There are basically two main types of sitemaps; the HTML sitemap that is primarily built for human site visitors and the Extensible Markup Language (XML) sitemaps designed for the search engines. The HTML sitemaps are basically lists of links to all the pages in a website, just like a book’s table of content. In most cases, this kind of sitemap lists pages hierarchically based on the categories and their location on the site. You can use a website mapping tool to create sitemaps of this kind so that your visitors can quickly find the information on your website and search engines bots can thoroughly crawl the content.
On the other hand, XML sitemaps are principally meant for use by search engines. This sitemap is mostly a string of codes to directly communicate with the search engines regarding parts of the website that should be crawled. Note that the XML is a language that is understood by the search engines, which makes it ideal for this purpose. This type of sitemap is highly recommended for sites with complex content. Some websites cannot be easily accessed from the homepage because of some formats like Ajax or Flash that search engines have difficulty crawling.
You should already be searching a website mapping tool if you own a website with lots of content that is frequently updated since creating and updating a sitemap manually is time consuming. These tools are available online, while some are free of charge while some have to be paid for. To make it even better, there are some automated XML website mapping tools that can just be installed on your site’s server to automatically generate, maintain and update your sitemap. It is also worth pointing out that submitting a sitemap to the search engines multiple times doesn’t attract any type of penalty from the search engines.
There are some important elements of a sitemap that you must understand. First, you should highlight when a page was last modified and how often it is updated. This is important because search engine bots re-crawl pages after some time. Also, you are free to specify the priority of a website, ranging from 0.1 to 1.0 with 0.5 as the default value. Pages with a higher priority value will be crawled and their content indexed first than those with a lower value. Typically, the news section of a website should have a higher priority than the contacts page. Try to stay away from setting the priority for all the pages at the maximum; you don’t want Googlebots to keep checking a page that is rarely updated but has a higher priority, they may be ignored later.
Finally, it is recommended that you include both HTML and XML sitemaps because they serve different targets. You stand a high chance of improving your SEO with sitemaps because they increase internal linking as well as create a content-rich web page. After using a website mapping tool to create sitemap, place it on the homepage and ensure it is at the footer of all the other pages.
Create, edit, customize, and share visual sitemaps integrated with Google Analytics for easy discovery, planning, and collaboration.