In part three of our Now You Know series, we will fill you in on a document that almost every new website project includes: A Sitemap.
What Are Sitemaps?
A sitemap is exactly what it sounds like: a map of your site. What they do is a little more than that. Think of your sitemap like a book’s table of contents. In addition to helping users find content quickly, sitemaps help search engines find content on your page that it may not have found otherwise.
How Do Sitemaps Work?
Sitemaps can provide meta data about your site to search engines (i.e. when it was last updated) by helping crawlers go through your site and index your pages more efficiently. This feature is a good way to help with your site’s search engine optimization (SEO)—especially if you have some pages that are buried deep in your site. Lastly, they help users navigate your site when the site map is available for them to see. That way, they can easily find a page they’re looking for without going through multiple pages.
Types of Sitemaps
Extensible Markup Language (XML)
- Easily navigated by search engines
- Can be produced automatically by a site map generator, where a program will crawl through your site and index its pages
- Allows for more control over updates and how it works
Really Simple Syndication (RSS)
- Easy to maintain
- Easily coded to update when a new page is added
- Harder to manage, as they only provide information on recent URLs
Text file (Txt)
- Easiest to create initially
- Easy to manage
- Can’t add meta data to pages, which may harm the site’s SEO
XML sitemaps are generally the most popular version and the recommended format because they can contribute more to your site and are easier to control.
Who Needs a Sitemap?
Any site can benefit from a sitemap. However there are a few site types that benefit from them the most, including:
- New sites with few external links
- Large sites
- Sites filled with rich media
- Sites filled with content that aren’t linked well together