12 Mar Do you need a sitemap for your website?
If you keen to improve your search engine optimisation, you will want to create and include a sitemap for your website.
Sitemaps will provide search engines a picture of how your website is structured. If your websites has a lot of content that are not internally linked together, your sitemap will help the search bots find these pages more easily. Internal links refer to linking between pages within your website. In the case where your website does not have many external links, sitemaps will also help with search engine indexing. External links refer to links from the pages within your website to URLs not within your website (external pages).
Generally there are 2 types of sitemaps – HTML Sitemap & XML Sitemap.
HTML Sitemap is a page that contains an overview of the page structure within the website. One of the objectives of including this HTML sitemap is for visitors to easily find a particular page on the website. Imagine this scenario: You arrive at website with hundreds of pages. You want to look for a particular page. The first option you will try is typing what you want to find in the search bar on the website. If there is no search bar available in sight, the next best/fastest option is to click on Sitemap, typically in the website’s footer. HTML Sitemaps are an important aspect to a user-friendly website.
XML Sitemap is something which is created mainly for search engines to better crawl your website. Note that an XML sitemap might not make much sense to a person… but it informs the search engines what are the important links on your website, and how often you update your website. For new websites with little external links, such sitemaps allow the search engine to know about the pages on your website. For popular websites, the sitemaps will allow search engines to know how often your site is updated. When the date in your XML sitemap changes, Google needs to know there is new content to crawl and index.
How to generate a Sitemap?
For HTML Sitemap, you can simply create a page for it. For XML Sitemaps, there are tools to generate them.
If you are using WordPress, you can use this plugin Google XML Sitemaps.
In the case where you do not have a WordPress site, a useful site is https://www.xml-sitemaps.com.
How to publicise your XML Sitemap?
When you publish a new website, it is recommended to submit your sitemap to Google using the Google Webmaster Tools.
After signing in, you can see “Add a site” button – proceed to add the URL of your website.
In the subsequent screen, you will be asked to verify the ownership of the website. There are several ways to verify the ownership of the website. The easiest way, if you can access the code to the website, is to copy and paste the HTML Tag. Go to the Alternate methods tab and select HTML Tag. Copy and paste the code into your website and retune to the page again to click on Verify.
Thereafter, click on “Add/Test Sitemap” and provide the URL of your XML sitemap. Once added, it will reflect as Pending. Once it is successful (Google will take some time to crawl your website), you will start to see some statistics on your sitemap.
Other Useful Notes
If you have a website with thousands of pages, you might want to consider prioritise the most important pages on your website: The pages that have unique content, highly optimised and high user engagement (e.g.. comments, reviews). If your pages are not updated regularly, search engines might take it that your website is a low-quality site.