Imagine you are visiting a new city and want to know the best places to eat so you pull up Google maps and type “restaurants” in the search box. Nothing comes up. So you try “food”, then “fast food”, then “I’m hungry find me a place to eat!” None of these work. You try the “explore food & drinks near you” option and your map returns an “I have no clue where you are” message. Hmmmm.
Obviously, the engineers of this city need some help with their mapping system, and if you are in the middle of a website redesign, you may need some help with yours too.
Maps are a vital part of navigating both in the real world — through the use of paper maps and services like google maps and mapquest — and online, through the use of a site map.
What Are Site Maps?
The general idea behind a sitemap is that it helps search engine crawlers (or “spiders”) sift through your website pages more efficiently. An XML sitemap is simply an .xml file containing a listing of all your pages and when they were updated. It shows the structure of your website and where your pages reside.
Why Do You Need an XML Sitemap?
If you (or your website designer) have done a good job building your site and it’s linked properly, the spiders can probably discover most of your site without a sitemap. However, there are still a few reasons you will want to have an XML sitemap in place.
- You update your site often. If your website is updated regularly, make it a practice to update your xml file at least once a month so that search engines have the freshest data.
- You have a site with a lot of pages. The more pages you have, the more likely that the spiders will miss something while crawling your page. A site map keeps this from happening.
- Your site is new. Spiders crawl the web by following links from one web page to another. If your site is newer and doesn’t have other pages that link to it, the spiders can easily overlook important pieces unless there is a site map.
- Your site doesn’t naturally link to all of its internal pages. Not all web sites have a natural progression where one page links to the next and so on and so forth. Having a site map will help the spiders find every page on your site.
Adding an XML sitemap is often overlooked during the website development process. And, while it may not be the deciding factor for improving your Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it will certainly help.
If you are looking for more great tips when planning your your website redesign project plan, download our 25 Website Must-Haves guide below.