A site map, sometimes written “sitemap,” is an overview of the pages within a website and are useful as user experience tools as well as SEO. Site maps will continue to be an important way for search engines to locate content, and may even become the standard method.

Search engine technology develops almost every day, with new indexing algorithms and faster processes. Creating a site map does not directly increase the ranking of your site, but it makes it easier for crawlers to identify and index your pages, which does lead to increased rank.

There are automated site map generators, but it is best to have a person – your web master or a web design professional – review it for errors, functionality, and completeness. The site map architecture looks like this:

For the purposes of SEO, the site map must be in XML format, which stands for Extensible Markup Language, a markup language much like HTML. XML was designed to transport data. You should also build an HTML (designed to display data) site map for the people who visit your site.

While a properly designed website should allow visitors to navigate the entire site without using the site map, incorporating a site map gives users another means of locating pages. For this reason, each page listed in a site map is typically linked to the page it represents.

This allows visitors to quickly navigate to any section of a website listed in the site map. This does not count as duplicate content as far as search engines are concerned, which is sometimes prohibited. The XML site map should be stored in the root of your domain. Even though spiders will find it eventually, you should also manually send your site map to the search engines when it is created or changed.

A site map is especially critical for large sites, which may contain so many pages that the deeper links (those links which are further away from the root) are crawled less often, or may not be reached at all due to search engine limits. Even so, a site map containing more than 50,000 URLs won’t be completely crawled.

Smaller, separate site maps can be created to eliminate this effect. In fact, it is a good idea to have separate maps for videos, news, images, and mobile links, because these will be automatically categorized by the search engine. The HTML versions make site navigation even easier for your visitors, and can be used for marketing purposes as well.

Site Maps Help Improve SEO Rankings in the Following Ways:

#1 – Your Site Map Carries Ranking Weight

A site map improves SEO ranking by creating internal links, which, like backlinks from other sites, carry weight in ranking. Including descriptive terms in the site map allows the search engine to understand what the content is about, for even better categorizing and ranking.

The XML file includes information on how often the liked content is updated, and the search engine learns to return more often to pages, which are updated more often.

#2 – Search Engines Trust Sites With More Information

Another way that SEO ranking is increased by a site map is that it compensates for poor site structure, broken links, or when pages are intentionally hidden for one reason or another (such as to prevent them from being visited by unauthorized users).

The inclusion of all links in the XML site map ensures that those pages can be seen by the crawlers. Search engines tend to put more trust in sites that have more pages, and hence more information, which can also affect ranking.

However, if a map is too big things get lost and certain areas are glazed over. Make sure to strategically implement sitemaps for all of the areas on your website you want visible for SEO.

#3 – Site Maps Can Be Optimized

Site maps can themselves be optimized to ensure search engines rank a website’s content. When search engines scan your site map, they look at certain properties of the files and folders in your website to help determine the rankings they give the page.

This includes the priority and change frequency. Change frequency is the frequency with which you expect to change your page content. This information is used by search engines when they rank your pages.

Check out this video – How A Sitemap Can Benefit Search Engines and Visitors:

If you update a page frequently, search engines spiders will return to it more often. Priority is the importance attached to a given page. Important pages should get a higher priority than less important pages.

This information is used by search engines when they rank your pages. If a page has a high priority, search engine spiders will return to it more often.

A site map is an essential component for any website that is interested in moving up in search engine results. It provides data in a way that is easy to index, and it is often more complete than the results from crawling page by page. In Part II of this series, you will discover the number one way in which site maps improve your SEO ranking.

Tell us below how your site map has improved your SEO ranking?

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