As you might guess, a site map is a map of your website. What you might not guess is how important a regularly updated site map is to your website’s relationship with the search engines. Something you’re also unlikely to guess is that your site needs not one type of site map, but two, in order to ensure the smooth flow of search engine spiders and human visitors through your pages.
Site maps: the familiar form
The sort of site map most people are familiar with is the sort seen on the pages of a website. This kind of site map is usually provided as a kind of index to the site, providing users with a quick way to find the page they’re looking for without having to trawl through pages of navigation.
This kind of site map is helpful to your site’s search engine optimisation plan because it provides a clear way for every page to link to another. If you feature a link to your site map on every page, as many sites do, a search engine spider can easily find its way from an internal page to another internal page, without having to crawl too far. Site maps also reinforce the keyword relevancies of links and website users can benefit from this clear system of links.
XML Sitemap: the more complicated form
The other form of site map is a ‘Sitemap’, one intended for the search engines to read. This form of map is an XML document which can be submitted to many search engines directly, such as through Google Webmaster Tools, and can be a great help in directing search engines to the right areas of your site. It can help to get technical advice when drawing up this kind of site map, although it is just as important to keep your Sitemap up-to-date as it is with your viewable site map.