Creating an effective sitemap is one of the most important steps in the website development process. But what is a sitemap and why is it so critical to the success of the project?
In layman terms, a sitemap is like a table of contents for your website. It tells search engines what your site’s about and where they can find the information web users are looking for.
In more technical terms, a sitemap is a special file designed just for the spiders that crawl your website, looking for information. There are a couple of different formats used today, but the most important is XML, a sitemap file-type used just for Google. Some other search engines still use HTML, so it’s not a bad idea to have both.
Why does having a sitemap matter?
First and foremost, because a sitemap gives your website better visibility to search engines. When you tell search engines exactly what information your site offers and where to find it, you rely less on factors outside your control like external links and random search spiders. At the end of the day, search engines want to provide web users with the most relevant information possible and your sitemap helps them do just that.
It’s absolutely critical to submit a new sitemap to search engines if you’re launching a new website or making significant changes to an existing one. Not only does this process get your site “indexed” (i.e. noticed) by search engines faster, it ensures they see what you want them to see without becoming confused about the intention of your site.
A good sitemap doesn’t just display the information your site includes, but also describes the structure of your site. How pages are organized and what links to what is just as important to Google and other engines as the information itself. Having this “map” allows search engines to better suggest pages of your website to searchers who may not be using the exact keywords you’ve included in your content.
How do you create a sitemap? It’s a relatively technical process but there are templates available online to help. If you’re using a free website builder, your hosting platform may have included basic sitemapping for you, but it’s likely lacking in some areas.
Your best bet is to work with a qualified web developer to build out your site from the ground up. They understand sitemap best practices and can help you determine how yours should be organized.
Need help? Give Sync a ring.