Sitemaps & SEO
Because websites can get pretty complicated when they contain lots of pages, it’s a good idea to build a sitemap. This is a map of the website’s page structure which we submit to Google, ensuring that its spiders are aware of every page on your website.
Without going into the details of creating your sitemap (if you’re on WordPress, use any XML sitemap plugin such as Google XML Sitemap or the sitemap function inside Yoast SEO, and you’re done), there are usually two types:
XML sitemaps are designed purely for search engines. They contain code which tells Google how often it should recrawl the page and the relative significance of every page. As it’s created for Google in XML format, it doesn’t look very pretty and ‘human friendly’. Note that just adding a page to your sitemap and submitting this sitemap to Google doesn’t necessarily mean that Google will index that page. Google does what it likes and ‘doesn’t take no direction from nobody’. So the sitemap is just a friendly guide to help Google understand your website and find any pages it might have missed through crawling.
HTML sitemaps, on the other hand, are intended for human consumption. They are usually formatted in the same style as the rest of the website’s pages and, because they’re coded in HTML, they use a clearer layout which also indicates the page hierarchy.
Usually, an HTML sitemap is unnecessary unless the navigation of the website is so poor that visitors have to resort to scanning through a list of the site’s pages to find the information they need. If you have an HTML sitemap on your website and you notice from your Google Analytics data that it’s being used with any significant frequency, take this as a warning sign and rebuild your menus!