see the sitemap today, it doesn’t have my recent posts. I assume that there is some issue. Please help me.

  2. Ru says:

    You mention not to leave Yoast permalinks on the default structure – having just installed Yoast I cannot see where to change from this – can you tell me how?
    Thanks

  3. Dimitar Gamizov says:

    Hi,
    I am using both Google XML Sitemaps for my sitemap and YOAST (with disabled xml sitemap function) for my SEO. I am doing that, because I had some issues with the YOAST sitemap.

    Is there anything to worry about except the massage you mentioned in the article? I mean slowing the site or some bugs?

    Thank you for the answer!

    Regrds,
    Dimitar

    • Brin Wilson says:

      If in any doubt, I’d advise ditching Google XML Sitemaps and just using Yoast… there ‘shouldn’t’ be any issues with site speed or bugs, but things do change and incompatibilities could come about through updates etc… I imagine.

  4. Jack Tummers says:

    Personally I like the Google XML Sitemap more, especially in combination with the Gensis SEO tools, because it is lighter en not so annoying (all those Yoast dolls on the pages and reminders)

  5. David Wang says:

    I am working on a staging site right now. Can I rebuild the sitemap after move the site from stating site to production site? How to do it with either of the 2 plugins?

    • Brin Wilson says:

      – that’s an interesting question: to which I’m honestly not sure. Presumably, the sitemaps would (or at least should) rebuild themselves from time to time anyway, so I’d assume/hope this wouldn’t be an issue. But your best bet, to find out for sure, would probably be to try and contact the developers of each plugin directly – perhaps via their official support forums (or in Yoast’s case – since I’m not sure they monitor theirs all that often – maybe try contacting them directly via yoast.com). If you happen to find out, please do come back and let us know with another comment. :)

  6. Brin Wilson says:

    – I think I see what you mean. At the beginning of the Sitemap.xml file, for example, it says “Generated by YoastSEO…” (the ‘YoastSEO’ part is a link to their site). But I’m not sure that’s shady. It’s actually kind of informative… :)

  7. I am still confused. At one side you advising to use Google XML sitemap in bottom line and in comments you suggested Yoast?
    What do i do now? you are right in post or comments?

    • Bolta Bharat says:

      Yoast sitemap has fever options but will be enough for any site, but if you are already using Google XML sitemap plugin then don’t use yoast sitemap feature… in short, Google sitemap plugin is better but Yoast XML sitemap is good enough specially if you are using it already.

  8. Lucas Martins Silva says:

    Yoast’s sitemap doesn’t have a method like AddUrl in Google XML Sitemap. This is useful to put custom url’s to the sitemaps.

  9. KP says:

    Yoast SEO Sitemap has a bug in it which i reported to them in May 2016, Its now December and I am still waiting for a fix. They know of the issues but are incapable of finding a fix. My home page is repeated in Pages and Post sitemap and they also have duplicated content on their own sitemap they using on their website. I am using a premium Yoast SEO license and their support is not interested in fixing the bug. They keep telling me to wait they are still trying to resolve the issue. So thank you for the article I am going to give the Google XML Sitemap a go.

  10. nina says:

    I have activated google xml sitemap on my website and it worked fine. but now suddenly I am getting sitemap error notification in search console saying ‘Unsupported format. Your file appears to be an HTML page.’ but the file is in xml format, not html. How am I supposed to solve this error?

  11. desitashaan says:

    I have Yoast seo plugin but I have disabled Yoast Sitemap and using Google Xml Sitemap for my site https://www.pinoytvshows.me Uptill now everything working fine. But please tell me that it is Ok to use in this way ? If yes then how can i enable Images sitemap in Google Xml i think there is no any option in this plugin for images

  12. Madhvi says:

    Thank you Daniel.I have updated ssl certificat on my site and was worried about do i need to submit a new sitemap. By searching on google I saw your blog about sitemaps. I am using Yoast Sitemaps. Thanks in the end u said there no such need to change sitemap.

  13. Herasto Almeida says:

    Google sitemap xml displays the following error:
    Too many URLs
    Your Sitemap contains too many URLs. Please create multiple Sitemaps with up to 50000 URLs each and submit all Sitemaps.
    Does anyone know how to solve it?

  14. Rob says:

    AWESOME POST! I saw that same warning sign about two sitemaps and panicked. That panic brought me here. And now that panic is subsiding.

  15. Gregor W. Sky says:

    One important reason to choose one of the two is that they include custom post types like portfolios, shop items and forum messages which the sitemaps generated by Jetpack do not. But neither Yoast nor Google XML support news sitemaps for Google News, Jetpack does. Though I guess it is better to not activate Jetpack sitemaps additionally to any other sitemap plugin and rather install another specialized news sitemap plugin. Anyone some experience with this?

  16. Online Assistant says:

    Thank you for putting this up nicely, i have one question though for which i need help.
    If once i have submitted a sitemap to google and i also have my yoast SEO completely configured, then on adding new content will yoast only update the sitemap or will it automatically submit it to google as well? Or is it that i should submit the sitemap manually to google every time there is new content.

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