Just like a book has a page showing its contents, a website has a map of what’s on its site and this is called a sitemap. It lists all of the pages within the website, and acts as a guide for visitors to navigate to where they want to be and search engine robots to find particular pages of the website. Having a sitemap optimizes the site with the search engines and also helps to persuade visitors to return at a future date.
There are three main kinds of sitemaps:
1. An indexed sitemap – as the name would suggest, this is an alphabetical listing or directory. The relationship between the pages is not indicated.
2. A full categorical sitemap – this sitemap shows all links which are classified into categories. This is a popular kind of sitemap as it makes searching for certain topics easier and simplifies things between categories.
3. A restricted categorical – this sitemap displays all links in a selected category at one time; but it will not show all the links of a website, as the full categorical type does. The sitemap limits the list of links within specific categories making viewing easier and reducing eye strain.
With any of the above mentioned kinds of sitemap there are techniques which can be used to set up a superior sitemap and here are six tips to help you do this.
1. Link the sitemap to your homepage only. This ensures that the search engine robot begins searching from your homepage down through all the pages listed in your sitemap and no page will remain unvisited by the robot.
2. Restrict your sitemap to 30 pages. If you have more than this, the search engines may mistake your sitemap as a link farm, and this will result in you being penalized. Limiting the number of pages also stops overcrowding of links and will make viewing less tiresome.
3. Check all the links in your sitemap for error messages. It really puts visitors off it they click on a link and only get a 404 error message or the page requested cannot be found. Sometimes they may click a link and get shown a page which has nothing to do with what they were looking for, so it pays to keep on regular check on your links and make sure your visitors are being directed to where they want to go.
4. Giving keyword-rich titles to your sitemaps helps with optimization of your website. Search engine robots will search your website correctly under the right category.
5. Supply a short description for the link enabling your visitors to know what to expect to find by clicking on a link. It will save them time when surfing your website.
6. Make sure the design of your sitemap is consistent with those of other pages of your website. Use the same HTML template for all pages within your site including the sitemap. This will build character and establish the identity of your website.
If you follow the tips above, your website will look professional, your visitors will be encouraged to make return visits and the search engine robots will crawl through all the pages in your site, increasing your ranking in the search engines.