The Importance of Sitemaps

Last Edited May 3, 2016 by Garenne Bigby in Create Sitemaps

importance of sitemaps

To some, sitemaps might seem like a needless chore, and others, a sitemap is pretty much an essential for any website. The latter of the two would be correct. Having a sitemap that is constructed with a clear goal in mind could be the driving factor to a website's success. It will provide a vital link between a website and search engine that nurtures the relationship that is vital to the website's prosperity. A well-structured sitemap will make a website searchable by all search engines, and will provide users with more accurate search results when they are looking for keywords or key terms that are associated with a website. These website site crawlers used by search engines depend on sitemaps to point them in the direction of the correct website that a user is searching for.

Why are Sitemaps Important?

There are variety of search engine optimization tricks and tips that will help to optimize a website, and one of those is sitemaps. Sometimes, the importance of sitemaps is greatly underestimated. As the name implies, a sitemap is a literal map of the website, that is, on one page you would show the structure of the site, the sections in it, the links between those, etc. Sitemaps make navigating the website easier, and when you have an updated sitemap for your website it is good not only for yourself but search engines as well. Sitemaps are a very important way for a website to communicate with a search engine. Robots (.txt) tells a search engine which part of the website to not include for indexing, and the web sitemap tells these search engines where you'd like them to go.

Sitemaps are not a new concept as they have always been a part of the best practices of web design. With the adoption of sitemaps by search engines, it is now even more vital to engineer them accurately. It is necessary to clarify that if your interest in sitemaps is mainly from a search engine optimization point of view, you cannot proceed with conventional sitemaps only. As an example, Google sitemap uses a special format XML that is different from an ordinary HTML sitemap, as used by Yahoo and MSN. It could be curious as to why to sitemaps are necessary and the answer is obvious to some but not all. One sitemap is for humans on the other is for spiders or bots, also known as crawlers. It is important to clarify that having two sitemaps is not regarded as having two of the same thing.

Why Should You Use a sitemap

Using a sitemap has so many benefits. Not only is it easier to navigate, but it gives better visibility to search engines. Sitemaps can offer the opportunity to link search engines with any changes made to the site immediately after they happen. You cannot expect search engines to rush to account for the changes on the pages, but they will certainly change the edits that have been made faster as compared to when a website does not have a sitemap. Additionally, when there is a sitemap link to a website, and it is submitted to search engines, you will rely on external links less when search engines are bringing visitors to your website. Sitemaps well even aid in helping fix poor internal linking. For example, if there are accidental broken links or orphan pages that cannot be reached. It should be noted that it is not a wise idea to rely on a sitemap rather than just fixing your errors.

If the website is new or if there are a significant number of new or recently updated pages, then using a sitemap is extremely important in contributing to your success. Although it is possible to go on without a sitemap, it is inevitable that sitemaps will become the standard for submitting a site to search engines. Regardless of this, crawlers will continue to index the internet, and sitemaps will not make this standard procedure for crawling obsolete. It is logical to say that sitemaps will only gain more importance.

Sitemaps rate and classifying the website content through search engines and are never obligated to classify a page as belonging to a specific category or as a match for a specific keyword only because the website owner has told them so.

Keep in mind that the sitemap program produced by major search engines like a Google are still fairly young, using a sitemap may not generate large advantages right away, but as search engines do work to improve their indexing algorithms for sitemaps, it should be expected that more and more website will be indexed quickly through sitemaps.

Making and Submitting a sitemap

You can simply create your own sitemap with the aid of DYNO Mapper's Visual Sitemap Generator. This tool allows one to efficiently create visual interactive sitemaps that displays inventory information, analytic data, and comment capabilities. After the package is downloaded you will follow the installation instructions, and then the configuration instructions. Depending on your technical skill level, you will likely find exactly what you were looking for.

After the sitemap is created, it will need to be uploaded to your website if it is not already there. After this, notify Google about the existence. When notifying Google, this includes adding your website to your Google sitemaps account. Now is the time to open an account with Google if you do not already have one. One more detail that is vital to know prior to setting up your account, is that to be able to add the sitemap to your account, you'll need to provide verification that you are the actual owner of the website.

