When a first-time user clicks on your website link, they are entering an unknown territory. The first impression they get will help shape their perception of your website and brand.
For most websites, bad navigation is a common problem that leaves visitors feeling frustrated. Without effective navigation, your visitors can feel like they’re stranded - with no map. In addition, if your website is not organized or lacks a logical structure, it will be difficult for search engine crawlers to find pages on your site, hurting your search rankings and thus your ability to be found. This is where a sitemap comes into the picture.
In the first part of our on-page SEO series, we’ll talk about why you need to have a sitemap on your website.
What is a sitemap?
A sitemap is an index of all the important pages on your website, making them easily accessible to your visitors and helping them find the information they are looking for quickly. Sitemaps are also critical when it comes to search engines crawling and indexing your website.
There are two types of sitemaps: HTML and XML. While an HTML sitemap helps users navigate your website, an XML sitemap helps search engines do the same. An HTML sitemap is typically placed on the homepage of the website, ensuring that website visitors can see the links to all the pages right after they land on your site.
An XML sitemap allows web developers to include specific information about the pages that will be crawled by search engines, including the content they want the search engines to prioritize, as well as providing additional information such as when specific content was last updated.
Let’s look at the reasons why you need a sitemap for your website and the benefits they provide.
Tells search engines where to look
As the ‘map’ of your site, the sitemap helps search engines determine which pages are new and what updates have been included so that the crawler can view them for indexing. To look at all the pages within your site, web crawlers are assisted by the links on your site and external sites. It is common for sites to have deep pages with no links available, and in this case, the sitemap guides the crawlers to these pages so they may be indexed.
Helps the visitor access the page they want, quickly
A sitemap is imperative for outlining the overall structure of your website; it shows where different topics are located and makes navigating your website that much easier for your audience. This is extremely important for social sites where people need information quickly.
Improves your SEO
While XML sitemaps are not SEO tools per se, they help to improve search ranking. As the sitemap helps improve user experience, it is looked upon favorably by search engines. This, in turn, will improve your ranking in any organic search results.
Helps a website that has weak internal linking
Sitemaps show the most significant URLs of a website — an important factor for those sites that have a weak internal linking structure. This not only helps in indexing web pages, but is also a smart way to direct search engine crawlers to pages you want them to find.
Shows any changes you’ve made
Sitemaps are also useful when you want to inform your visitors about the changes on your website. These include any new pages that you may have added or updates made to an earlier article with the latest information to make it more relevant.
Establishes the originality of your content
Many websites host their content on other sites. Additionally, some websites also allow others to curate their content. Search engines will look for the original content and block any others as duplicates. A sitemap ensures that you are treated as the content originator and search engines don’t block your content by marking it as a duplicate.
Large websites need multiple sitemaps
If you have a large website with numerous web pages and links (both external and internal), then a sitemap is a great benefit to you. With a sitemap, the job of the search engine is made much easier - it doesn’t have to guess what the pages contain!
Search engines only index the first 50,000 URLs of a sitemap, therefore you need to create multiple sitemaps if your website has more than 50,000 URLs.
In summary, a sitemap acts as an add-on to improve the user experience of your site, while at the same time, bringing positive SEO results for your website organically.
Interested in more information about creating a sitemap, or our web development and design services? Contact us today to discuss your business' website objectives.