Sitemaps and SEO
November 14, 2012
Whether you’re clicking, surfing, or browsing either the depths of the web or scrolling across any given website, users require a certain amount of mobility as we travel from one page to the next. However, as user experience comes to the forefront of the online community, navigation becomes increasingly critical for users going from page to page, or just trying to find their way back home. But how do you make sure that users know where they’re going?
Like any journey, it’s always best to travel with a map. Though clear onsite navigation should be a priority in site design, like well-placed street signs, sitemaps act as a safety net, offering a bird’s eye view of a site’s architecture. Online, Sitemaps provide an overview of all of the pages of your site, including how each page relates to one another, and how important each URL is to the structure of the site.
There are two types of Sitemaps that each website should try, and each caters to a very different type of web traveler. The first is the HTML Sitemap. This sitemap is visually identifiable on your site, and offers a visible guide to act as an alternative to your primary site navigation or menu. The sitemap should provide some clarity and additional clues about contextual pages on your site, and ultimately lead to easier navigation. This is especially important if your site uses Flash, AJAX, or other feature-rich dynamic content that may not be picked up from as visitors go from page to page.
The second sitemap is the XML Sitemap, which caters to non-human visitors to the site: Google’s Robots and other search-engine crawlers that need work to index all of the pages and information on your site. The XML Sitemap is critical for SEO. This uses metadata to let Google know the most important pages and landmarks on your site, as search engines find the way in which each page relates to one another. These sitemaps can be submitted directly to Google through Webmaster Tools, and help search engines to recognize the salient features of each different page.
Sitemaps are a component of SEO that focuses on on-page optimization and can never hurt as sites struggle to become more optimized and user-friendly. Though Google does not guarantee it will crawl every URL, a sitemap will make sure that the search engines become more aware of your site’s structure, and in turn, know how to best direct traffic.