To draw in new users and keep visitors engaged, your site needs to have an intuitive layout – both on the front end and back end. A website sitemap is an important part of helping search engines like Google understand how your site’s pages interact with each other and serve up the relevant page to users. In this blog, we’ll dig into what a sitemap is, the different types of sitemaps you should create, and how you can test the effectiveness of your sitemap.
A website sitemap lists the pages, videos, and other files on your website, as well as the relationship between them. By properly linking your site’s pages and creating a sitemap, search engines can discover most of your site – which can support your SEO efforts and help you appear higher up in search results. There are two main sitemap types: XML sitemaps and HTML sitemaps.
An XML sitemap contains a list of every subpage of your website, each page’s importance, and how often the page is updated. These types of sitemaps are important for ensuring your site is properly indexed, meaning it will appear in a search engine’s database of websites. XML sitemaps allow search engines to learn more about how your site is structured.
HTML sitemaps also list each subpage of your website, but their main purpose is to support user navigation. While XML sitemaps are mainly for search engines, HTML sitemaps are mainly written for users. That’s why HTML sitemaps are usually found in the footer of a website and typically resemble a navigation bar. HTML sitemaps make it easier for you to identify internal links, find ways to improve your site’s navigation, and help users find what they’re looking for more easily – especially if your website is large.
Best practices dictate you should have both. XML sitemaps are important for communicating with Google to ensure proper and efficient indexing, while HTML is useful for user navigation.
Most XML sitemaps can usually be found by adding “/sitemap.xml” to the end of your website’s URL. When viewing your sitemap, you may notice there are different folders containing sub-sitemaps based on page categories. That’s perfectly fine! When you have a large site, you’ll typically want no more than 15,000 URLs in each sitemap. Google will crawl each folder separately just as easily as one larger folder.
XML sitemaps are generated differently depending on what CMS platform you are using. If you’re not sure how to generate a sitemap on your CMS, we can help!
Once you create your sitemap, it’s important to regularly assess your sitemap and ensure each page is properly linked. Google Search Console allows you to submit your sitemap and will tell you how many valid URLs have been found. Other tools like Screaming Frog or SEMrush will let you know if you have any “orphan pages.” Orphans pages are pages in a sitemap that are not internally linked on the website. When your site has many orphan pages, your entire SEO strategy can suffer.
Are you wondering how your website sitemap stacks up? Our SEO team is well-versed in conducting sitemap audits, correcting orphan pages, and adjusting your sitemap to better meet search engines’ requirements and users’ needs.
Ben Smith is a Researcher at Fruition, specializing in Google's Algorithm changes. Ben is a graduate of the University of Denver’s Mathematics program, and he enjoys learning about Google’s search algorithm updates. He's a vital asset of the Fruition team, and he one day hopes to publish a book. In his free time, you can find Ben enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.
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