I’m going to guess you’re reading this post because you’re not completely sure that you really need to have a site map on your own website, or perhaps you’ve just started out online and you’re not even really sure what a site map is. It might even be possible that you just really liked this awesome ‘site map’ cartoon and wanted to check it out, either way I’m glad you’re here.
What is a Sitemap?
There are actually two kinds of Sitemaps, one for your website visitors (commonly referred to simply as a ‘site map’) and one for search engine crawlers (commonly referred to as an XML Sitemap).
Here is how Google Webmaster tools defines a ”XML Sitemap”:
Sitemaps are a way to tell Google about pages on your site we might not otherwise discover. In its simplest terms, a XML Sitemap—usually called Sitemap, with a capital S—is a list of the pages on your website. Creating and submitting a Sitemap helps make sure that Google knows about all the pages on your site, including URLs that may not be discoverable by Google’s normal crawling process.
So, what is a regular “site map” you ask?
A regular site map is much like the one you can find here. It’s set up to give your website’s visitors a quick and easy way to find what they’re looking for. You generally list out all the pages (with the proper links) of your website that you’d like an every-day visitor to see. For example, you would not list pages for your free downloads if you require your visitors to optin to your list to receive those. You would, however, list the page where they could learn about your freebie and opt-in.
Do I actually need a sitemap?
If you have a small website with just a handful of pages all of which are all listed on and easily accessed via your main menu, no, you probably don’t need a sitemap.
If you have a larger website with pages that aren’t easily accessed through your main menu then a sitemap is a good idea. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of creating an XML sitemap to submit to search engines it is a good idea to at least have a site map for your website’s visitors.
Why would you want a ‘site map’ for your visitors if you’re skipping the XML Sitemap for search engines? Well, even if you have a ‘search’ box in your sidebar or menu area it can be frustrating if a visitor comes to your site looking for something and searches for it but doesn’t find it. That does happen, trust me. Your visitor may be looking for something very specific but using different terminology than you do, they may not think to search for that item using your specific terms. If they see your terminology readily displayed in a site map they will most likely recognize what they’re looking for and click-through to it.
How do I actually go about creating a site map?
I’m glad you asked. It’s not has hard as you might think and no, you wont have to copy and paste a link for every page on your website, I promise. :)
Tomorrow, I’ll be blogging about how to create an XML Sitemap that you can submit to Google’s Webmaster Tools. Next week, I’ll share with you an easy way to create a site map for your WordPress site using two different methods. Be sure to come back so you can get your site maps online.
Image Credit John Atkinson @ WrongHands