Site maps are a visual representation of your site enabling visitors, both human and robotic, to navigate around your website more easily and find what they need.
What is an HTML sitemap? This is for your human users. It is known as a site map. By creating a page with the titles of your main pages listed in logical order and grouped accordingly, you are giving your visitors a street directory to find what they are looking for even if they are unable to find it during their initial search.
If you have hundreds or thousands of pages, only include the titles of the pages that group these multiple pages. For example if you have an online shoe store, you might include the pages that group together shoe styles, like ‘sandals’, ‘loafers’, ‘trainers’, and ‘boots’. This is an alternative to listing every single piece of footwear on the site. By having your sitemap not merely list pages, but grouping them into logical areas, makes the site far more user friendly.
(Hint: Always keep your links current on this sitemap as it can quickly become outdated and annoying to users if links are repeatedly broken.)
An HTML sitemap can look like:
What is an XML Sitemap? This Sitemap is a way for Google (and other search engines) to see and discover all of the pages on your site. It makes the spider bot crawling less random and you can submit the XML Sitemap directly to Google through webmaster tools , ensuring all pages are clearly available to Google. All of the major search engines follow the same protocol with XML Sitemaps so by ensuring one exists on your site improves optimisation with all major search engines.
By having a Sitemap, you enable pages to be found by Google which may otherwise be difficult to crawl due to their recent creation, lack of external links, dynamic content or few internal links.
If your site has many pages and links, it is still relatively simple to create an XML Sitemap using the free Google Sitemap Generator tool. The additional benefit of this tool is that as you update your site, the tool will automatically update the Sitemap. A wonderful deterrent to those nasty 404 pages not found error pages!
You wouldn’t invite a first-time visitor to your home for dinner without at least giving them the address or directions of how to find you, why would you expect Google to come to dinner with you without being accorded the same courtesy?