A sitemap is a simple concept, but it is vitally important to your website your business.
In its most simplistic form, a sitemap is a list of all of the pages found on your website.
Having a sitemap helps search engines to find all the pages on your website and index them in their search engine.
Why You Need a Sitemap
Without the addition of a sitemap on your website, search engines such as Google, Yahoo Search and Bing won’t be able to learn about its content as easily.
While each search engine has a process that helps it discover websites, there are some pages that might be overlooked during a search engine crawl of your website.
A sitemap provides a full list of all the specific URLs for each page on your website so they can be indexed .
XML for Search Engines
Extensible Markup Language, more commonly known as XML , is typically used by to make the information contained on your sitemap easier for the search engines crawlers to read.
In addition to containing the URLs that lead to the pages on your website, an XML sitemap contains additional information such as the date when the page changed and how important that page is relevant to others on your website.
There are precise rules that are followed when it comes to XML sitemaps.
In order to get the best results from an XML site maps, it needs to be generated and updated on a regular basis, usually when pages change on your website.
HTML and Consumers
Ideally, your website will also include another type of sitemaps that can be easily read and used by customers visiting your website.
Typically contained via a link within the footer of your website, it provides an easy way for visitors to navigate throughout the site.
While navigation menus provide one method of helping visitors find what they are looking for on your website.
Helping customers or visitors find what they are looking for easily creates a more positive experience for that visitor.
Video Content and Your Sitemap
If you use video content on your website, it is good practice to include video in your sitemap so it can also be indexed by search engines.
There are a number of tags that can be used in your sitemap for video that will provide additional information such as a thumbnail image, title, description, and duration.
Google provides additional information on these tags.
Google specifically says that you do not need a mobile sitemap unless you have a “specific feature phone version of a page designed for feature phones (non-smartphones).”
Therefore your standard sitemap in the vast majority of cases will meet the needs of mobiles users.
Once your sitemap is built, you can submit it to the search engine of your choice via their webmaster tools.
While each search engine has a slightly different process, the search engines walk you through the process to help ensure that you are successful.