A sitemap has been an important part of a website for many years now. However, we still find that many clients are confused about exactly what a sitemap is and what it needs to contain to do the best possible job for your site visitors as well as the requirements of your SEO Company.
Firstly it is important to understand that there are 2 different types of sitemaps.
For most websites having both of these types of sitemap
is important to the success of the website.
Some website users (particularly those that do not like browsing or searching for information) will go to your regular sitemap if they cannot quickly find what they are looking for on the homepage of your website. Even more importantly, a prominent link to your sitemap should be shown whenever anyone attempts to visit a page that no longer exists on your website. The technical term for these ‘page not found’ messages is a 404 error and it is important that your website automatically shows a ‘404’ containing a link to your sitemap whenever a page cannot be found. This not only helps real users know what is going on, but also sends the right message to search engines if they also stumble on a missing page.
This sort of sitemap should contain a list of all of the major sections and pages within your website. If your site contains hundreds of products or blog posts (for example) then you might want to just include an entry to each section of the website. It is important that this page is kept up to date. It will be very frustrating for a user who navigates to this page only to find that it contains out of date entries.
A small plug for our content management system… our CMS automatically creates a sitemap and keeps it up-to-date with all changes made on a website. It also automatically includes a link to the sitemap in any ‘404’ errors that are shown to site visitors.
Firstly, XML (or extensible markup language) refers to a document (in this case a page on your website) that contains data which has been designed to be readable by computer programs. If HTML is all about displaying information to site visitors then XML is all about carrying that information.
Most search engines will look for the location of your XML sitemap as soon as they arrive at your site. They will expect to find its location within your robots.txt file. Without an XML sitemap a search engine will rely on locating the various pages in your website by looking for links embedded within your site navigation or the text on each page. An XML sitemap makes the process of working out which pages to index much simpler. An XML sitemap also allows search engines like Google to learn a little more about each page on your website including things like when it was last modified and how often (in general) you expect it to be updated.
Once again, one of the advantages of using our highly SEO friendly content management system is that it automatically creates and keeps up-to-date the XML sitemap.
If you are a web design customer of The Web Showroom then both types of sitemaps will have been created for your website already. They will automatically be kept up to date with any changes you make to the pages on your website. If your website has been built using another content management system (CMS) then there is a good chance it will also look after these pages automatically. If not, you should ask your web developer how to get them installed as they are both important to the successful operation of your website.
Slightly Revised: 12/06/2012
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