The Importance of Sitemaps on Websites

Having a sitemap on your website is just as important as correctly optimizing it for the search engines using good seo information.    A sitemap is a page that gives an overview of the website in a form similar to how an Index in a book might look. The sitemap may include every page of the website if the site is smaller or may consist of only category and subcategory pages if the website is very large. However, in every case each one of the entries is a link to its respective page making it easy for not only the visitor to find but also for the search engine spiders to crawl.

How to Organize a Sitemap (HTML)

You decide how your sitemap looks and how you want it organized. The most common ways to organize a sitemap are

  • Category
  • Alphabetical
  • Importance of  page
  • Visually

Most often, the sitemap will resemble an outline with the website pages arranged according to category or topic. This makes it easy for the visitor to get an overall picture of the website, how it is organized and defines what the site has to offer. While this makes it easy for visitors to locate pages, remember that a sitemap is also accessible to the search engine spiders. Therefore, the sitemap can either be in index or outline form (HTML), or it can be in a hierarchical fashion (XML) which would lead to better search engine optimization.

What do the search engines see?

When Google introduced ‘Google Sitemaps’, web developers were able to publish lists of links with the idea being that since some websites may have pages that are only accessible through user entries and forms – then having a sitemap could show the search engine spiders where these pages were located.  Fortunately, all the major search engines – Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask – support the sitemaps protocol. While having a sitemap does not guarantee your website will be crawled nor does it guarantee it will be indexed even if crawled . . . it is still the best chance and the best way for the search engines to ‘see’ your site.

It has been noted by some Search Engine experts that having both types of sitemaps is of benefit. In this case the HTML sitemap would be an active link a visitor may click, while the XML file is uploaded to the root directory and submitted through a Google account.

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Creating a sitemap in HTML

Where do you begin when writing an HTML sitemap? My favorite way is to get paper and pencil and go through the website making notes as to the categories, pages, links, etc. This gives you the opportunity to view your site as if you were a visitor. Include all the pages you want indexed. Once all of the information has been gathered, write a single HTML page to serve as the sitemap, make all the links active to their respective pages and upload it. Be sure you include a link somewhere on the home page for your website visitors to use.

Creating a sitemap in XML

Creating an XML map is done through a program. My favorite program to us is available at It is free and menu driven. The four (4) steps you take to complete the process are listed below in abbreviated form

  1. Enter your website URL
  2. Press ‘Start’
  3. View generated sitemap details (this will include number of pages and broken links), XML file content and a link to the compressed sitemap. You download the sitemap, unzip it and upload it to the “public_html/” folder of your site.
  4. Go to your Google Webmaster Account and add your sitemap URL following the directions there. (If you don’t have a Google Webmaster Account – get one!)

Further to Step 3’s reference to broken links: You’ll find that at the conclusion of having the sitemap generated you will be shown all the broken links in your website. For a small one-time fee you can get the addresses to all of those broken links so that you can go in and fix them. (Having broken links in a website can impair your search engine rankings.)  After you make the fixes, go back and generate another sitemap. Continue repeating this process until you have no more broken links. In my opinion, this 1-time fee is money well spent! 

There is so much more to getting a page ‘ranked’ than just SEO work.  Stay on top of current SEO news, stay current with the on-going changes, and get access to a lot more helpful information with a subscription to the best SEO service out there.

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