Google Sitemaps XML Plugin on Windows Azure

On the blog here, I use the great Google Sitemaps XML plugin for WordPress by Arne Brachold (available from his site at http://www.arnebrachhold.de/projects/wordpress-plugins/google-xml-sitemaps-generator/) to automatically generate my sitemaps. Since moving to Windows Azure for my hosting I’d been having a problem with it automatically building the file on site changes. The fix was actually really simple but I completely overlooked it initially.

First off, this plugin is great for two reasons and credit to the author. It’s really customizable allowing you to configure what is included in the sitemap and what is not such as categories, tags, archives, search page and you can even specify individual post IDs. This is all so that you can match your sitemap.xml to your robots.txt configuration to help Google and Bing (and yourself for SEO) but more importantly longer term because it automatically rebuilds and notifies Google and Bing when it is updated by means of new or updated posts being published. As a blogger, all I have to worry about is finding the time amongst work and life to think of something awesome to post and for you all to read.

It goes without saying that Windows Azure web instances are running on IIS and in counter, the plugin is designed primarily for Apache installations. The reason I hadn’t thought of this previous before now is that my last host was running IIS too and I had no problems with it there.

Google Sitemaps XML Plugin Path

Head over to the settings panel for the XML-Sitemaps plugin in your WordPress admin site and scroll down to the area titled Location of your Sitemap File. The installation tries to select an automatic location from the web server paths. Credit to it, it got the paths right, but the direction of the slashes wrong and it turns out that this was the problem.

Change the setting to Custom Location and simply replace all of the forward slashes in the path with backslashes. Hit the Update Options button at the bottom and you’re done. I submitted a very short hello world post after the change to test it and once published, go to the XML-Sitemaps panel and I was given a message to show that the sitemap will be rebuilt in 10 seconds and sure enough after 10 seconds, it rebuilt and notified Google and Bing as designed of the changes.

WordPress Upgrade and Hosting Woes

So after typing the Surface Pro article earlier today, I realised that all of my WordPress plugins and my WordPress were out of date. After about an hour of tinkering with plugin versions, authorizing Twitter OAuth plugins and upgrading the main install.

So what’s new? Well the media manager in the admin interface is very nice and welcoming over previous iterations. Internet Explorer 10 still doesn’t get recognized as a modern browser still as logging into the admin interface produces an error that looks like it thinks I’m running IE6 – Something I as hoping would be fixed. Looking at the categories in the admin interface makes me a little sad too because my categories are all over the place so I think I need to spent a few hours aligning and rearranging them, and I also noticed a few quirks with my custom theme which I need to resolve.

Every time I upgrade my WordPress instance though, it reminds me how junk my current hosting provider are. I was only able to get between 10-20Kbps transferring files to and from the FTP site. A ping to the site results in a round-trip time of 165ms and the load times are terrible not to mention the HTTP500 errors I’ve been getting on a couple of my other sites recently because of some new user on the shared server pillaging the MySQL instance.

Normally, I forget about the issue by the time I get round to sorting it, but I’m determined to remember this time especially as my hosting is up for renewal soon, so I’m going to be finding a new home in the UK as UK hosting prices have dropped in recent years. I did take a look at Microsoft Azure earlier today, but the free instance doesn’t allow the use of custom domain names and the shared instance works out at about $45 a month for my sites which is too much.

If anyone knows a good UK hosting provider for £15 or less a month then please feel free to drop me a line.