Our comprehensive guide to help you understand site maps and to create the best site map possible for your website.
Note: Want to know about website structure beyond sitemaps? Check out our post on the best website structure to learn the best practice on everything from internal links to cornerstone content!
What is a site map?
A site map is a physical list of all of the pages contained on a particular website. They act as a way of telling search engines like Google, the details about the pages on a website including those that they may not otherwise be able to locate. Submitting a sitemap helps Google to understand the content contained within your website and how often it is updated. A sitemap is also provided to help with your SEO – search engine optimisation – requirements, and can go some way to increase your own websites rankings in search enquiry results. Ensuring that Google is able to index all of the pages on a website increases traffic and makes it easy for minor fixes to be identified and repaired on a regular basis.
When creating a website, it makes perfect sense to implement SEO techniques that will help a search engine crawler process information quicker. One way of doing so is by making site maps.
However, a good site map for a search engine crawler is very different to what is helpful for people actually visiting the site. Though a crawler will appreciate dense site maps that list every single page of the site, this will not help people trying to access information quickly.
It’s important to remember that site maps are not primarily an SEO fuelled feature, as is evident from Google’s webmaster guidelines which states that you should “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines”.
What is the purpose of a site map?
First and foremost, a site map is for people visiting your website. It provides a more concise view of your site, listing important pages within it to allow visitors to find relevant pages faster. A successful site map should have text only links and does not always need to refer to every page on your site.
What should my site map look like?
For smaller websites with fewer pages, it’s fine to have a site map which points to every page, however for bigger sites with hundreds of pages, you should limit the number of pages to only the most important. The entire purpose of a site map is to make information more navigable for visitors, so it’s essential you don’t drown them in information.
Rules to follow when making your map
- Establish the key pages on your site and use this as a guideline for your site map.
- Ensure your map offers an accurate outline of what your website is about. It might help to compare it against other sites with clear maps.
- No one page of your site map should have over 100 links. If there are over 100 links on your main map page, split it into more than one page.