If you want to take your website to the next level a core component you must include is a sitemap. These simple HTML or XML files essentially map out the entire structure of your website and include a detailed layout of all the individual pages it contains.
Sitemaps are invaluable for SEO purposes but they can also make managing and structuring your web content easier – who wouldn’t want that?
In an age where online competition is high and there are hundreds of companies doing the same as you, something simple like a sitemap can give you an edge and help rank you higher on Google. If you have never heard of a sitemap or don’t see why you need one we have listed their seven key benefits below.
HTML vs XML Sitemaps - What’s the Difference?
- Before we jump into the benefits it’s important to understand the two main types of sitemap as they serve different purposes. These are HTML and XML:
- HTML Sitemaps: These sitemaps are meant to make navigation and access easier for your site users. They show the entire structure of your site in the form of clickable links and the best ones also show the logical hierarchy and order of pages. Think of an HTML sitemap like a list of chapters at the beginning of a book or an information board in a hospital showing clinic locations.
- XML Sitemaps: These sitemaps are search engine boosters and they allow crawlers to easily index every page on your website. Think of an XML sitemap as a virtual instruction manual that search engines use to navigate your site.
With those differences in mind we are concentrating on HTML sitemaps in this article as they are often overlooked and we aim to explain their benefits below.
1. Improve Visibility on Search Engines Like Google
Search engines are lazy and they expect you to do the hard work so it’s important you do whatever possible to make your web content visible (If you don’t make the effort Google certainly won’t!).
For example if you search for SEO agency London on Google you will see our site popping up on the first page! This took effort and many different techniques including an HTML sitemap.
A sitemap shows search engines all the pages they need to index and a logical structure of links they can follow. This should greatly boost your visibility and increase the chance of your site being indexed.
2. To Keep Track of the Overall Site Structure
Have you ever looked through your website files to find random pages that seemingly have no purpose or connection with anything else? This can be a nightmare and as websites grow it’s especially easy to lose track of the content.
Having an HTML sitemap gives you a focal point where you can keep track of the overall structure of your website. If you map every page you can simply refer back to it when you need to add more content, monitor ad campaigns and look for linking opportunities.
3. Improve Website Navigation
Website navigation is incredibly important for end-user experience and you want customers to be able to access everything they need within a few clicks.
This can be difficult to monitor and control on larger websites and you can quickly have inaccessible areas of the site or even entire content that isn’t properly linked.
An HTML sitemap eliminates these problems and serves as the go-to navigation tool that you can look at to see if there are any areas for improvement.
You might notice that the contact page is only accessible via a single area for example and choose to add a link to your website footer. It’s simple navigational changes like these that can greatly boost user experience and keep your customers coming back.
4. Boost Search Engine Crawler Accessibility
Search engines like Google send “crawlers” to websites to index the pages and content and this is ultimately how your site appears on search results.
It’s in your best interest to do everything you can to make the crawler’s job easier! Think of a crawler as that manager you want to impress to gain a promotion or pay rise – keeping them sweet could be beneficial!
Having a complete and up-to-date HTML sitemap is a simple way to speed up the crawler’s job and help them index your site thoroughly.
5. To Give Organisation as Your Site Grows
When your website is first developed it will likely have only a handful of pages and a simple structure. Customers shouldn’t have any difficulty navigating this and finding the information they need as the pages are likely accessible via the primary site navigation.
But what happens when your business grows and you have to flesh out your website? Over time you could add an online store, a customer zone, a forum, and even an entire customer support help center for example.
Things can soon get out of control and you may have customers clicking aimlessly on pages without any clear direction. This is where an HTML sitemap helps as if done properly it will organize your web pages so users know exactly where to go and how to get the information they need.
6. Make Sure Every Page is Linkable
On most websites some pages are not directly linked via the primary navigation, header, or footer. This is fine but those pages must still be accessible somehow and an HTML sitemap makes sure this happens.
It acts as a safeguard in case for whatever reason a customer cannot access the page they want. Instead of simply closing your website and finding a competitor they could use the HTML sitemap to find the required link.
7. To Quickly Find Internal Link Opportunities
Creating an extensive internal linking scheme is a key component of SEO but it can be especially difficult to try and find natural internal links that fit properly with page content.
I get that it’s tempting to just stick any old link in even if it has no relevance to the written content but this can be detrimental! Instead, use your HTML sitemap to easily find high-quality internal links! All you have to do is open the doc and you can see every web page in seconds!
Add a Sitemap to Your Website Today to Boost its Effectiveness
If you haven’t already opened WordPress or your web development platform, what are you waiting for? You can create an HTML sitemap in minutes and as you can see from the above the potential benefits are too great to ignore.
Once you have created your sitemap it’s important to update it regularly as you add more content and pages to your website. If you simply make it and forget, it won’t be nearly as effective.