Some years back, at the dawn of the internet, marking sitemap optimization when drawing an SEO plan was a task of high priority. There are many articles teaching how sitemaps can cure SEO issues such as poor internal linking, duplicate content, site indexation processes, and how they drive the so-desired traffic sites.
In an SEO landscape as modern as 2017 onwards, you might be wondering if sitemaps are still relevant. What with the advent of advanced mega menus for navigation and internal linking, they have almost lost their original purpose, right?
What are Sitemaps?
If you are reading about sitemaps for the first time, you might be wondering what they are. A sitemap is basically a collection of links that are hierarchically placed, and whose main purpose is to help with understanding a site structure and directing crawlers to the right site areas. Sitemaps are usually one of two versions:
- HTML which is a bulleted outline text version of the site navigation. It allows human visitors to easily navigate the site.
- XML which is a file with links to all pages, usually written in plain text (meaning it is hidden from site visitors’ eyes) and can be easily read by any search engine crawler. XML version of Sitemaps make it easier for Google to find pages of your sites. Remember, Google ranks web pages, not just websites.
Alright, so SEO has moved on over the years, but sitemaps are still especially important if:
- Your site is not well structured or well linked (internal links). An HTML sitemap can help build a well-planned site linking structure and contain links to pages, all in one place.
- Your home page (or first landing page) is not intuitive enough. A site map will be useful for not–so-tech-savvy users.
- Your site is so large that some pages are buried deeply in the navigational structure. An HTML sitemap can contain links to such pages, hence let site visitors find the content they need.
- Your site navigation does not allow you to link to a certain category or group of pages.
What about XML Sitemaps; Are you using them right?
- If you are using an auto XML Sitemap generator, make sure that the output is in the correct format and is error free. According to Google requirements, your XML sitemap must start with this tag: <urlset xmlns=http://sitemaps.org/schemas/sitemap/0.9> and must use UTF- 8 encoding.
- Ensure your site pages are worth indexing. This means no duplicate or forbidden content on your site and no spams. Otherwise, the pages are unlikely to end up in the Google Index.
- Be consistent with your content. You can hide unimportant site pages from indexation by using Robots.txt files. Hence you should add to your XML sitemap only pages that are worth indexing.
Sitemaps still play an important role in SEO if used correctly. Are you using any Sitemaps on your site? Are you using any extensions to enhance their functionality? Please share your opinions in the comments below.
Steve Scott is the CEO & Director of Training at the Tampa SEO Training Academy. He has taught SEO skills to people from around the world and currently offers his hands-on search engine optimization training workshops in Tampa to individuals and businesses of all sizes. Corporate SEO training classes and consulting are also available.