MSN and Yahoo now support sitemaps and the XML format which is used by Google. Yahoo also allows webmasters to submit a text file that has a list of URLs. This could also be seen as a stripped-down version of a sitemap. MSN does not even offer anything like that, but things could change. It is likely that all major search engines will progress with Google because sitemaps submitted by users are a very powerful search engine optimization tool and will never go away.

XML Sitemaps Gaining Ground

When search engines first came around, XML sitemaps were not deemed necessary. Over time they have become more relevant, and eventually have now become a necessity. They serve as a way of communication between websites and search engines when content is changed or new content is added. This happens very quickly to help ensure that the content is indexed quickly. Content publishers use this in order to allow Google to understand if the content on the site is original.

Content Organization, Content Duplicates, and Panda

It is commonplace for publishers to allow their content on other websites, and further, it is not commonplace for publishers to have their own website's content curated by other sites with no formal syndication agreement. It has come to the point where the actual definition of content curation is blurred. One can so a simple Google search of any article title and find that same article on many, many sites, with none of them being authorized copies.

For each publisher website that offers syndicated content or offers to have content curated by others, the stakes rise with Google. This content can be curated with or without permission. This is where Panda comes in. the recent update for the Panda algorithm is partly focused on removing that duplicate content from the results pages of search engines. This means that if a website is not deemed the original publisher of the content, the website is at risk for not showing up on the search engine results.

XML sitemaps are just one of the tools that can help content creators establish themselves as the originator of specific content. Just how accurate can XML sitemaps be when indicating the content origin? In a seemingly obvious way, it would make sense that that the origin of the content would be the result with the earliest indexed timestamp.

Getting Started

First, you will need to create an XML sitemap for the website. Some CMS (Content Management Systems) will have the capability to automatically generate an XML sitemap. For other websites, there will be plugins. This would be the ideal situation for the CMS. Tools like this will usually update the sitemap automatically as more (or new) content is created or added. If using a tool that does not update the sitemap automatically, you'll need to manually update the sitemap on a regular basis to make sure that all information is accurate and up to date.

The website is particularly large, it is possible that you will need to employ a sitemap index as well. A search engine will only index the first 50,000 links in a sitemap, if your website is larger than 50,000 URLs, you will need to use an index in order to tie more than one sitemap together.

After the sitemaps are created, it will need to be registered for all of the various search engines. Bing and Google encourage webmasters to register their sitemaps and RSS feeds through each of the company's separate webmaster tools. This will aid in helping search engines to identify where the sitemap is- meaning that the moment the sitemap is updated, the search engine will react faster to index this new content. Also, content curators and syndicators could be using a website's RSS feed to mechanically grab the content to their own sites.

When you register the sitemap or RSS feed with Bing and Google, it gives the search engines a signal that the content is created or updated on your site first, before any other websites. To do this process with both search engines is quite simple.

When you register the sitemap or RSS feed with Bing and Google, it gives the search engines a signal that the content is created or updated on your site first, before any other websites. To do this process with both search engines is quite simple.

Follow these steps to register a sitemap with Bing:

  • Make sure that the XML sitemap is on the web server and is accessible through the URL.
  • Log in to the Webmaster Tools.
  • Select configure my Site, and Sitemaps.
  • You will enter the entire URL of the sitemap in the text box that says Submit a Sitemap.
  • Click Submit.

One more good reason to register a sitemap specifically with Google is the ability for it to catch errors in the sitemap. The webmaster tools provided by Google and other search engines will provide great information about each sitemap's status and any error that it finds. In websites that host many types of content, there are additional types of sitemaps that may be used, including those for mobile, video, and images. It is up to the webmaster in charge of a website to determine which type of sitemap is best suited for their content and the message that the company is sending. In any case, having a sitemap that is thorough yet concise is the key to maintaining a successful website.

 


 

 

Additional Resources:

Sitemaps - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Learn about sitemaps

What are Sitemaps?

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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