The sitemap is part of technical SEO and an essential for the success of any search engine optimization campaign. The general rule to follow for an internal linking structure is making sure that all pages are no more than two links away.
In other words, a user can navigate to any given page on my website within one or two clicks. Once this system of internal linking is in place the sitemap acts as an “insurance policy.” Sometimes the search engines get confused about which links to follow, thus the sitemap acts as a guide for a confused search engine or even a confused individual.
What makes a sitemap so important?
- A sitemap helps you build a clear hierarchy for your site. The sitemap will help you see precisely how your site is laid out. As you build the sitemap, you will be encouraged to create a clear hierarchy of pages. As you create new pages to add to your site map, you will also start to visualize how these pages will fit into the existing hierarchy and what you can do to help them fit in well with the existing content.
- Help search engines know what to crawl and how to navigate the site. The sitemap also makes it clear to search engines how they should navigate your site while crawling it. Search engine spiders generally navigate sites by following the links between pages, but particularly for larger sites, they can create seemingly endless trails of links and paths to follow. The sitemap makes it easier to see how the site is built and how the search engine should move through it.
- Let the search engine know what to prioritize. Search engines generally do not crawl all of the pages of a site at once. They prioritize the pages that they view as important or that they have not crawled in a long time. Creating a clear sitemap can also help the search engines better understand which pages they should prioritize, such as the pages at the top of the hierarchy, which will let them see the type of topics and content your site delivers. If the search engine wastes their time crawling only a 3rd or 4th tier blog post you wrote 12 years ago on a topic that is now obsolete, it will do nothing to boost your rankings and authority on the web.
- Show relationships between pages on the site. Demonstrating to the search engine the relationships between the pages on the site can also boost your SEO. Google likes to see depth on topics. Rather than only having surface content that can be produced by nearly anyone, they want to highlight the sites that dive deeply into the material, producing a wealth of high-quality material that helps users. With a sitemap clearly indicating how pages relate to each other, Google can see the depth of the different categories and subcategories more clearly, lending more authority to your domain as a whole.
- Prevent orphan pages and help you find areas to smooth out navigation. As you build your site map, you might also discover that you have some pages completely unconnected to the rest of the site. These ‘orphan pages’ will have a tough time attracting customers to your site and do next to nothing to build your authority. You will have the chance now to smooth out your navigation, make sure that pages are connected to their respective hierarchies, and that the site makes sense from a navigational perspective.
The best strategy to follow is to include the sitemap within the footer of every single page, thus the sitemap becomes a key component of a website navigation system. Many webmasters update their pages, however forget to update the sitemap. In this case, the sitemap will lead people and search engines to broken links. Thus, it is crucial to keep track of your sitemap and make sure all of your pages are properly linked on the sitemap.
The last step in ensuring a great sitemap is to check the actual links. This might sound tedious, especially if you have hundreds of links. Performing the proper QA can significantly help in the long run.
While most people will never even see your sitemap, when search engines come around, you want the best chance possible to make sure all of your website’s pages are properly indexed.
Contact us at +1 408-200-2211 or email us at [email protected].